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Book Review: Thaliad, by Marly Youmans

A post-apocalyptic epic poem for Young Adults.


Thaliad

Phoenicia Publishing, 2012, 103 pages



Thaliad is a post-apocalyptic tale, orchestrated in verse. Part novel, part fantasy, and always compelling, it tells the story of a group of children who make an arduous journey of escape and then settle in a deserted rural town on the shores of a beautiful lake. There, they must learn how to survive, using tools and knowledge they discover in the ruins of the town, but also how to live together. At the heart of the story is the young girl Thalia, who gradually grows to womanhood, and into the spiritual role for which she was destined.

Following in the great tradition of narrative poetry, Thaliad tells a gripping story populated with sharply-drawn, memorable characters whose struggles illuminate the complexity of human behavior from its most violent to most noble. At the same time, through its accessible language and style, the epic presents wholly contemporary questions about what is necessary not only for physical survival, but for the flourishing of the human spirit.

Thaliad is decorated throughout with original collages by the renowned Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins.





Year 67 After the Fire
Emma declares what she knows about the time before the fire and calls on a starlit muse, the only love she will ever have, to tell the hero's saga of The House of Thalia and Thorn.



I don't unhesitatingly recommend a lot of books. There are books I like and books I love, and the ones I really love I give my highly recommended tag, but Thaliad is the first book I've read since Catheryne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making that compels me to say that if you don't like this book, you suck.

Marly Youmans's YA American fantasies The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove are already on my highly-recommended list. They evidently didn't sell well, because they're out of print.

So, like any YA writer trying to go commercial and hit the bestseller list, Marly Youmans wrote... a post-apocalyptic YA story with Biblical overtones written as an epic poem in blank verse.

I mean, what?

XII. THE FACE OF LIGHT

YEAR 3 AFTER THE FIRE

The peace of graves, with Thalia as raging as a storm-raked sky...
And when she reproached God, the angel with the broken face replied.



I'm afraid this little small-press book is not a work destined for bestseller lists. But it's beautiful and heart-stirring and sad and poetic, and full of profundity and wisdom. It has definite spiritual themes, with God and angels making appearances, but it's less Jesus-y than The Chronicles of Narnia.


Remember in the shadow of despair
What you have known; the messenger of fire
Who burned with syllables on water's skin,
For God is otherwise than what you dream
And knew your secret name before the shear
Of light, explosive kiss that birthed the stars
And juggled planets in their whirling course —
He calls your glowing name and bids you rise,
No matter if the universe is scorched
Right to the root a thousand thousand times,
For you must still be phoenix to the world.


Thaliad is a slender volume, just over a hundred pages, telling the story of seven young children who survive an apocalypse. Their leader is a girl named Thalia, who has visions and becomes the spiritual and moral center of their tiny tribe.

They journey across an empty wilderness and take up residence in a beautiful, deserted lakeside town. Not all of them make it.

Gabriel the Weeper

They don't encounter many people, but some of their encounters bring tragedy, and some of the tragedies they bring upon themselves. They're children, and they do foolish things and make mistakes, in a world that no longer forgives mistakes. They also fall in love, and that too can be a mistake.


What illness ails a boy of seventeen?
A grass-stained illness, green with coming spring.
How came he by such green-starred malady?
All came from looking in a hazel eye.
And did he see reflections of his face?
No, all he saw was pupil widening.
And did he teeter on the brink and fall?
He teetered long but fell into abyss.
Did he resemble shining Lucifer?
In one way only, burning like a star.
And did he die, extinguished by that flight?
Oh yes, he died a death a thousand times.
What was the reason that he died, yet lived?
The lively reason that he lived for love.


This is a brilliant and imaginative work. It's a writer stretching and doing something creative and different. And Youmans is poet enough to pull it off beautifully.

You can read (or listen to) an excerpt here.


All praise to Mother Thalia and Thorn —
Here sprang the new beginning to the world.




Verdict: I loved this. Who the hell writes a post-apocalyptic YA novella in blank verse? Obviously, someone inspired by a non-commercial muse. Thaliad is beautiful and touching and deserves a wider audience. Highly recommended!

Also by Marly Youmans: My review of The Curse of the Raven Mocker and Ingledove.




My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, highly recommended, marly youmans, reviews, young adult
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