Monday, 26 January 2015

The story continues to grow in strength and subtlety…

It has been my pleasure and privilege to carry out this volume’s final edit: so I can lay claim to having read it very carefully indeed.  Cheryl Matthynssens is weaving an exceptionally strong story here with subtlety and skill.

The life force of a magnificent blue dragon (Renamaum) has become inextricably involved with a young Daezun/Lerdenian mixed-race mage (Alador).  With a dragon’s essence comes its power and temper, and in this case a “geas” that is death to deny (a ‘geas’ in Irish folklore is an obligation or prohibition magically imposed on a person).  Alador must right the wrongs done to dragons by Lerdenian mages under the control of Silverport’s ruthless High Minister Luthian – Alador’s evil uncle – whom he must defeat while also destroying his abominable ‘bloodmines’.  Only then can the geas be fulfilled.

Alador’s powers are extraordinary, but learning how to control them as well as to make best use of them requires rigorous training.  Who better to provide training in dragon magic than dragons themselves? - and where Alador is concerned there could be no more appropriate trainers than Renamaum’s mate Pruatra and her two offspring: sired but not born before Renamaum’s death.  Through Alador, the ‘god-gifted’ blue dragon has a chance to get to know his son and daughter before his spirit is entirely absorbed by the young mage.  That is the way this magic works…

It’s a story about growing up, acquiring wisdom, controlling feelings, conquering fear and fighting for truth and justice for all species.  The characterisation is acutely observed and the different strands of the story sensitively woven.  It’s an epic tale - certainly one of my favourites in this genre - and I am keenly looking forward to further developments in Book 4.

A harrowing and inspiring read

Some stories have a power that resides in the story itself, regardless of the artistry with which it happens to be told.  This is one such: a story that opens our eyes and hearts and broadens our minds.

In an unsensational, matter-of-fact way, Dr Lo-Bamijoko describes the burdens carried by four different women born and raised according to Igbo tradition and culture to be subservient to and abused by men.  In places their suffering is harrowing, and one is consumed by rage at the ignorance and arrogance of the men they have to deal with and at the terrible inequalities endemic in their society.  At the same time one is inspired by their intelligence, resilience, capacity for endurance, patience, fortitude…  Being so much brighter than the men they have been forced to deal helps a lot as well.

One can only hope that this book will be widely read in Nigeria as well as everywhere else, by men as well as women: that it might play its part in making man’s ‘inhumanity’ to woman a distant memory of our unenlightened past.

“The Truth will set you free” (and on several occasions blow your mind)

This is volume 3 in ‘Young’s’ series, and like vols 1 and 2 (which I haven’t read) it is a hefty read at almost 175,000 words.  Even so, it deals with a relatively short period of the author’s adolescent life: just one year, 48 years ago.  It would be unfair of me to make more than a passing reference to the stylised nature of many of the supposed ‘conversations’ he records, as English is not his mother tongue and his choice of words and phrases will strike a native English speaking reader as mannered and ‘literary’ rather than realistic.  However, his style, though certainly ornate, is fluent, educated and readily comprehensible, as long as you don’t mind picking your way through the polysyllables with a dictionary to hand.  I have sent the author a list of the occasional verbal inaccuracies, and no doubt they will soon be corrected for future readers.

Young declares that “the truth will set you free,” and the main motive for reading his account of his life to date is to have your current stances on certain kinds of behaviour tested by his experiences and opinions.  As Clive James once said, nothing is more entertaining than a talking head when that head has something to say worth listening to.  The author throws himself into his writing with the same gay abandon as he embraces his sexuality.  His heart and his habits are worn very much on his sleeve, and his openness is both refreshing and revealing.

He clearly enjoyed a ‘privileged’ upbringing.  Just one example from early in the book: “...The following morning, after attending Le Gavroche restaurants opening soiree, Jeffery (Uncle James chauffeur) drove us in the silver Rolls Royce to a private air field by Heathrow Airport to board the Simorgh, in which we would fly to the South of France. Upon arrival at Nice - Côte dAzur Airport, we were chauffeured to the infamous Carlton Hotel, located on La Croisette where we stayed for a couple of nights before boarding the Kahyyam, docked at Cannes Harbor.”  ‘Alright for some,’ I hear you cry…

I read on with a kind of weird fascination about this world I didn’t know existed.  In Young’s English Boarding School (and we are NOT talking about some minor backwater establishment here) it was the headmaster who recruited him to provide sexual services for the male members of the Bahraini Royal family (after a “secret” society in the school (not a secret from the headmaster obviously) had spent several years grooming a small number of specially selected boys barely into their teens for just such a purpose).  I used to be a headteacher; that beggars belief.

I can’t go on giving you choice examples (and there are so many): the review would be far too long and contain too many spoilers.  Young’s experiences may not be unique, but they are certainly extraordinary.  The book is an incredible read: NOT for the quality of the writing per se, and certainly not for the verbatim accuracy of the ‘conversations’ recorded, but for the wealth of detail and total openness with which Young meticulously describes one action-packed year of his truly amazing adolescence.  Along the way you will pick up quite a lot on a variety of topics, from Greek history and mythology to the intricacies of platonic idealism, homoerotic activity in its myriad forms and the inexhaustibility of the unfettered sex drive of the healthy human male.

I learned a very great deal from reading it, and I am guessing you will too.  My favourite parts were the lessons on literature and history revealing attitudes to and involvement with various forms of homoeroticism through the ages; but combined with that are the truly eye-opening passages revealing the extent to which money buys power and privilege and opens every door.