Takeaway: Well crafted stories are a joy!
The Scroll is the fifth book in the series. It is not possible to discuss the book without giving away some spoilers from earlier books. So if you have not read the earlier books, you may want to stop and go read my reviews (in order) of The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread, and The Enchanted.
Part of what I like about good fiction, and I think this series is a great example of good fiction, is that there is more than surface level meaning. Real ideas are being discussed. Hoyle is a Christian, but this is not being written as ‘Christian Fiction’ in the sense of pat answers and veiled presentations of the gospel. But as Christian fiction in the way that Tolkien was writing Christian fiction, with well written, complex stories that present the world well, but are influenced by the Christianity of the author.
The most obvious top level idea in the book that is likely influenced by Christianity is the prophecy. The Six were called Alitheia. Almost as soon as they arrived they learned of the prophecy that they were thought to be the fulfillment of. That prophecy included the marriage of Darcy (from our world) to Tellius (then Prince, now King Alitheia). Neither Tellius nor Darcy as young teens, were interested in marriage or being told who they had to marry. The Christian concept of election and God’s action in the world through prophecy has a long and complicated history. But as Darcy and Tellius are around one another over the course of a couple of books they realize they actually do love one another. They do want to get married. And even if it was foretold, they have made the choice on their own as part of who they are.
Darcy, in the first book, was tricked and captured by Tselloch, the bad guy of the series. Tselloch is from a third world, not Earth or Alitheia. He is trying to control both Earth and Alitheia by building gateways between the world and gaining control of them. Humans can give themselves over to Tselloch and become Tsellochim. After months of torture, Darcy had decided to give herself over and touch Tselloch, but was rescued at the last second. However in the immediate seconds before rescue she did touch Tscelloch and that touch, normally enough for her to have become a Tsellochim instantly, has haunted her since. Most people become Tsellochim immediately, but Darcy has spent the next four books feeling effects as the touch crawls up her arm, but not fully being given over to the change.
It was not until this book that I fully realized that there is a metaphor about sin in that touch. Darcy makes a lot of bad decisions in these books. That is partially about immaturity, but also about the touch of Tselloch. He calls to her and she is influenced by him in ways that she knows are bad. She feels out of control, but there is a point where there is a change in The Scroll and she realizes that how the touch (sin) is impacting her. She starts resisting differently, not through willpower but more on a dependence of those around her. She opens up about her weaknesses and fully confesses to those around her. It is not that Tselloch no longer has any influence on her, but the confession and understanding of how he has been influencing her, as well as the support of the loving community around her, breaks much of the power that Tselloch has over her.
The actual plot of The Scroll is pretty straight forward. At the end of the last book (again, spoiler, DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOU HAVEN”T READ THE EARLIER BOOKS), Tellius, for reasons that Darcy and no one else seems to understand, has rejected Darcy publicly. As part of his coronation, he was to propose marriage to Darcy. But he did not. Darcy knows he still loves her, but Tellius believes he is doing the right thing in a public rejection, she is just not sure why.
Through a magical object, Darcy at the start of The Scroll can look between the worlds and see Tellius. She is fully in love with him. And the ability to see him, keeps her focused for the year that she spends back on Earth between trips to Alitheia. She sees that Tselloch has captured and is torturing Tellius. Eventually she is told that she must give herself, and the little bottle that was obtained with Tselloch’s secret in the White Thread, in exchange for Tellius.
Most of The Scroll is preparation for rescue. Tellius is being held, but no one knows where. Collin (bad human teen that given himself over to Tselloch) will take her, but they know that is a trap. Darcy has to work on her magic and solve some mysteries to prepare herself. Rubidius, the master magician, has his own work that has to be done, but also he continues to keep secrets from Darcy and not fully trust her as a powerful magician in her own right.
The Gateway Chronicles have not been a series that has weak books. There are only six books in the series, but I continue to find each book more enjoyable than the last. The slow unfolding of the well crafted story has been exactly what I have needed to read this summer. The final book of the series, The Bone Whistle is now out, and if I can get caught up on work and reviews, I hope to read it next week.