A. Keith Carreiro offers an imagined world of knights, mysticism and magic in The Penitent, the second installment in the author’s Immortality Wars trilogy.
Carreiro’s tale of Evangel Blessingvale contains all the familiar elements of a hero’s journey tale. Evangel was left for dead as an infant after her parents were murdered. She was rescued by hermit Matthew Greatworth and raised in the secluded, sylvan setting of the Refuge, Greatworth’s forest redoubt. Her childhood foreshadows great deeds to come, as she receives strange dreams and visions of an epic battle between good and evil and hints of a unique spiritual path.
Carreiro’s setting of the Western Isles, a world vaguely resembling medieval Europe, will also ring familiar to fantasy fans, as will the stock characters (the gallant knight, the malevolent mercenary, etc.) who enter Evangel’s world after it dramatically changes when she turns 17.
The author’s inclusion of Christian and spiritual undertones throughout, however, isn’t as standard. For example, Evangel dreams of a savior who’s crucified to atone for humanity’s sins, and Greatworth serves as the model of a dedicated medieval Christian recluse. Eventually, a group of brigands called the Dread Rovers attack the Refuge and undergo a spiritual transformation, thanks to Evangel’s spiritual powers.
Religious undertones remain throughout, even as Evangel, Greatworth and their newly converted band of warriors embark on further adventures and eventually seek to connect with the hero from Carreiro’s first book. Meanwhile, Carreiro’s narrative style flips between the biblical and academic: In the midst of one of the story’s most dramatic, violent scenes, the villain proclaims, “I am truly surfeited by your obdurate manner.”
This dynamic may put off fantasy fans looking for old-fashioned escapism. Still, Carreiro shows a genuine love for the genre and paints characters who breathe with conviction and kindness.
For those who appreciate religion mixed with their fantasy, The Penitent works as a stand-alone tale of redemption that hints at larger battles to come.
Also available as an ebook.