Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review: Promised Valley War


Promised Valley War

By: Ron Fritsch
Publisher: Asymmetric Worlds
Publication Date: December 2011
ISBN: 978-0615567297
Reviewed by: Karen Shaw Suriner
Review Date: March 2012

In Ron Fritsch’s sequel to Promised Valley Rebellion, the generations-old hostility between the agricultural valley dwellers and the hunter-gatherers of the hills has escalated. When valley prince Morning Sun and his companion Rose Leaf are abducted by hill people and held ransom for no less a price than the entire valley, it ignites an all-engulfing conflict. Passionate resentment concerning land rights and deeply held cultural beliefs fuel the fire, until nearly every able body in both societies has answered the call to battle.

But it soon becomes clear that what both sides believed would be an easy win is instead going to be a bloody war, costing many lives and threatening to destroy both groups. Valley-born Blue Sky and his hill-born companion Wandering Star know they must bring an end to the violent destruction before it tears them apart - but how?

Like Promised Valley Rebellion, Promised Valley War is an imaginative and well-crafted piece of fiction. The plot features plenty of action and unexpected twists and turns. The prose is streamlined yet expressive, the perfect compliment to the subject matter and feel of the story. Additionally, Fritsch has the good judgment to recognize that his most intriguing characters are the conflicted ones, and the storyline brings these characters to the foreground and looks to understand them in greater depth, while eliminating many of the more one-dimensional personalities that populated the promised valley in the first book.
Mahatma Gandhi said that “when the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Like its predecessor, the best leaders in this book are more like anti-leaders, wielding power with great reluctance and seeking wise counsel whenever possible. Fritsch continues to develop his characters with depth, honesty, and humanity, and affectionately umbues them with unique and vivid personalities that make them easy to grow attached to.

According to the author, two more books are planned to complete the series: Promised Valley Conspiracy and Promised Valley Peace. Upon completion, no doubt the series will yield enough material for one or more movies, and this reviewer enjoyed contemplating which silver screen stars would be suited to play the different characters in Fritsch’s (never officially named) demi-utopia. The balance of suspenseful battles, sweeping scenery, and interpersonal drama would undoubtedly be a satisfying mix on the big screen. Are you listening, Hollywood?

Promised Valley War is even more ambitious than Promised Valley Rebellion in that the focus has expanded from exploring individual differences to exploring differences between societies and how the one affects the other. Do human differences really outweigh universal concerns like safety, sustenance and survival? Can cultures with different values learn to live peacefully as neighbors? How accountable are we to the beliefs of previous generations? And is it possible that some of them could be...wrong?
To his credit, Fritsch does not attempt to offer simple answers to these questions - only the hope that answers can be found, and a reminder that it’s the individual bonds between people that form the foundation of society-wide bonds of understanding.

In other words: worldwide peace is created one human being at a time.

Quill says: Ambitious and enjoyable historical fiction with an appealing mix of thoughtful allegory and unpredictable action.