BENEVOLENT is at least partly the story of Gaby, a dedicated idealist devoted to rescuing and caring for other people, and Mikhail, the man who has loved her since they were teenagers, but never quite managed to tell her. As they grow up and wander both separately and together, they build a relationship neither of them will quite acknowledge. Both, however, share a vital interest in the story of a Queen of Northwyth, the Angel she loved but could never marry, and her eventual (and also beloved) husband Jaden the Great – tales that run through the book like a thread, involving a sacred seed with which the Queen and her Angel saved their country from destruction, split in two and lost to the generations. Additionally, other people’s stories, to include their parents’ loves and losses, Gaby’s independent twin sister Annie, the storytellers John and Mercedes, are woven into the tale, adding strands of colored thread to the novel’s tapestry.
This story is powerfully and evocatively written. The reader is given a host of perspectives in a sort of prose haiku, communicating feelings, emotions, and viewpoints with a few verbal glimpses and glances. Characters are fleshed out, human, and very lovable, with complicated personalities that do not necessarily reveal themselves all at once. The events of the plot, even the ordinary ones, are touched with a deeper, more substantial meaning that provokes both thought and feeling in the reader. In the end, even the fantasy aspects of the tale seem like natural outgrowths of the story. The writing is excellent, vivid and subtle at the same time.
This is not a book for the plot-driven or those seeking adventure and excitement. While the book has its share of adventure, it is almost lost among drifting explorations of one character’s history or another’s, shifting casually in time and place to the point where we almost lose track of where the main plot is actually going. There are times when the author seems almost deliberately to hold things back in favor of keeping the story going a bit longer, or sending it off in an entirely new direction – while this is a valid artistic decision, and mostly works with the nature of the story, it can be frustrating at times.
BENEVOLENT is an artistic work, almost an exercise in verbal portrait painting or tapestry design, and is well worth exploring for its beautiful images and well-crafted characters.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader.