Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: The World Above the Sky by Kent Stetson

The World Above the Sky
by Kent Stetson
McArthur & Company Publishing, Ltd. (2010), Paperback, 400 pages

I received this free e-book from NetGalley.

‘And the soul of the world was the sea.’ (p.ix)

Six Worlds and three parts / acts:
First part: Eugainia St Clare Delacroix, living Holy Grail, is escaping to the New World from her old husband, Lord Ard. Fleet commander is Prince Henry Sinclair, Eugainia’s protector, who has a objective: the Templar dream of establish a new Arcadia. The party reaches the Atlantic coast of Canada but soon a battle starts against the Skrelings (indigenous people of North America and Greenland).
Second part: the party becomes friend of two indigenouses: Mimkitawo’qu’sk, a young man and chief; and his aunt Keswalqw. Most of the second part tells of the love story, terrestrial and celestial, between Eugainia and Mimkitawo’qu’sk.
Third part: Eugainia and Mimtikawo’qu’sk, after living alone for a while, come back to the village. The party, reunited, starts the search for the Holy Grail, but a fleet is coming from the sea …

The World above the Sky is bonded to a legendary Venetian document published in 1558. Nicolo` and Antonio Zeno, Venetian navigators, wrote a series of letters and maps, called the Zeno’s maps. The Zeno’s describe a voyage of exploration, throughout the North Atlantic, under the command of a Prince named Zichmni (associated to Henry Sinclair). Henry Sinclair was a Scotland’s Earl of Orkney in the late 1300. The legend says he made land in the Canadian Maritime one century before Columbus, although Zeno brothers’ document tells that he landed in Greenland and not in Canada.
Zeno’s legend is the background of The World above the Sky.
Accordingly to Stetson: ‘no one owns tales, nephew. Only the Creator. Maybe we taught them, long ago. Maybe they taught us, long ago. No matter. So long as we learn we live. I should say their tale is similar to our tale. Not exactly the same. Similar.’ (p. 65)

I liked the first and last part of the book.
The second part, unfortunately the longest, suggests an idea of inaction. Maybe Stetson’s idea was to give the impression of Humans bond to action and Gods to inaction. Or maybe an unhappy reconsideration of a play in a novel.
The Sturm und Drang of the first part is fascinating for the high style of narration, like epic stories, and reminding, of course, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival.
In the last part when other Europeans are coming to land in the New World, Stetson ‘invents’ to stop the world, so to prevent the landing. The solution comes from Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth; but apart from the connection between the books, I found
this part enjoyable.

I don’t recommend this book for a general audience, it is enjoyable for readers of epic story and literature written in high style.

Useful the last pages of the book with the Pronunciation Guide and Mi’kmaq Dictionary.

‘It will comfort you to know we’re all subject to folly. No one truth shapes and re-revises every mote and twitch of the living cosmos: nothing, small or large, is set in stone. Chaos rules. Order emerges, brief and impermanent. Revision is endless; certainty breeds contradictions; peace depends upon war; night exists not to counter the day alone, but to reveal the stars, which mimic the working of the waking mind.’ (p. 144)

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