A month ago I reviewed the first novel in Francis Porretto’s ‘Realm of Essences’ series, Chosen One. If you go back to that review, you’ll see that I was very impressed with it and wrote that I would happily read the sequel, On Broken Wings, which I did, immediately after writing that review. (Follow that link and you have your choice of formats for reading the book online for free.)
So, why have I delayed reviewing On Broken Wings as promptly as the first book? Well, there were a bunch of reasons unrelated to the task, but there was also the more important reason that I really needed to think about some of what I inferred from the novel about the author’s position on Christianity and belief.
First let me say that On Broken Wings is a vigorous and rigorous novel that is written with perfect pitch. It tells a story and gets under the surface of things in ways that allow art and philosophy to coexist. Porretto has the sort of bold logical insight that a reader wants, and he blends that with the aesthetic timing and coloration that makes a novel work.
Louis Redmond, the polymath and warrior protagonist from Chosen One returns, but he is dying, with only a few months left to him. He hangs on long enough to rescue and resuscitate the life of Christine, a young woman who was ‘owned’ by a lunatic motorcycle gang and had been passed around among the members for ten years. She is also an amnesiac who has no memory of her life before being found by the gang, which kept her as a sex slave, drugged to oblivion.
It turns out that Christine is not just smart, but brilliant, and Louis does everything he can to cultivate that brilliance. And not just brilliant, but like Louis also physically powerful, a natural athlete and warrior. She drinks in learning and martial arts like a thirsty wayfarer. She is in essence Louis’s successor, and the next carrier of the designation ‘chosen one.’
The theme of the Nietzchean superman fortified with Christian virtue from the first novel is replayed here with considerably less emphasis on the Christian virtue. Hence my concern with the metaphysical direction of Porretto’s story. If he had not introduced the Christian perspective so strongly in the first novel, I probably would not have been so alert to the dimensions his metaphysical current takes on in the second. But as I noted in my earlier review, I sensed that there was something possibly heretical afoot and I think that the heresy might be Gnosticism.
That said, I believe that any reader can relax and just enjoy the story. The portraits of the rotten motorcycle gang, of the dubious ways of corporate culture, of a cadre of foundationally corrupt police departments are far more interesting than my doctrinal misgivings. Porretto is as keen an observer of human highs and lows as you are likely to find and one cannot miss the contrast between human promise and human performance as the shadow that falls across the fictional world of Onteora County.
I did not and could not stop reading On Broken Wings and I think its story is a powerful construction of ideas and reality and heroic ambition that is missing from our grim contemporary culture.