Big Book,  YA

The War of the Snakes

Julian Cheek

“Dreams can’t be real, can they?”
Such is the gnawing question reverberating through Sam’s head as he battles with a dilemma, which refuses to be ignored.
In his dreams, he is always confronted by one simple point: Muanga-Atua exists! And for some un-asked for and un-wanted reason, he – Sam – is expected to save this place from the calamity that engulfs the people of the Turangai. Not only that, but he is also supposed to have some sort of incredible power by which he is expected to destroy both the Bjarke and their leader, Lord Elim, the Turangai’s oppressors.
“But that is ridiculous! Right?”
Determined to ignore all that occurs in this so-called ‘dream world’, he does nothing. That is until one cold, grey, autumn morning a TV news flash captures a shocking series of events, which leads to one undeniable truth; what he has tried to ignore all along in Muanga-Atua has somehow incredibly exploded into his world and it is searching… Searching for him.
His do-nothing approach is just not good enough. Not now. He will have to go back to Muanga-Atua to seek out this power he was supposed to have obtained. Find the power, accept what it can do through him, and go out into that awful place to do battle with someone, or something that makes his very blood run cold.
But how? How can he go into this world and be all that the Turangai think he is, when he still cannot accept the truth? That he is ‘The One’. Sam, Wielder of the Staff of the Ethereals and saviour of their world. And now, apparently, of his own as well.

Favourite Things About The Main Protagonist

My favourite things about Sam, the protagonist in the Ethereal Series trilogy, is that he is both loveable and incredibly frustrating. At times, you want to encourage him not to give up and at other times, you want to pull him into a quiet corner and slap him senseless!
I have grown up with boys and I can associate with how Sam copes with his feelings of rejection from both his parents and his peers. We find out, at an early stage of “The Awakened”, Book 1 of the Ethereal Series, that a traumatic loss in the family, drives his parents into their own black holes and they cannot cope or deal with their younger son, who was only ever looking for some answers to questions which had none. As the reader follows Sam through Book 1 and Book 2 (The War of the Snakes), one begins to see the battles that Sam is having to deal with, both imposed from the outside and created from his own feelings of inadequacy. It is hopefully a scenario which the readers will be able to associate with.
Furthermore, he is a young man who is also being forced to listen to his own testosterone which refuses to bend to his pleading. He cannot help himself at times, and this is one area that I enjoyed playing on, especially with his interaction with Alice, proprietress of “Timber’s Tea House, and, as an aside, leader of the Anahim, who happen to be spirit beings in charge of the worlds he interacts with. Here, he is never quite sure of himself and, what he finds incredibly frustrating, is that he cannot put his finger on what is happening that she is able to get under his skin.
On the other hand when he encounters both Ma-Aka and Pania in Muanga-Atua, we begin to see another side of him that he has kept hidden all these years; A caring, gentle soul who, ultimately, wants the best of those he comes into contact with.
I tried to make him a very believable and honest individual, one we all hopefully, can see elements of in ourselves. I enjoyed creating this character who, at times, is so physical in his stupidity, that the reader really wants to take him to oneside for a good telling off. If the character is real enough, then the reader will want to engage with him. And this, I have enjoyed creating through his stumbling slow realization that perhaps, just perhaps, he is worth a damn.
In short, the main characters of the story are split into the two worlds. The main character in both, is Sam, a 17-year old boy. In Sam’s “normal” world, his parents, Margot and Paul Gilbert, who are introduced to the reader in Book One, “The Awakened”, struggle to cope with the tragic loss of their eldest son, David; Sam’s brother and closest friend. Their overwhelming grief is so intense that they are unable to see how it is affecting their youngest son, Sam. This is purposely not made clear at the outset as I want the reader to start to journey with Sam in his angst and turmoil, (which is a pivotal element binding all three books together.) and start to associate themselves with the very real scenario that happens to many families when their world is torn apart by the loss of a family member.
Binding the two worlds together, is Alice, Proprietress of “Timbers Tea House” and, unbeknownst to Sam, an Anahim, (a powerful and magical “angel” of sorts, sent by the Ethereals, the ultimate spiritual powers in Muanga-Atua) sent from the alternate reality to watch over him and hopefully, guide him into becoming what his destiny demands of him. Again, I did not want the reader to know this at first, but I have tried to weave the words in such a way so that the reader starts to guess but is never quite sure until the right moment.
In the alternate reality, Muanga-Atua, which he accesses whilst dreaming, Sam’s main “partner” is Babu, a Padme. In Muanga-Atua, no-one can exist without a Padme, which is revealed to each person when they reach a certain age. The fact that Babu happens to be a small, furry, lethal fang-bearing, snake-tailed apparition,does not endear him to Sam to start with. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to the fact that, for some reason, Sam has been to this place before, but cannot remember why. So whenever he meets other people who all seem to know him, his natural inclination is to strike out at them in defense, a trait roughly taught by his feelings of a total lack of love from his parents over the loss of his brother David, for which he blames himself!
In book One, the reader is introduced to a further three main characters who all interact with Sam during his journey. Ma-Aka, Pania and Ngaire are all woven into Sam’s world and become an unbreakable trio of companionship, friendship and love. In Book Two, these characters remain but now the reader is introduced more fully into the world of Muanga-Atua being introduced to five unique and challenging monks of the realm together with three strange men who become lifelong aids to his plight. The lives and workings of the Bjarke, the sworn enemy of the Turangai, are drawn out in stronger detail together with the direction behind the scenes of Lord Elim, the main person responsible for Sam losing his memory in the first place.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: April 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 600
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

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