The Vision (Green Stone Of Healing book 1) by C.L. Talmadge (book review).

It was a terrible saga and I alone am left to tell the tale…’ is a stereotypical and yet unusual way to begin your fantasy series but one which C.L. Talmadge uses with gusto. Therefore, in ‘The Vision (Green Stone Of Healing book 1)’ we get a three page prologue to set the stage and foreshadow certain characters so that once we meet them in humble origins we know to keep an eye on them.

This slightly anachronistic approach juxtaposed with a modern fantasy is very much in keeping with Talmadge’s writing and, although this can lead to confusion, it also lends the writing an odd freshness. This first book has much in common with a league of sub-Tolkien trilogies and yet also brings in its own quirkiness to set it aside.

Talmadge has been an active writer since 1976 but most of her work prior to ‘The Vision’ in 2008 seems to be political and business writing. As far as this reviewer can find ‘The Vision (Green Stone Of Healing book 1)’ is her first work of fiction. As such it is reasonably professionally written but is not without its issues.

The plot revolves around one Helen Andros, who is a miracle working healer working for the army who happens to be a hybrid between two peoples. Her mother, who is sadly deceased, before we start and the first rule of adventures is remove the parents, belonged to the Turanian people who are described as hailing from the capital city of Memphis and speak Khemyt. Indeed, there are a number of Egyptian references in names and places. Her father remains alive but is mysterious at the start. He hails from the Toltec peoples, who are described as being Nubian and who invaded and dominated the Turanians, a generation before. Therefore Helen is looked on with sympathy by her Turanian family and very much considered anathema by any Toltecs. The genetic heritage of both peoples is distinct and, unfortunately, blended in Helen. So she starts from a nicely disadvantaged position. So far this is so much as expected.

The usage of real-world names and references is weird to say the least. Helen is soon summoned to the Toltec capital Asgard(!) as a prince is at death’s door and only Helen can save him. Should Helen be spotted in the Toltec holy capital with her Turanian characteristics, it would be a capital offense punishable by death. So when she is found out, her Toltec father decides to take a hand. Which leads to political scandal and down the road and probably war.

Of course, to emphasise the situation the Toltecs come across as pretty racist against the Turanians and Talmadge throws in an all-powerful church called simply The Temple that seems happy to stoke all the fires of hatred at any chance they get.

As with place and culture names, Talmadge makes her character names a similarly strange mix. Our heroine Helen has a classical Greek sounding surname and this is just the start. Throughout, we meet characters with names like Judith Altair, Nimrod Atlus and James Mordecai. Each of these are important characters but Talmadge tends to refer to them by their common forenames sometimes, Judith or James, and then their odd surnames at other times, Lady Altair or Duke Mordecai respectively. It took me quite a while to work out that some of these characters are one and the same leading to a fair deal of confusion. Indeed, by the end, I was still unsure who quite a few of the supporting characters actually were. However, the use of distinctive surnames with real-world mythological connections does feel very characteristic and lends the text some of its unique flavour.

As noted before ‘The Vision (Green Stone Of Healing book 1)’ is book one of a series and the volume spends some time subtly introducing concepts which will clearly be important later. One such is the magic. Except it is not magic per sé but ‘energy that is unexplained by science’. So magic then. The all-powerful and sinister Temple generally has a monopoly on this and intends to keep thing that way. But Helen Andros obviously has something of a talent for it without knowing it. In fact, Helen is quite the healer, albeit with a thoroughly modern bent. In the first chapters, we find she has been treating one of her army colleagues for cancer and later on in the book she performs a skin-graft operation. The implication is that her medical knowledge is very advanced which clashes a bit with the energy-that-is-unexplained. Again, the juxtaposition of the modern and the anachronistic is thoroughly odd but strangely compelling.

Throw into the mix, mysterious creatures of energy that clearly Helen’s mother knew all about but which hardly come into this book and a rather insufficiently described ‘grid’ that the noble folk can summon up documents and information on which smacks of some kind of world-wide-web reserved for the aristocracy and we can see that this book is a crazy mixed-up bag! This doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable read as well, at least once you can sort out who is who.

I am therefore rather inclined to recommend this book especially to a reader who has maybe read many other fantasies and wants something that genuinely offers a difference. Interestingly, this book does not follow the usual quest structure but instead wraps Helen Andros up in political manoeuvring by powers well beyond her control. A fair portion of the book concerns legal wrangling and trials all flavoured with a fantastical bent. As long as one is happy to indulge all the strange dichotomies then the reader will find a reasonably gripping tail with an odd but refreshing approach.

It is clear that ‘The Vision (Green Stone Of Healing book 1)’ is followed by a number of sequels which certainly suggests that Talmadge has her fans in fantasy circles. I know I found it really quite enjoyable and so if you are not put off by my earlier criticisms then I think you will find an interesting and quirky start to a promising series. This one gets four thumbs up from me and I may seek out the second book

Dave Corby

May 2020

(pub: Quiet Storm Publishing, 2008. 239 page hardback. Price: $26.95 (US). ISBN: 0-9744084-9-2)


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