by Sienna Skyy
Review by Tom Easton
Story Plant Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780981608709
Date: 16 September 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Story Plant Website / Show Official Info /
The Story Plant, started by publishing veterans Lou Aronica and Peter Miller, promises "involving and engaging reading experiences provided by passionate writers who love the stories they're telling and have several more to tell." It released its first two titles in Fall 2008, and one was the fantasy American Quest, by Sienna Skyy.
The world is literally as many see it figuratively: locked in an eternal battle between good and evil. Good is the Auxilium, whose representatives strive to help humanity be the best it can be. Evil is the Pravus, whose chiefs, the Maculs, are shapeshifters whose base forms seem quite satanic and whose mission is to subvert human nobility. The Pravus's representatives, aided by birdlike canteshrikes and others, compete for power, each one focusing on a different human virtue and gaining power when they corrupt it. Enervata's target is love, and the more intense it is, the more the power he can gain by destroying it. The most intense love is that of the bond-recherche, true and passionate and unwavering.
Enter Bruce and Gloria, young people deeply in love, deeply committed to each other. Suddenly they see strange figures in reflections. A street nut warns them of canteshrikes. Gloria meets a compellingly handsome man who kidnaps her. One of their friends is killed. And Bruce is told by Jamie, another friend, a woman who has been his buddy since childhood, that she was born with a mission from the Auxilium, to watch over him and protect him from the Pravus. It was known from the start, you see, that Bruce had the potential to form a bond-recherche if he ever met the right woman. When he did…
Well, all that's up in the air at the moment, isn't it? Gloria is a prisoner of Enervata, who will do his best to tempt and seduce her. If he wins, he will rule the world with torment. His aides include a pair who were once, centuries past, a bond-recherche themselves. Enervata's attempt to corrupt them failed but they did not escape doom. They are now canteshrikes. Their loyalties, once to each other, are now to him, although they are conflicted and this will play an important role later on.
Can Bruce and Jamie save her? They don't know where Gloria is imprisoned, and Jamie announces that they must undertake a road trip to find the Four Pillars of Humanity. Only then, if they are not too late, will they be able to intervene. They have no idea where those Pillars are, but odd clues pop up in front of them, steering them to Maine, Ohio, New Orleans, and onward, while Enervata's minions try to slow them down with plagues of insects and hail.
Eventually, of course, they prevail. The story arc is utterly predictable. The details are deftly enough done, but not so well done that I can agree with the publisher that American Quest is an "involving and engaging reading experience." It suffers from the fault of much modern fantasy in that the premise is too unlikely to permit even the willing suspension of disbelief.
Your mileage may vary, but my overall reaction is a resounding "Ehhh."