Book Review: There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

15745772Title: There Comes a Prophet
Author: David Litwack
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Science-Fiction
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
Publication Date: July 9th, 2012
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Who among us will cast aside a comfortable existence and risk death to follow a dream?

A world kept peaceful for a thousand years by the magic of the ruling vicars. But a threat lurks from a violent past. Wizards from the darkness have hidden their sorcery in a place called the keep and left a trail of clues that have never been solved.

Nathaniel has grown up longing for more but unwilling to challenge the vicars. Until his friend Thomas is taken for a teaching, the mysterious coming-of-age ritual. Thomas returns but with his dreams ripped away. When Orah is taken next, Nathaniel tries to rescue her and ends up in the prisons of Temple City. There he meets the first keeper of the ancient clues. But when he seeks the keep, what he finds is not magic at all.

If he reveals the truth, the words of the book of light might come to pass:

“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

There Comes a Prophet is a dystopian fiction at its best – so good that I only discovered it was dystopian halfway through the book. The setting feels very fantasy-esque, so for the first half I was thinking I was reading an epic fantasy story, until I figured out it’s actually not set on another world, but on our world, except in the future. So There Comes a Prophet is a delightful mix of science-fiction, dystopian and fantasy for young adults.

Imagine today would strike the beginning of another Dark Age. Technology has brought us so far that our society is on the brink of collapsing. A new religion has rises, more powerful than Christianity and Islam, and has overthrown both of these. The new religion no longer believes in technology. The Dark Age is upon us, we are set back several thousands of years, we go back to living in small, one-room houses and small communities. In other words, we go back to the middle ages. That’s the setting for There Comes a Prophet, and it’s an unique, original, intriguing setting that, as soon as I found out this was the future and not another world, made me sit on the edge of my seat and read on with wonder, and increasing horror.

The new religion, referred to as the Light, is practised by Vicars who travel from town to town and then pick out one or two youths who they show the true Darkness. After the youth returns to town, he’s never the same. This makes the other people live in constant fear and dread, and not just for the ever-impending darkness, but also for the arrival of the Vicars, so-called soldiers of the light. In this society, Nathaniel and his friends grow up. When his best friend Thomas is taken for a Teaching – which means they’ll let him see the Darkness – Nathaniel grows increasingly worried. When Thomas returns, he’s completely different. Quiet, keeps to himself, depressed. When his other best friend, a girl named Orah, is taken next, Nathaniel knows he can’t just sit here and do nothing. Instead, he goes to the Temple City, offering to take her place, a sacrifice that leaves the Vicars baffled.

They put Nathaniel into a cell right next to a prisoner who reveals to him that he’s a Keeper. He’s the Keeper of a century-old secret that could change the world forever. Before the great war known as the Dark Age, the scientists of the old world stored their knowledge in a secret keep. He, and several other Keepers, know parts of the riddle that will one day lead the Seeker to the keep of knowledge. He gives Nathaniel the first clue, and an indication as to where to find the next Keeper. As soon as they’re released, Nathaniel, Orah and Thomas run away from their home of Little Ponds to try and solve the riddle and find the secrets of knowledge lost centuries ago. But in their trail are the Vicars, determined to make sure nobody ever finds that knowledge.

Nathaniel was a likeable character, although at times I wished I could’ve heard more of his thoughts. We kind of stay on the surface concerning the characters’ thoughts, so there were some things I didn’t really grasp, like why exactly he went to save Orah, or why he decided to follow the clues left by the Keepers. I also liked Orah, the intelligent one of the trio, and I felt sometimes I could look easier into her head than I could in Nathaniels. Thomas was fun as well, but again, more difficult to follow and understand. The plot itself was intriguing as well. I liked how it read like an epic fantasy novel, but wasn’t epic fantasy at all.

What is, however, the most interesting part of this book is the questions the author raises. It’s not entirely unplausible that we’ll someday go back to another Dark Age and lose our current technology. Would scientists of the last generation do as they did in this book, build a Keep to preserve their knowledge until brave revolutionists come find it? Or would they sit still and do nothing? I doubt the latter. Would people be willing to go back to old believes and ways, and follow a certain path (like here, the Path of Light) only to end war and bloodshed?

I loved the author’s descriptions of abandoned rail roads and cities. It actually made me pretty sad to think about how our society could just fall to ruin, crumble under yet another world war or something of the likes. I’m not generally a HUGE fan of Dystopian, but I was a huge fan of this book, mainly because I never felt like it was another typical YA dystopian.

There Comes a Prophet offers insight into one of the most important questions of our era: what if we suddenly lose all the knowledge and technology we gained? It once again leaves the outcome of the world’s destiny in the hands of the young and brave, idealists and dreamers. The plot was strong, the characters enjoyable, but it was primarily the setting that grasped me and didn’t let me go.

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