My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic” and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.
A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light—Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that 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 was mysterious at first. I wasn’t sure if this was standard fantasy fare or something else. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that this is a far-in-the-future dystopia where people live without technology and in rural areas. The longer I read, the more I enjoyed it.
The voice reminds me a great deal of Anne McCaffrey, especially the books I most recently reread, the Harper Hall trilogy. As we follow the three friends, Nathaniel, Orah, and Thomas, their emotions are told in stark simplicity but with maximum impact. On several occasions, one sentence reframed an entire relationship, event, or assumption; at the beginning, I was convinced of one thing, but by the end, I was certain of another.
I’m a sucker for the evil religious monolith archetype, so I really enjoyed how it fleshed out the story of love, friendship, and sacrifice. The fantasy world was new and interesting. It kept me thinking, “How would I have reacted if I’d been brought up with those assumptions?” The fear of “the teaching” was palpable and confusing to me as it was to the characters.
The grammar was crisp, the language was clear, and the plot moved along at a steady pace. I honestly have no gripes with this book. The use of third person omniscient meant that I didn’t fall in love with the characters as much as I would have if it was told a different way. But I still rooted for them.
There Comes a Prophet was quieter than many of the dystopians exploding onto the big screen right now, but its underlying theme of hope for the future made me love it. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.