[This review of the second book in my Bell Mountain series, The Cellar Beneath the
Cellar, is by one of my esteemed colleagues on Chessgames.com, “Optimal Play,” who lives in Australia. I reprint it here with his permission.]
Lee, I have finished reading The Cellar Beneath the Cellar and am pleased to say that I found it to be as interesting and enjoyable as Bell Mountain.
I’m wary about posting any spoilers for those who have not yet read your second book in the series (or for that matter your first), so I’ll try to be circumspect regarding any significant plot details.
Picking up the story immediately following the ringing of King Ozias’ Bell by Jack and Ellayne, the journey of the two young protagonists, rather than coming to an end, instead continues beyond Bell Mountain, except that now, in contrast to climbing the heights of Bell Mountain, they must descend into the depths in the cellar beneath the cellar under the Temple of the old city; thus they go from one physical extreme to the other.
“From King Ozias’ bell to King Ozias’ Temple–it must be right,” Ellayne said. “It’s like an old story, in which all these things fit together in the end. A story about Ozias that began two thousand years ago and isn’t finished yet.”
The aftermath of the ringing of the Bell has echoes of a Pentacostal experience, with language barriers somehow miraculously overcome, a renewed prophetic energy now in evidence, and the fulfillment of Scripture coming to pass.
A common theme running throughout this second book is that of change.
Martis changes from an assassin to a protector.
Obst changes from a hermit to a missionary.
Helki changes from being solitary to being a leader.
The power released by the Bell emanates outward, signalling an end of sorts, though not as the children expected, but also heralding a new beginning.
The changes wrought by the ringing of the Bell empower each of these characters, and others, in their own particular way, although each experience is initially met with apprehension and doubt, and they only gradually learn to embrace their new lives as they begin to trust God and His mysterious ways.
Contrast their positive experiences with that of Lord Reesh and the Temple authorities in Obann, all of whom abhor change and desperately try to stop it, intent on maintaining the status quo at any cost.
The oncoming war with the Heathen maintains a tension throughout and the introduction of new characters such as Ryons and Szugetai, as well as those introduced in the first book, broaden the story further.
Ellayne seems more intuitive than Jack, but also more vulnerable, and perhaps more idealistic. Her thoughts, which are routinely provided throughout the story, often serve to enlighten situations, and even the personality of other characters;.
Jandra the little prophetess and her strange bird are unnerving, but to my mind, the real heroes of the story are the Omah, and of course especially Wytt!
“One day, all Omah everywhere shall dance at the same time.”
The connotations with certain aspects of our own world are intriguing, such as the Empire with our own civilization, the Heathen tribes with the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Temple with institutional corruption and self-serving autocrats. Although I found it best not to try to draw any direct parallels which may not be there.
Other themes which come to mind are that of being on a journey which brings wisdom, courage, faith and a trust in the ever-present God of Surprises.
God’s providence is another constant theme throughout, most notably in saving the town of Ninneburky.
Despite the Bell now lying in pieces, it continues to ring metaphorically, such as “God says he will give this boy the throne of Ozias. We all heard it, as clear as a bell.”
I hope I’ve read your story correctly, but as Martis himself says, “What people think the writings mean can be much more important than what they really mean.”
And I hope I haven’t given away too much.
Thank you, Lee, for giving the world this wonderful story!
Keep up the good work!
Ten stars out of ten!
[All right, all right, I kept the last three lines–why not? It’s praise, but I worked hard to get it. Besides which, I know and you all know that whatever good is in these books, whatever truth, is of God and came from God. I just wrote it down.]
***Thank you, mate, for that nice review. ***