“Red Leaves and the Living Token” by Benjamin David Burrell

There is a lot of originality in this dark tale. Burrell writes very well, and with a great deal of invention. I can only find any significant fault any in the concentration demanded of the reader. A little more description of each character on first appearance, or an index of characters profiles and key locations, would have helped me. My poor memory, alongside my tendency to skim read, are certainly much of my problem and so I really don’t wish to labour the point.
This nice mix of quirky new and well-worn fantasy elements gives plenty of scope to build for ourselves onto the scenery of Burrell’s adventure. In my mind, the story emerged as a sort of future-time “scripture” story written in contemporary style. Indeed we have distant absent “gods” or, even if not, certainly their disciples. The “Reds”, or rather their legends, are clear reflections of higher power. There are big evil spirits, we never quite know, casting “devil” shadows over the remaining influences of the arborescent Reds. Might the evil be human?
Much of the story suggests that we are reading an epic from a dystopian age, a time of decay from former more civilised times. Some of this strange world’s locations seem almost medieval in design, evocative of a new dark age. The token, the sought object of the quest, is in my mind a mystical artefact left over from a more advanced past. I guess a sequel will answer more questions. I will be disappointed if it isn’t soon forthcoming.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the almost complete absence of humans. We are replaced by three completely different and equally as intelligent species, none of which has any lasting dominion. At first I had the School Master and Lord Valance as human, but once I had read the book I concluded that they were Zo. There are other shadowy entities that just might be human, but we are left guessing. The only definitely familiar creatures seemed to be bears and horses. The horse sometimes with carriage or cart, is the familiar form of transport. We are in civilisations existing without electrical power generation, well at least within the confines of the story as we are so far guided.
As I’ve said, I’m eager for the sequel. Having taken the time to learn the ropes in this strange imagined place I am reluctant to let my new knowledge go. I am particularly fond of one in particular of Burrell’s species of intelligent beings, the Petra. These creatures look like solid blocks of stone. I imagine them as hearty creatures with silicate exoskeletons.
There are several principle characters, and many important secondary figures. This is a multi-layered, multi-dimensional story. Arguably the pivotal personality, the one that is painted in the greatest detail, is a crippled boy who is on a quest in his wheelchair to find the magical “elixir” of health. It is around him that the various threads of the adventure knot together.
I can recommend this book to those that like reading epic fantasy, and are looking for something with a real touch of creativity. This is inventive, even speculative material that those with wider interests in science fiction, fairy-tales or existential thought will also all enjoy.
I can recommend this book to those that like reading epic fantasy, and are looking for something with a real touch of originality. The quest, the journey certainly has plenty of familiar elements, built into a unique, restless landscape.



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