Rifts of Rime

Rifts of Rime

After seizing power, the evil Thane rules as a vicious dictator. Now the only thing standing between him and total domination is the sacred Scroll of Quickening and its guardian, Pinecone. This thrilling adventure story is a truly magical tale for readers of all ages. Join Pinecone in his quest and lose yourself in the pages of this richly detailed fantasy world.

What People Are Saying

“Steven L. Peck’s new novel for young adults, The Rifts of Rime, succeeds in precisely Lewis’s prescribed way: it’s a “good story” first and foremost”

Blair Hodges–bycommonconsent.com

Summary and Reviews by Scott Parkin

**Summary and Review**

Long ago the god-like Wealdend quickened five animal species to high intelligence, self-awareness, and self-determination. These creatures (gray squirrels, tree squirrels, marmots, wolves, and ants) share the world with their unquickened cousins, along with an injunction that no Quickened shall kill another.

Untold years later the societies of the Quickened have grown, flourished, and found equilibrium with one another at a pre-industrial level. Craftsmanship abounds but engineering remains limited in a generically medieval/enlightenment society largely organized and structured by species differentiation.

The tree squirrels love the word and are adept at paper-making and poetry; the marmots are physicians and philosophers; the gray squirrels are warriors; the wolves are nomadic storytellers and hunters; and the ants remain largely unknown by dint of their inescapable difference as the only non-mammalian quickened species (and lack of evident vocal chords). Each species (caste?) is essentially separate and self-contained within an integrated society. Each has a role, customs, and social norms and all seem essentially content. There is a fundamental equality with each species performing its role as part of a greater whole, governed by a council with representatives of each.

The story begins in a time where reverence for the Wealdend has faded into a beloved folklore embraced by most as religion, appreciated by others as fable, and dismissed by a few as myth. That softening reverence has brought with it an emerging revolution where the peoples’ reverence for tales of the Wealdend and the Quickening are used as cynical tools of motivation to justify radical overthrow of traditional order by the Thane of the gray squirrels who is determined to subjugate all others under his leadership.

The story alternates viewpoints between Pinecone, a poet of the tree squirrels who finds himself embroiled in the politics of rebellion as he tries to preserve his religion and social order against the Thane and his cynical manipulations, and Leafe, a paper-making tree squirrel thrust into a warrior’s role with a faction of the gray squirrels opposed to the Thane. We follow these two characters through discovery, intrigue, revelation, and ultimately war as they attempt to defend traditional order and restore peace.

_The Rifts of Rime_ is a vividly imagined science-fantasy that puts interesting characters and uniquely realized cultures through difficult conflicts that I found engaging, interesting, and relevant. It deals with both social and existential questions in a direct, unflinching way within a world that is as imaginative and self-consistent as anything I’ve read recently.

The novel is marketed for young adult readers but has been reviewed by many as a middle-grade tale, presumably because it uses talking animals as main characters—though if age of protagonists matters, we are dealing with a university graduate assistant, trade guild leader, and senior military officers. While I believe the story is accessible to young readers, its sweet spot is with readers who can engage at the level of existential exploration. Though it is a relatively direct conflict with clearly defined issues and sides, I don’t believe that clarity should be mistaken for simplicity. These are foundational issues of loyalty, hope, social role, social boundary, ethnic prejudice, manipulation of religion for political gain, revisionism, and nature of god, among others. These are core elements that demand their own space, not convenient add-ons. There is a deceptive depth to the story that will be lost on younger readers.

The writing is clean with only a few plodding sections, and the regular appearance of squirrel poetry was endearing and relevant both as plot element and expression of the author’s own love of poetry. It’s not the sparkling prose you see in Peck’s other novels, but it is strong and readable and never gets in the way of the story being told. In terms of physical production, there were a disappointing number of typos and editing glitches (more than a dozen), and while the book is completely readable I thought it was somewhat distractingly over-designed. I’m not a fan of the cover art.

I very much enjoyed _Rifts of Rime_ and look forward to its announced sequel. It succeeds on multiple levels as adventure, morality tale, social comment, and philosophical primer. It’s well-written, vividly imagined, and consistently realized in a nicely paced story that kept me fully engaged. It should appeal to both younger and more mature readers, and offers more than a few nuts to ponder and savor long after the cover is closed. Highly recommended.

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