Carling: Book 2 of The One True Child Series
by L. C. Conn
Between the Lines Publishing

"For the second time he was taking her away from her family—this time into a different form of slavery."

Fantasy is alive and well and exerting its power to enchant and beguile in this novel of foretold destiny. Similar to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a grand quest is undertaken. Akin to cinema’s Star Wars sagas, supernatural powers once learned and practiced are put to use in the pursuit of righting heinous wrongs. And evocative of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, children figure mightily into this multigenerational tale of freedom from slavery and oppression.

This is the second installment in the author’s series that carries readers back to the time of the Roman conquests. Knowledge of the first book’s narrative would be beneficial but is not mandatory to become engaged in this compelling tale that begins with action aplenty. A little girl of six, Carling, experiences a horrendous tragedy. Her home is sacked and burned, her family is murdered, and she is captured and enslaved. She is made a handmaiden to the stepmother of the very soldier who presided over the annihilation of her family. Years pass as she grows to adulthood. Along the way, it is revealed that Carling is a child with “abilities,” meaning she is able to participate in all sorts of supernatural behavior such as seeing visions, getting inside other people’s minds, and much, much more. Eventually, she is given her freedom and she winds up returning to the subjugated peoples of her land. There she learns even more about her powers and her fate. Apparently, if she is to fulfill her destiny and help throw off the yoke of Roman oppression, she must complete two arduous tasks—one of which requires returning to the very Roman soldier whom she hates above all others… and bearing his child. The story then kicks into hyperdrive as she is regrettably reunited with the Roman, births his son, and begins to sow seeds of discontent among his soldiers that will eventually lead to rebellion. But, will all of that enable her to become free of him, return to her true love, Galen, and continue to fulfill her destiny? Maybe yes, maybe no.

All of the above is only a cursory summation of an intricate plot that includes intermarriage between conquerors and chattel, intermingling between gods and humans, internecine struggles among families, and intergenerational conflicts between what is asked of individuals and what is preordained. Conn is an excellent storyteller who keeps her yarn moving at the speed of a hurled spear as she covers decades and more without making readers feel they’ve missed anything of import. Her characters are full-blooded and spring to life realistically on the page whether they be haughty centurions, demure maidens, irascible patriarchs, long dead ancestors, talking bears or wolves, and more. Her prose is both easy to read and often lyrical, such as when she describes a passage of time: “The season changed, and summer released its tenuous hold on the world to be overtaken by the colourful autumn.”

Those who are enthralled by legends, lore, olden times, and magical happenings will likely be swept gladly into Conn’s world of wonder. Her soaring imagination fills chapter after chapter with this heroic chronicle of Carling’s pursuit of providence. Those readers who choose to go along for the ride will also likely be pleased to learn that the end of the book is not the end of the story. The author confirms that the epic tale is to be continued in Book 3 of the One True Child series: Claire.

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