Monday, October 06, 2014

Half-Blood Hero: Gabriel's Clock by Hilton Pashley

"Savantha?" gasped Gabriel. "Jonathan?" The old angel sagged against the door frame. "Belial came for you, didn't he?"

"Please help me," begged Savantha, holding out a hand. "He's badly hurt."

Gabriel embraced them. "Come inside," he said. "I can fix it." He paused, shut his eyes, and took a deep breath. The air around Jonathan's head shimmered and brightened. Savantha watched in awe as her father-in-law performed a miracle as simply as if her were drawing the curtains

"Thank you, Gabriel," she whispered. "We hadn't seen any sign of Belial and the Corvidae. We thought we were safe..."

Gabriel sighed. "Jonathan will never be safe, Savantha. Not until he's old enough and strong enough to face an archdemon by himself. Jonathan's the only half-angel, half-demon child in existence, and he's been blessed with more raw power than I believed possible. I see him as someone both Heaven and Hell could rally behind, but Belial, he sees him as a potential weapon."

Half angel, half demon? Impossible? "Apparently creation has other ideas," says Gabriel.

Half Greek god, half human? Shades of Percy Jackson!  Half wizard, half muggle? Hello, Harry Potter!

As a hybrid hero, halfling Jonathan Smith should be right at home in his genre with his halfblood-prince cousins, Percy and Harry. His angel father Darriel, son of Gabriel, and his demon mother Savantha, have tried to hide their son from the powers who would take him and make him into instruments of their own purposes. But Belial's minions--the Corvidae, Rook, Raven, and Crow--discover them just as Jonathan is coming of age, and his mother barely escapes their attack and flees with her injured son to the only refuge she knows--the quiet village of Hobbes End, protected from evil through Gabriel's sacrifice of his own wings and heavenly status. To protect her son's safety she leaves him with Gabriel, while she seeks the protection and help of her cousin Lucifer in finding her husband Darriel.

And at first Jonathan seems safe. The weakened Gabriel secretes him in the care of the vicar of Hobbes End, Ignatius, and his enormous servant Grimm, and as Jonathan recovers, he finds a friend in a girl, Cay, herself a halfling, half werewolf, half human, and the kind villagers, themselves all refugees from evil. Jonathan is also put under the watchful eyes of two automated and irascible gargoyles, Montgomery and Mr. Stubbs, and a sarcastic talking black cat, Elgar.

As he recovers from his head wound, Jonathan is strangely comforted, feeling safe and entirely at home in Hobbes End. But that interlude is deceptive. While they are playing in the woods surrounding the village, Jonathan and Cay are attacked by the faceless Coridae, Rook, Raven, and Crow. Jonathan has his first experience of his powers and Rook and Raven are destroyed, but Crow escapes with Cay as his hostage, and soon after Belial uses a weakness in Gabriel's defenses to take him prisoner. The old angel is tortured and blinded, but unbowed. Belial sends word that he will release his hostages only if Jonathan delivers himself and Gabriel's magical timepiece to him in person.

Jonathan knows that only one of his lineage has the knowledge and power to resist the lure of ruling creation with Belial and to defeat the evil one in his redoubt, and as he confronts his foe, his grandfather's final sacrifice transfers his memories of heaven to his grandson.

"Now, grandson," said Gabriel. "Let me show you what it's like to slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of God!"

As Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and their avid readers can vouchsafe, the struggle between good and evil is not a one-off quest, and Hilton Pashley's forthcoming Gabriel's Clock (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014) is clearly only the first in a potential series of novels. While Pashley's fictional road is well-trodden in English fantasy, his drawing upon ancient Jewish and early Christian lore follows a new strand, albeit in the path of the multiple award-winning Madeleine L'Engle in her famed interwoven series. Even his young protagonist's name is carefully crafted--Jonathan ("given by God" in Hebrew) Smith ("shaper, maker" in Germanic English).

The alternate world that Pashley creates is as colorful, irresistible and beguiling as that of J. K. Rowling, with vibrant, if quirky characters, from the wise but weary elders, Ignatius and Gabriel, the Hagrid-like Grimm and his adventurous friend Cay, to the odd but comic sidekicks, the pair of quantum physics quoting steampunk gargoyles and the delightfully snarky kipper-craving cat Elgar. Followers of fantasy adventure will find this one both novel and yet familiar, following faithfully in the footprints of other masters of the genre--J.R.R. Tokien, C. S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, and yes, Rowling and Riordan, and engaging young readers taken up once more in the cosmic struggle of good vs. evil.

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