Takeaway: Well-crafted stories are a joy!
The Scroll is the fifth book in the series. Discussing the book without giving away some spoilers from earlier books is impossible. So, if you have not read the earlier books, you may want to stop and 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 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. However, Tolkien wrote 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, which 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). As young teens, neither Tellius nor Darcy 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 a couple of books, they realize they actually 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.
In the first book, Darcy is 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 Earth and Alitheia by building gateways between the world and gaining control. 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 I read this book that I realized there is a metaphor for 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 influences her 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 how the touch (sin) is impacting her. She starts resisting differently, not through willpower but more on a dependence on 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 straightforward. 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. The ability to see him keeps her focused for the year she spends back on Earth between trips to Alitheia. She sees that Tselloch has captured and is torturing Tellius. Eventually, she is told to give herself and the little bottle in exchange for Tellius.
Most of The Scroll is preparation for rescue. Tellius is being held, but no one knows where. Collin (a bad human teen who has given himself over to Tselloch) will take her, but they know that is a trap. Darcy must work on her magic and solve some mysteries to prepare herself. Rubidius, the master magician, has his own work that must be done, but he also keeps secrets from Darcy and does 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 plan to read it next week.