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The Owling Review by Susan K. Marlow

By Robert Elmer
5300 Patterson Ave. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49530

The Shadowside Trilogy, which began with Trion Rising, continues with Book 2, The Owling. The premise that was introduced in the first book ("What would it be like if Jesus had come to another planet?") is expanded and deepened in this story. Our heroes--15-year-old Oriannon "Ori" and her friends--race through 314 pages and 35 intense chapters as they struggle to understand Jesmet's (Jesus') resurrection and his instructions to them. And what is this "Numa" Jesmet promised to send to be with them always? It's hard to wait for something they do not understand and have never seen.

Oriannon, who used to be a typical teenager living the good life on the sunny side of Corista, discovers her world has literally turned upside down. The axis has shifted, bringing night to Ori's people and day to the outcast Owlings living on the shadow side. The upheaval has thrown everyone into a tailspin. In the wake of all this, a charismatic leader, Sola, proposes a way for both peoples--the Coristans and the Owlings--to live together in harmony for the first time in history. But Sola needs Ori's help.

At first, Ori is thrilled at the opportunity to aid the downtrodden Owlings, whom she has come to know and love. She forgets Jesmet's instructions to wait. Instead, she plunges headlong into Sola's "Ultimate Solution" for the planet Corista. But it doesn't take long for Ori to discover that she has made a big mistake. Sola's talk is a lie, her plans are evil, and her intent is to enslave the Owlings and anyone else who does not follow her lead. Now Ori is trapped by the foolish choice she made.

If the story sounds a bit confusing, here's why. This is not a stand-alone second book in a series. The Owling depends on readers having a firm foundation from Trion Rising. I read and enjoyed the first book, and I found The Owling even more fun. It never bogged down. Instead, the author kept me reading with action, narrow escapes, and thoughtful dialogue. However, what I consider a strength of the book (fast-paced action), many first-time readers will certainly find bewildering.

I like science fiction, but I am not overly fond of books that are dependent upon previous books to make sense. In this regard, The Owling was a disappointment. It ended as many middle books of a trilogy end--as the preparation for the final, closing story.

The Shadowside Trilogy is intended for a teen audience, but middle-graders who like fantasy, science fiction, or allegory will enjoy this series. It's hard to find fantasy and science fiction we can trust, but there are no worries with either Trion Rising or The Owling. It's a creative "What if?" trip into another world. But make sure your reader starts with book 1, or wait until the entire series is available.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009