- Pro Review
- Discovery Awards
THE LUCK OF MADONNA 13 (2020 Edition)
By E. T. Ellison
It is the year 2534 and hidden in New Mexico is the small IsoTown of St. Coriander. Though secluded from the outside world, each year, a candidate is chosen to venture outside the town in a quest to search for the last Nevergate, a long lost mechanism that had once allowed humanity to travel between parallel universes. These Questers are chosen by their “luck”, a measure that St. Coriander holds in sacred esteem. This year, Glendyl Fenderwell has been deemed the “Luckiest” among the community’s sixteen year olds. She is given the honor of becoming the 250th Quester Designate and tasked with locating the Nevergate and its Key or die trying. Unfortunately, history sheds little hope upon her path as all 249 of her predecessors had failed, never to return home.
THE LUCK OF MADONNA 13 is the first entry in E. T. Ellison’s The Last Nevergate series. From the get go, it pushes readers into its impressively populated world filled with dense history, futuristic technology, and pop culture iconography. There is a great deal of genre blending at every turn, most prominently in the fusion of elements from fantasy and science fiction. Staple fantastical species such as wyverns are a genetically engineered race of highly intelligent winged creatures. The legendary wizard, Exeter the Wise, owes his “magic” to advanced technology. Copyrighted celebrity genomes, advertisements for spellcasting Color Magic WaxWands™ (with 24 colors!), and creature comforts like hover boards, all feature into a setting that is bursting with interesting gadgetry. The relationship and contrasts between magic and technology is a question often contemplated by the protagonist, Glendyl. Rather than taking the avenue of hard sci-fi to explain its advanced tech, THE LUCK OF MADONNA 13 seems to follow something similar to the core tenant of technomancy: that sufficiently advanced technology is, in a sense, magic. Or, to quote Glendyl’s uncle: “Magic is the ham and eggs of the terminally mystified.” However, for all of its impressive world building, there is the odd feature of the occasional footnote inserting snippets of information and history, some of which are vital to the story, such as the nature and usage of the Nevergates. Whether or not the use of these inserts are helpful and direct or intrusive is up to individual taste. But the fact that the notes are explicitly addressed to the reader–sometimes even contemplating their reactions to the text–can be a jarring reminder of the author’s presence and disrupt the story’s immersive qualities.
Though the floodgate of terminology and capitalized entities in THE LUCK OF MADONNA 13 can be overwhelming, the basic framing of Glendyl’s journey is familiar: a chosen one on a prophetic quest. However, this staple narrative is enriched by its vivid setting and enjoyable characterization and its structure is a reassuring as scaffold for a complex plot. The multiple perspectives are utilized well through characters that are distinctive and humorous in their observations and dialogue.
Along with writing that is smooth and colorful and a story that invites continuation, THE LUCK OF MADONNA 13 is highly ambitious in its world building–successfully blending elements of sci-fi, high fantasy, and technomancy.
~Yi Zou for IndieReader