Thursday, December 27, 2012

Glory Alley and the Star Riders

Glory Alley and the Star Riders, by C. Deanna Verhoff, is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy about fourteen-year-old Glory Alley, amateur spelunker and geologist.  She lives on Tullah, a planet very much like Earth.  Glory's life isn't what you'd call "ideal" - it's anything but.  Her mother died after giving birth to her youngest brother, and things have been going rapidly downhill since then.  Her father is a drunk, and alternates between being Mean Dad or Nice Dad, but with their family's financial situation being what it now is, coupled with her father's abusive behavior when drunk, the authorities have been a presence looming over the family.  Despite his drunken meanness, and the fact that the Alley family is pretty much the town joke, Glory would do or give anything to keep them all together.  

Little does she know that one solo trip into the caverns at Queen's Mesa will put into motion a chain of events that will change her and her world forever.  

Everyone has heard the stories about the Elboni, but to the people of Tullah, the stories are just myth.  Glory isn't sure what to believe anymore when she barely escapes from the Mesa with her life after picking up a beautiful stone, unlike anything she's seen before either in books or with her own eyes.  Could all the stories be true?  Everyone except her grandfather thinks she's gone crazy.  When three strange-looking men come looking for something, though, she realizes that the stories may indeed be true, the stone she found is much more than what it seems, and there is much more to the universe than the science of her world has been capable of uncovering so far.

This book took me almost no time at all to get through, once I was finally able to start reading it; I liked it a lot.  It's a really nice change from having so many young adult books that are centered around a love story or romantic triangle, with any other plot being pretty much secondary.  This one is strictly the main character's adventure and the struggles of her family.  Glory is also not some perfect goddess for whom guys fall all over themselves - she's a pretty normal, kind of nerdy kid who is pretty, but maybe a little on the chub side without being actually fat.  I find that pretty refreshing, because even though I wasn't chubs at her age, I also wasn't some kind of teenage Aphrodite who was oblivious to my own beauty and allure *coughBELLASWANcough* so I feel like my teenage self can relate to Glory a lot more.  Glory also plays board games and collects rocks, so she's definitely someone I would have probably been pretty good friends with.  Even though when she talked about becoming rich from becoming a geologist, I wanted to give her a big hug and just say "Oh, honey...if you want to get rich from science, you picked the wrong field."

Anyway, the story itself is a lot like the Chronicles of Narnia - you've got this girl whose home life isn't so fantastic, and she finds herself on some kind of magical adventure in another world, with the fates of many hanging in the balance.  The Christian undertones are there as well, but up until a certain point, I'd forgotten it was even "supposed" to have a religious theme.  But also much like C.S. Lewis, or hell, even George Lucas (come on, I love Star Wars as much as the next geek, but you have to admit it can easily be interpreted with religious themes), Verhoff manages to weave the religious elements into her story in such a way that the reader can take it or leave it.  The point is there for those who choose to come away from the story with it, or if you're not Christian, or just not that religious, you can do like me and just enjoy the story at face value, as a fun (though not always fun for Glory) romp across time and space.  

Even if you don't care to follow a religious interpretation of the story, however, there are still important lessons that anyone can take away:  
  • The importance of sticking by your family and friends, even when (especially when) it may be easier not to.
  • Giving in may be an easy way out of trouble, but it is not always the best - be cognizant of all your options and their potential consequences.
  • There is a fine line between stubbornness and perseverance - if what you want doesn't line up with what is best for everyone, or if it may result in the genocide of an entire world, you might want to reconsider your priorities.
  • Be very careful what you wish for, because the reality of it may not be something you are ready to handle.
  • Science is fascinating and amazing, but there is also merit in believing in something even when it can't be scientifically proven - all great scientific discoveries start out as a dream of what could be possible, or as a simple question of "What if...?"

And probably the most practical lesson I learned from Glory Alley:  never go spelunking without a buddy and at least two reliable backup light sources.



CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
Glory Alley
* Glory Alley and the Star Riders (Book 1)
- TBA (Book 2)

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