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Emamemi

Emamemi

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The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
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Dark Legacy: Book I - Trinity - Domenico Italo Composto-Hart To begin with, I've received this book in a First Reads giveaway. My first ever experience with such a thing. While it may have gone wrong, this turned out to be a pleasant endeavor. For a self-published author, this work is admirable - Composto-Hart has constructed a complex fantastical world that promises a lot of adventures.

The novel is preceded by an additional story, The End of the Kai (also published on its own), which appears to have no direct connection to the novel itself, but which will prove to be essential in the end. We are introduced into the fantastic world of the city-galaxy Atlas, capital of the Atlantean Empire, with its eight towers that served as residences of the Royal Families and Oracle King and Queen. We see this world from different perspectives - first, from that of a dove that flies dazzled above the city, secondly through the eyes of a poor boy that lives as an outcast, thirdly from the perspective of a black crow, one of the many deemed guardians of Atlas.
We are acquainted with the amazing Atlantean Royal Chamber where the Oracle Queen presides, with the High Kai Guardians and Priestesses that serve the Queen. But we are not kept in this world for long, because what we witness in this short story are the last moments of the Kai Order - the evil Maniok has come to destroy the last bastion that stands on his way to absolute power. One High Kai Guardian will have a different destiny though, as he flees with his Priestess, who is pregnant with their child.

In Trinity - the first book in the Dark Legacy series - the narration moves to a different place and time - the peaceful village of Ikishi, in the Kingdom of Lemuria. The story focuses on Kieko, a boy of mixed blood who lives with his mother. He has no memory of his father, a man from Atantis, but because of him, they are almost considered outcasts. Kieko has only a few friends, among which there is the beautiful Kira (there is a complicated, youthful love story here) and the wise Ki priest Shinsei, friend of his father. Kieko's life is far from easy, as he is despised and shunned in Ikishi, being constantly bullied by a gang of boys, most of all by Aiko, whose mother was killed by Atlantean soldiers.

Trinity is mainly a coming-of-age novel, dealing with Kieko's hard life in Ikishi, his conflicts with Aiko and his gang, his awkward relationship with Kira and his struggle to find out more about the mysterious life of his father, whom Kieko suspects to have been a Kai Guardian. He wants to be trained by Shinsei and learn the Ki sword, but the priest won't accept him so easily; first, Kieko has to solve his kōan - he must name the face of his enemy.

My favorite part of the book was the middle, detailing the training of Kieko under Shinsei, the Ki priest. This part was gripping, well written, full of interesting ideas. I almost felt like I was a pupil of Shinsei myself. The author was most probably inspired by the Zen teachings of Buddhism, revolving around the practices of meditation and kōan. I loved the idea of emptying your mind of any thought concerning past or future, and living only in the present. When you cook, you only cook and put away any thought that is not related to the activity. If you feel anger or hatred, you step away and observe the thought, analyzing its causes. You are cooking, and only that, so why the need to think of things that have nothing to do with cooking? It is a waste of energy to be caught up in the poisons of the mind. The present is all there is. So be fully aware of it.

"How am I to let go my anger, Master Shinsei?"
"How do you let go a hot coal?"
"By dropping it, Master Shinsei. But, it's not the same. It's not that easy to simply drop my anger or any other emotion that arises."
"Ah, because of thought, because of mind. Your mind keeps you in the past. It keeps you away from the present. If you cease all thoughts, if you defeat mind, then you are completely, and totally,in the present. And in the present you simply are without any attachments to feelings or thoughts."


In this middle part, I didn't mind the repetition of various teachings, because I found them quite interesting. I also loved the idea of focusing on the surrounding sounds and managing to hear the silence between them.

If you are not in a state of no-mind, you are in a state of mind. Mind is bound to time, and time is an illusion of the mind. If you are not watchful of your mind, if you believe you are your mind, then it is the mind that is controlling your actions, feelings, and emotions. Thus, in that way there is pain within you, pain that was created by your mind through its resistance-judgment-of the present. Mind cannot survive without time, and the present is devoid of time.


This novel has several weak points, though, and I'll detail them here. What bothered me the most (and it happens with famous writers, too) were the lengthy dialogues and descriptions that dealt with mundane activities. Nobody is interested in hearing what I talk with my mother/boyfriend/whoever, unless we are sharing some secrets. The same happened here: I was reading some dialogues and descriptions that didn't interest me in the least, as they held no actual importance to the plot development. Because of those I've lost interest several times and started to skim through pages. Should they have been cut out or reduced to a couple of phrases, it would have done the novel much good overall.

Secondly, there was too much emphasis on secondary characters, some of which died in the end (for example, Raki-ka). I was not so keen to find out about their lives, let alone read entire pages about their development. I've perceived this just as unimportant as the lengthy dialogues, burdening the pace of the novel and diluting its message. Moreover, some of the secondary characters were lost along the way and I had no idea what happened to them (I'm thinking mostly about Taka, from Aiko's gang). In the opening part, The End of the Kai, there is also a boy who gives the false impression to be a main character, but he soon disappears within the shadows he has come from (maybe he will resurface in the next books, although I'm doubting that).

Just a side note: there was an interesting description of how to make mochi cakes (boiled rice beaten into a sticky paste), which brought the memory of a video that might be just what the author is speaking of (I hope it's working, it's really funny - the dramatic way in which Japanese make rice cake):
http://www.wimp.com/ricemaking/