Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ever by Gail Carson-Levine

Olus is the Akkan God of the Winds, son of two Akkan Gods, Arduk and Hannu. As a young God, with no other Gods his own age, he becomes interested in Humans. He tries to befriend one, but it goes badly, and he withdraws to watch humans until he gets older. Eager to experience life among humans, he goes to the neighboring land of Hyte and eventually takes on the job of Goat-herder at the estate of Pado, and spends much of his time spying on Pado's family, especially his daughter, Kezi, a dancer and rug weaver, who Olus loves from afar.

The people of Hyte believe in only one God, Admat, who is God of everything. To them, no other Gods exist. So when Kezi's mati, or mother, falls ill and is close to dying, her father makes a pledge to sacrifice the first thing that congratulates him on her safe recovery... if it happens in the next three days.

It seems to work. The oil lamp flashes and Kezi's mother recovers. To keep from having to fulfill his promise, Kezi's father stations a servant at the door to keep anyone from entering. But when Kezi's aunt Fado bulls her way in and tries to congratulate Pado on his wife's recovery, Kezi does so first so that her aunt will not have to die. But now Kezi is marked for death by the priests of Admat.

Kezi petitions Admat for one month with her mother, and Olus uses his winds to manipulate the smoke from the altar so as to make it seem the God has granted her wish. He then goes to meet her at a wedding that night, posing as a slave and saving her from the man who would have been her husband had this not happened. She has been attracted to him since she first saw him, so when he lifts her and him with his winds, she assumes he is a mage who has come to protect her until Admat can claim her.

Olus has asked the other Gods of Akkat if they have ever heard of Admat, but none of them have. The God of Wisdom says there is more out there than even the Gods can know, and perhaps Admat does exist... but he has never heard of him. Olus reveals his status to Kezi, who cannot believe that he is an immortal God, as her beliefs say there is only one God, but eventually she must believe him, and it nearly destroys her beliefs. He tries to take her to the mount of the Gods, but she can only come if she becomes a hero, and Olus must become a champion to bring her there. To do so, they must each undergo a test: Kezi must travel to the underworld and bring back the feather of a Warkis, a feather-covered creature of Wadir, land of the dead.

Meanwhile, Olus is thrown into his own test when the villager he tried to befriend falls into a deep well and Olus must save him without the use of his godly powers. And when it appears that Kezi has failed in her task, Olus decides to throw himself down a volcano to the land of Wadir, where his powers will go away forever, to join her. But can Kezi save herself and Olus, and can she undergo the final test to become a God and join her love forever?

This was an unusual love story, and a somewhat subversive one. Some might see parallels between Admat, God of Everything, and the Abrahamic God worshipped by three faiths today. But the story is more about love than theological truths or untruths. Love both dooms and saves Kezi, who is willing to sacrifice her life for love of her aunt, and her love for Olus and his for her, enable her to undergo the test for heroism and immortality and save the life of the man she loves.

It's a beautiful tale, but it actually approaches the level of a myth that has never been in its beauty and lyrical form. Anyone who loves tales of love, adventure and sacrifice, as well as truth-seeking, will love this book. I know I did.

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