The Finest Creation
This review has been a bit of a stumper for me. The Finest Creation is being sold as an adult fantasy novel but it felt more like something aimed at a young adult audience. The exposition and the protagonists are definitely geared that way. And yet it’s appearing in the adult section (I’ve seen it at Borders myself). My dilemma: would I have given a different grade if it were billed as YA? After much thought, I realized the answer here is a definitive no. Solid writing and storytelling is solid no matter where you find it – and I’ve found it in YA novels just as frequently as anywhere else. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it here.
The Finest Court was created by the gods to guide and protect chosen people – those amongst the Fallen (humans) who were favored – in Paard-Peran. The Finest were molded in the image of horses and though they can communicate psychically with one another and other animals, their human charges have no idea of their identity or mission. Gallant-Stallion is a young Finest who is about to take on the role of mentor and shepherd for the first time. Though nervous about his new role, Gallant-Stallion is eager to learn who he will guide. Before he can learn the name of his protectee, his mentor Steadfast is killed in an enemy attack. Gallant-Stallion and two young children are the only survivors. Charged with their protection, he must navigate court politics and unknowable evil without knowing just who he’s supposed to be guarding.
Raised in a sheltered temple by their guardian, Bishop DeNogaret, ten-year-old Kalantha and her thirteen-year-old brother Meven are on their first trip anywhere. Their procession is ambushed as they make their way to a royal wedding. The attack leaves everyone, including their cousin, the Crown Prince Edan, dead. It is only with the help of the horse they call Rue that they escape with their lives. Now Meven is heir to the throne of Paard-Peran and the pair find themselves in more danger then they could have ever imagined. Luckily they have a powerful protector guiding their path. Gallant-Stallion (Rue) will guard and shepherd the now vulnerable heirs until he can learn who his true charge is.
Kalantha, Meven, and Rue are likable protagonists, but I kept thinking they were all a little young for the death and danger they’re facing. It’s not that I’m averse to bad things happening to young people, it’s that too much of the story is told in matter-of-fact language which left me with an emotional disconnect. Kalantha is ten and Meven is thirteen and neither has ever been anywhere. Their first time on a journey and they witness the killing of over fifty men, including their cousin. And yet if you picked the book up and started reading a few pages after that those events, you’d never know they’d experienced such a tragedy.
I grew up with horses and think they’re some of the most beautiful, strong, and delicate animals out there, so my initial reaction to the novel was pleasant expectation. I liked the idea of psychic, god-like horses who were sent to guard and protect the “Fallen” humans. But somewhere in one of those psychic discussions/lectures the author began to lose me. I wanted her to stop telling me things I could figure out on my own. And I wished she’d concentrate on her characters instead of explaining to me one more time why the Finest were sent to Paard-Peran.
The author’s focus on the psychic “lectures” detracted from the gravity of the loss suffered by the book’s young leads. Nothing at Rabe’s website indicates that this is a YA book, although it makes some sense to view it as such. After all, with a younger audience, less of a focus on the tragedy’s aftermath as well as her decision to tell rather than allowing readers to figure things out for themselves seems almost reasonable. And perhaps all those psychic discussions were written as a way to world-build, given that this is the first in a trilogy. But I can’t know any of this and can rely only on the book itself. So while I applaud Rabe’s ideas, I can’t recommend The Finest Creation.
|Review Date:||March 30, 2005|