Read of the Week

Elevation 3: The Fiery Spiral

Helen Brain

Human & Rousseau

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

Deity-infused Ebba returns in this book, the last of the Elevation trilogy, and she is still just as annoying.

The Fiery Spiral finishes her story – thankfully.

In this instalment, 17-year-old Ebba still has the mammoth task of saving the world.

The divine plan in book two, The Rising Tide, was to reunite lost amulets, which were gifted to her family by a goddess, who also happens to be her ancient ancestor.

By doing this she will open a portal to Celestia – a realm of gods – so that her ancestor-goddess can return and heal the post-apocalyptic Earth.

The saving grace of book two was that it had threads of a good story. It was entertaining and had some endearing moments. It also had a bit of freshness because while post-apocalyptic teen novels abound, this one had a semi-familiar setting – a mostly under-water Cape Town.

But The Fiery Spiral loses this edge. It scrambles off at a confusing tangent, into another world, and then gets stuck there.

The first three-quarters of the book is a long succession of future, past and present visions, full of unendearing, paper-thin characters.

Ebba still has a job to do. She’s finally reunited the amulets but there’s been a complication, so now she has a new task and, unlike in book two, she finally has all the tools to do it – if only she’d get around to it.

Rather than knuckling down and doing the now much-simplified task, she spends three-quarters of the book fixating on her boyfriend’s betrayal and fantasising about the various means of revenge she plans on exacting on his mistress.

This story-line became old very quickly, but I still had to suffer through it for about 200 more pages before the story finally progressed.

The author also seemed to borrow concepts from other famous fantasy books – something that only works if it’s done well. In this case, it wasn’t because the reasons for the steals are not developed.

For example, a character gets turned into a dragon by a magical piece of tempting jewellery – just like in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Dawn Treader.

But unlike in Narnia, where lessons and morals are learned and Eustace’s greedy, selfish character is reformed by his time spent as a dragon, in The Fiery Spiral the significance of the temptation and transformation is never explained, and the character emerges the same at the end.

Likewise, Ebba’s task is to take a long, soul-searching, growing-up journey, a literal long walk, while she’s carrying another piece of magical jewellery back to its source. Along the way, she meets mystical characters who guide, teach or trick her.

Sounds like The Lord of the Rings doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t have depth, majesty or intrigue, so it ends up feeling pasted together.

I did not enjoy this book. I’ve read a lot of teen fantasy and sci-fi books and it can be really good when it’s done well.

The Rising Tide comes really close to getting it right but by the time the weak and whiny Ebba redeems herself in The Fiery Spiral – which is at the end – I’d long since wished it was over.