It is often stated that “The meek will inherit the earth.” While that is a nice sentiment, it is not affirmed by history. More often than not, those who hold their tongues and think before speaking, as well as those who avoid confrontation and violence to resolve conflict are the ones overrun by their more vocal, physical, and aggressive counterparts. However, every now and again a story is told about someone who, while meek, succeeds against those who would threaten them. That is the person who holds to their ideals, and ultimately benefits. If there are dragons involved, could it get any better? If this sounds intriguing, then Ormeshadow is the novella for you.
Gideon was seven years old when his parents abruptly moved from the town of Bath to Ormesleep and the farm his father John, co-owns with his uncle Thomas. Even though John co-owns the land, Thomas, his wife Maude, and their sons resent his returning to the farm with his family. Gideon does not like the farm, and misses life in town, as does his mother, Clare. Of the three of them, only John seems to acclimate to rural life. While he is returning to a life he once knew, and left behind when he became a scholar in town, neither Gideon, nor his mother, has lived this way before, and the transition for them is difficult. Time passes. Gideon goes to school, does his chores, and spends as much time as he can walking the land with his father, who tells him stories about the area and the dragon who sleeps beneath their region. The dragon has been doing so for generations, and many people no longer believe that there is a one. They just go about their daily lives, dealing with the challenges and tragedies, taking enjoyment and comfort wherever and whenever they can. As Gideon grows older, he begins to understand the realities that formed the circumstances of his existence, long before he was old enough to be fully aware or make choices for himself. Despite his difficult life, Gideon develops a strong love and connection with the land where he has found himself. It is the only thing that doesn’t judge, look down upon, or belittle him. It is his only source of comfort. And still the dragon sleeps. . .
In Ormeshadow, Priya Sharma tells the story of a gentle young man’s journey to adulthood in a brutal world not of his choosing. Sharma follows Gideon for approximately 10 years, when his parents move him to the family farm, and prior to his reaching legal adulthood. She chronicles his growing awareness of his surroundings and the people with whom he shares the family residence. While Gideon and his parents all work and contribute as much as they can to the homestead, the resentment from Thomas and his family never relents and, over the years, it takes a toll on Gideon. He longs to go to school, but is ultimately removed because of the increasing responsibilities placed upon him as he ages. His own interests and desires always take second place to his responsibilities to the rest of his family. His male cousins, who are a mere year older and younger than Gideon, are, from the beginning, hateful and difficult. They seem to actively take pleasure in causing Gideon discomfort. His only escape from the relentless grind is the open land away from the residence, where Gideon feels free to express his frustrations, even though he believes no one is listening.
Sharma describes Gideon’s life in a series of chapters, chronicling daily life on the farm, and the major events that occur as he grows older. The events are separated by as little as days, and as much as several years, and yet the story is complete. In each chapter, readers are allowed to witness Gideon making the choices that will result in his becoming the kind and thoughtful person who will ultimately survive this brutal upbringing.
Ormeshadow brings to mind another book about a gentle soul thrust into a world for whom it has not been prepared, and yet they not only survive, but thrive: Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor, which won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2014 and was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. Here’s hoping that Ormeshadow will also be acknowledged when it comes time for award nominations.
Other books by this author, Priya Sharma can be found here.
Ormeshadow is available on e-Media.