I was pleased to read on the author’s blog that one of her recent books, Il Segreto degli Annwyn, has been translated from Italian into English.
The Annwyn’s Secret is a novel set in the XXIII century and the future scenario it presents is not as positive as one could possibly hope for. In fairness, some may find it not so surprising, considering the numerous red flags on matters of environment and pollution. Providing a bit of background on the events, the first pages of the book reveal that in 2022 a fatal cataclysm raged out across the planet, causing immeasurable damage and the death of millions of people. Thus, the surviving world population was forced to move to those few remaining habitable areas. However, they had to adapt severe security measures and get used to live under the constant threat of emergency occurrences.
Remarkably, Claudine’s book is not about the end of the world, there’s still a fainting hope in it. I imagined Mother Nature depicted as a woman mutilated by her children: they executed the worst of the sacrifices, and provoked irreversible damage as well as the extinction of several living species. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the desperate and alarming message that violently comes to the surface: we must act immediately to save the planet, as failing to do so will easily turn the apocalyptic scenario into reality.
Although I am not a fan of fantasy books, the environmental concern was one of the aspects that most attracted my attention when the first Italian version of the book was published. sAt the time the events of the novel are set, the world has also undergone several major changes, and the social, political and economic administration has fallen under the full control of a unified system, a Single Party, that to me inevitably echoed George Orwell’s Big Brother. There is also a unified security authority, state-controlled, which cooperates with the central government and carries on investigations on its behalf. Whereas on the one hand the unified power took the leadership and temporarily restored the order in a time of general confusion following the natural disaster, on the other hand its despotic and totalitarian character inevitably mined the ground of freedom.
The starting point of the multi-layered narrative structure can be find in the nucleus of the three main characters: Crysalis, her brother Joshua and their precious Irish friend Marcus, who seems to be constantly looking after them with pure affection and yet discretion, thus compensating the absence of parental loving.
The genuine love between Chrysa and Joshua is the symbol of the unbreakable bond of family that goes beyond any circumstances, and although they are in their twenties, there’s still something innocently childish in their mutual behaviour, something that tends to remain unchanged in a life-long brother-sister relationship. The geographical starting point of the novel is the pleasant village of Ascona, located in Switzerland, a place that somehow managed to preserve the beautiful vestiges of a violated nature.
After the tragic death of both parents under obscured and unresolved circumstances, Chrisa and Joshua decided to sell out the family house and live on board of the boat they inherited, the Avalon’s Mist, which their late beloved mother had called after the Island where, according to the legend, King Arthur’s mortally wounded body sailed to. It is also said that his magic sword was forged in this enchanted and ethereal place.
The one thing that makes Chrisa different from her brother, although they had the same biological parents, is her peculiar double-nature. Unlike her brother, she was born an Annwyn: a dreamer, an over-sensitive elected creature, made of the exact same human molecular structure but gifted with a superior mental power. Apparently, the first Annwyns arrived on the planet in the 1970s. At first, they were suspiciously looked upon, they were considered anomalies to be kept under observation. However, when the sacred ancient codes were discovered, the meaning behind their presence on the hearth became clearer: by acting as a spiritual guidance, the Annwyns’ aim is the betterment of society by educating and changing the direction of the energy of the Universe.
One night, while rambling during one of her frequent extra-corporeal adventures, Chrisa stumbles over an unknown object and, attracted by its alone of mystery, she decides to take it with her. When her spirit rejoins the body, an ordinary power for an Annwyn, she shares her finding with her brother and Marius, but the latter seems to know much more that she would have tough. It turns out that the mysterious object is a matrix vibration device that needs activation in order to work. Shortly afterwards, they find themselves trapped into an intrigued knot of events and take off to Ireland on a board of an old-fashioned aircraft. At this point, the events spread across Switzerland, Ireland and France, the three points of a mystic triangle, but at times I found that the chapter structure was a bit too fragmentary.
Chrisa, supported by other mysterious characters, will have to unravel the most ancient enigma of life:
Where do we come from, why are we here, where do we go when we die?
She finds herself struggling at times while descending deep down inside the soul of Man Kind, where she is not always able to discern Good from Bad, friend from foe.
Readers may loose the track in the intrigued maze of this enigmatic plot, and so happens to the representative members of the local authority that will give up investigating the case. Joshua, fully involved but being 100% human, appears sceptical and attracted by the unknown at the same time, but he trusts his sister and knows she’ll be able to take him off serious troubles.
There’s a multitude of characters, both human and semi-human ones, that flocks into the pages as the story moves forward, but I won’t go into too much details here because it is not my intention to unveil the surprising outcomes of the events.
I found Claudine’s writing style sophisticated, but at the same time neat and simple. The reviewing and researching behind her writing is evident, both in regards to the content (references to mythology, to the quantum theory and philosophy) and to the refined lexical selection. Nevertheless, she maintains an informal tone throughout the book, making it easy to read and accessible, in spite of its plenty encrypted messages. This is why I would feel recommend The Annwyn’s Secret to young readers, but I think it may suit the taste of a wide range of people of all ages. I am sure that different target readers will be able to access different level of interpretations and reflections. From my perspective, there may not necessarily be specific readings for certain ages.
Claudine’s writing is imbued with feminine sensibility and acute wittiness; it reflects her hunger for knowledge, her attitude to analyse and explore reality with her critical sense of observation and self-awareness. Readers may be disappointed at the end if they expect to find all answers revealed, as clear as a cloudless sky. The epilogue is quite inconclusive and it remains pretty much wrapped up in a cloud of mystery. Nevertheless, I think that the responses to the enigmas are to be found elsewhere and not in the conclusion of this book. It encourages researching through the act of living and dreaming, and maybe the knot will be untied at some point. The book itself is a tool and should be used as such, together with other resources. I fancy finding an analogy between the power of the Annwyns and the power of literature, I feel they share the same mission on the planet (betterment), they both aim to change the direction of the energy and try to put an end to the endless struggle between Good and Evil.