Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: Children in the Night by Harold Myra

I'm going to start off my book reviews with an old favorite. Sadly, almost no one has heard of Harold Myra's CHILDREN IN THE NIGHT. It was published back in 1991, and the author spent more than 10 years writing it. At first glance, it's hard to see why--the book isn't particularly long. But once I started reading, I understood. The world Myra creates is intricately constructed and utterly unique: it is completely dark, in the literal sense. The whole story is related using the characters' senses of taste, touch and smell, because they are all functionally blind. Their world is subterranean, and too damp for fire; the only light they ever see comes from sparks and luminous sea creatures.

Within this world, CHILDREN IN THE NIGHT follows two main characters, members of the Askirit people group: Yosha, a tormented boy caught between his longing for light and his desire to avenge his father's death, and Asel, a strong-minded elite female warrior who challenges her people's isolationism and fear of the "barbarians" who live outside their land. "Children in the Night" spans many years, despite its modest length, sometimes skipping considerable periods of time. It starts off a bit slowly but doesn't take long to pick up the pace.

I first read the book as a young teenager, and I strongly identified with the story of two young people seeking truth, challenging what they had been told, and fighting for their freedom and that of their people. I got caught up in the worldbuilding, the characters, and the overarching story. Yosha and Asel fascinated me, as did the trio of orphan children Asel rescued from the "barbarian" lands--and Auret, the battered, disabled boy who changes every life he touches.

Today, some 12 years after I first read it, this remains one of my favorite books. I have convinced most of my friends to read it, and all who read it have enjoyed it. The book is a Christian allegory (the Askirit's search for literal light represents our search for spiritual light), but I would have enjoyed it anyway as an engaging fantasy story.


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