"Hear Heaven"

Hear Heaven by Sheila Davidson

This is a fairytale set in the twelfth century with all the needed elements: romance, a battle between good and evil,  and a shining white castle at the edge of the sea. I do love a castle setting, especially if the wonders inside are described in detail. This one obliges with details of polished wood tables, huge four-poster beds covered with old quilts, long corridors with closed doors leading to room after room, and tall fireplaces with baking ovens in the stone-floored kitchen. And you can see the sea from the second floor window. How perfect is that? It's my dream home. Well one of them anyway. There's also the villa with terracotta tiles on Majorca, the terraced stone vineyard house in France and the white stucco, blue tiled roof house on a hill by the sea in Greece. Cliches all, I know, but cliches make pretty good fantasies.

As a story, this one has some good plot elements: an evil woman who practices the dark arts, a good man blessed with a unique supernatural gift, a young girl who leaves home for a new life for which she is not qualified. The story moves along at a good pace with enough twists and turns to be entertaining. I stayed up reading far too late one night because I couldn't make myself close the book.

I thought the writing was good for a first novel. I like the way Ms. Davidson puts words together; it feels fresh, and intelligent. A sentence I particularly like is "Their words were interrupted by a flurry of blond hair and blue dress exiting the main door". That phrase "a flurry of blond hair and blue dress" is very appealing to me. I have no idea why. Isn't it strange how a particular phrase will jump off the page for one person and mean nothing at all to anyone else. How do those particular words become poetry or music to one and not to another? I don't know how it works, but I read to find those phrases and when I do I feel like I've uncovered buried treasure. I read it over and over, silently then out loud. I mark it in the book so I can find it again. They are a delight to me, thought I don't know why.

I came across a few spots that I thought were overwritten, or where the characters over reacted. Things like one character saying something just slightly funny and the other character is said to have "roared with laughter". And when Isgore, the main character, falls for the wrong girl it all seems to happen too fast. He is rendered near stupid by one look at the beauty, and more disconcerting is how completely the evil girl bewitches him and turns him away from all that he believes. I wish his faith in the "one true God" had caused him to experience at least some small doubt about her. His whole personality changed way too fast to be realistic for me, even in a fairytale.

 The characters are suited to a story of this kind, the evil ones are pure evil and the good ones are pure good, except when the good one gets taken in by the evil one for a time. He comes to his senses in time to avoid a disaster and he never leans toward the dark side again. I usually want characters to be more human, a mixture of good and bad, but somehow it doesn't matter so much in this kind of story.

I must mention that the paper used in this book is very nice, the smooth bright white gives the black print good contrast and makes it easier to read than some. These things are important when you're my age.

There is one aspect of the book that I'm ambivalent about. I wish I could make up my mind, because I keep running into it and having the same argument with myself over and over. The book portrays spirituality as believing and following the "one, true God". Some of the characters are followers, some are not, and some become followers as the story unfolds. I don't have any problem with that in itself, but the book talks only of God. There's no mention of Jesus. The last thing I want to be is legalistic, but what do we do with the fact that the Bible says the only way to God is through Jesus? Could the book be giving people false assurance? I had the same questions about the tv show "Touched By An Angel". They were good, wholesome stories but they left out Jesus. I'm all for clean books and tv, the more they put out there the better, but I worry that we're leading people the wrong way. Am I being legalistic or are we leading people astray? Or is there a middle road that I'm not seeing?

I'd recommend this book to most of my women friends, as well as young girls maybe 13 and up. It isn't great literature, but it is a satisfying story. I don't know if the authour will write any more books, but if she does I'd probably read them.


Sheila Davidson said...

Hi Dianne,
Sheila Davidson here. :) Through Google Alert I was 'alerted' to your thought-full review of 'Hear Heaven'.
If you wish to know more about the series (there are two more volumes and another written but not published) please visit my website: sheiladavidson.com.
And if you'd like to chat further, contact me there as well.
Thank you for your comments re 'Hear Heaven'. I very much appreciate your reading and reviewing it.
- Sheila

the Bartlett fam said...

Hi Dianne-

Thanks for your comment on my blog. It was a rather awkward situation, but it's all turned out all right. And I'm so glad you commented on my blog, because I've loved perusing yours. I, too, am a lover of books, and am always looking for new reads. (We share a few favorites.) You have very thoughtful and thorough reviews. Thanks again!


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