Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: Birthright Bestowed by Erika M Szabo

Title:   Birthright Bestowed
Author:  Erika M Szabo
Series:  Ilona The Hun Trilogy
Genre:  Fantasy/Magical-Realism/Romance/Mystery/Urban fantasy
Publisher:  5 Prince Publishing 
Release Date:  October 18 2012
Edition/Format: Ebook and Print 

Ilona is an emergency room doctor, born into an ancient Hun tribe which still exists hidden amongst us with its strict and fiercely enforced rules. She doesn’t know much about her Hun heritage besides legends, customs and rituals that she continues out of respect for her parents whose sudden death ten years before devastated her. She plays her tune on her birthday given to her by her grandmother.  Elza – Ilona’s housekeeper - explains the purpose of the tune is to let the elders know she had come to age. Her mother didn’t have a chance to explain her inherited powers, but after her 29th birthday when she is considered as an adult by Hun standards, she begins to remember the forgotten instructions concealed as rhymes her mother was teaching her since she was a small child. Ilona discovers she can heal with her bare hands; she can rearrange the human body to its healthy state. This ability is exciting as well as frightening. She is conflicted between having confidence in her intelligence and inherited abilities while having no confidence as a woman. Her insecurity created barriers which keep others out, and I also keep her caged in. She’s been in love with her unsuspecting best friend Bela, when a dashing stranger explodes into her life. The sudden magnetic feeling frightens her and discovering evil in him doesn’t help either. A sinister dark man appears Ilona connects his presence with the series of mysterious deaths around her. Zoltan saves her life by jeopardizing his, which prompts Ilona to start fitting the puzzle pieces together and discovering the ancient tribal secrets that not only can change her future but the future existence of the Huns as well.

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Author Info

I’ve been publishing Alternative Medicine related books. I love healing as passionately as I love to read. Growing up with a father who was a closet reader (having a macho image allowed him to read only in secret which he shared with me after I caught him reading my book ‘The lady of the camellias’ and he left a few teardrops on the pages) he introduced me to many great books. The inspiration to write a novel came from my daughter. I’m an avid reader, and she was yelling at me to stop whining when I didn’t have anything to read. She said, “If you don’t have a book to read, than write one”. The idea shocked me a little at first, because English is my second language, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The history of the Huns always fascinated me, they were my ancestors. I was playing with the idea of writing a fantasy story peppered with historical facts, and then I decided that it was a stupid idea after I started reading about how to write a fiction book. 'I am not a literary genius, I have no idea how to create a good story line or form characters and make up a plot.' I thought, but the idea didn’t leave me alone. I kept adding events and dialogs in my head to Ilona’s story. Not knowing how to do something properly had never prevented me from a accepting a good challenge before, so I sat down by the computer and I began writing. I've never been good at following rules or formulas, therefore I discarded the instructions and I made up my own rules. I began writing Ilona's story as a diary. 'Just for my own enjoyment, writing down the ideas that are swirling in my head is far better than being hunted by them.' I thought. I kept writing for months, and soon I realized that I never had so much fun doing anything in my life before. Somehow the characters came to life on their own, and they developed under my furiously typing fingers. Pretty soon I realized that I wrote about four hundred pages already. I gave the manuscript to my friends to read, and they urged me to publish it. I was elated when I received the publisher’s review about my story that said “I want to give you my overall impression of your work: You have a terrific writing style. You have obviously done a significant amount planning and preparation in crafting your work. Your prose is nicely written with details that capture the reader. Right from the start your plot was very engaging. You do a nice job of slowly making your way through the story with details and a certain voice that allows your reader to really interact with the characters (who are all round and very nicely developed). The greatest value in fiction, it seems to me, lies in what we can learn about our own lives when we take time to analyze someone else’s — even if that someone else is just a character in a story. Characterization is one of the most important elements of any successful story. I always love it when I leave a story feeling like I know the characters. This is true for your prose. So many authors rush through their stories without really developing them. Not you. Your book read like a movie in my mind. You have crafted a quality piece of writing.”

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I was dreaming.

In the dream I was about four or five with pigtails, wearing a ruffled white dress. We were in a grocery store; I was happily hopping and singing, holding onto my mother’s hand, delighted to be with her as always. She smiled at me. Her hand was warm and silky, and her lustrous dark reddish hair flowed to her mid-back. She had the deepest blue eyes, framed by long lashes. Her eyes promised love and security. I admired her and wanted to be with her all the time. To my childish disappointment, she was busy for the biggest part of every day. When she could spend the whole day with me, I enjoyed every moment of our time together. I was chattering away, happy she was paying attention to me, only to me. I was telling her a silly story I’d made up, when I saw an old woman fall in the middle of the aisle. I tore my hand from mother’s grasp and ran over to the woman. She was wincing in pain, lying on the floor. I felt my mother behind me.

“Momma, she is broken. I want to fix her!” I looked up, hoping for her approval.

“All right, sweet pea, you know what to do. Gather the wish in your core and concentrate on it. There you go. You’re doing fine. Now, put your hands on her. Don’t be afraid, go ahead!” I heard my mother’s velvety voice, and I felt her hand on my shoulder. As I touched the woman’s hip, I felt warmth emanating from my fingers. A serene, satisfied feeling washed over me.

I sat up in bed startled. My room was dark; the digital clock blinked two in the morning. Whoa, where did that dream come from? I whispered quietly. I fluffed my pillow, pulled the comforter up to my chin and immediately fell back asleep.

The sun woke me around seven. It snuck little fingers through the lace curtains, tickling my nose. I sneezed, yawned, and then I stretched lazily under the silky lilac cover. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in early September. The air was spicy with the aroma of ripened fruits. I didn’t have to get up early; I had taken the day off. The birthday girl should enjoy the luxury of sleeping in, I thought, as I rolled on my side, trying to find a comfortable position to go back to sleep. I couldn’t. I recalled my dream clearly and I wished I hadn’t woken up in the middle of it. I was wondering how it might have continued. Perhaps I had healed that woman by touching her. The thought made me smile.

I tossed and turned, trying to figure out what made me feel so wide-awake and keenly aware. My dream had triggered this feeling, I just knew it. A vague and nagging memory in the deep recesses of my mind was trying to surface, yet I couldn’t pry it up close enough to remember. I felt a strange yearning and excitement inside me. This notion was new to me; usually I kept my emotions well under control. I tried to hush it, urging it to leave me alone and let me savor the lazy morning, but I couldn’t. I tried to repress the yearning which was relentlessly creeping up on me. It became pressing, strong and nameless until I finally understood what it was.

I felt a deep urge to heal someone. I thought about the unusual dream and I wondered:  I am a doctor.  For me it shouldn’t be strange wanting to heal people. This feeling was different from the usual - your illness confirmed I’ll write the prescription – type. I had this strange idea that by touching someone I could instantly wipe away all their illness. Yeah, right! Like that’s ever going to happen. I wish it could be that easy…. I played a little with the inconceivable notion. I tried to figure out why I felt so excited. It couldn’t have been birthday jitters; those days were long gone when I was looking forward to birthdays and gifts. Celebrations became a nuisance rather than enjoyable events. I had resigned myself to leading a quiet, single life, and being a loner.

Suddenly, my mother’s face swam in front of my mind’s eye. Seeing her so clearly took me by surprise. We were celebrating my ninth birthday. I saw everything so clearly, as if a movie were playing in my mind. Mom was smiling and leaning toward me. I had a strong feeling that it was something important she wanted to tell me, but my nine-year-old self just didn’t pay much attention to what she said. The silly girl was eager to open the presents.

“Remember, little one, your twenty-ninth birthday will be the turning point in your life, you will be a grownup. You will find out about your heritage and…”

“But Mo-o-m, I’m only nine years old!” I cut her off angrily, eyeing the present table. “Can I go and open my presents? Pleease!” I whined, tugging at her dress.

“Okay, go, but let me show you something first,” she said. I was eager to find out what was in the big silver-wrapped box, so I just nodded. I saw Mom pulling something small and shiny out of her pocket.

“This necklace will be yours on your twenty-ninth birthday, this is your heritage and represents…”

Why is she showing it to me now if she won’t give it to me? I thought angrily, and I turned toward the table loaded with presents while she was still talking. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a small golden medallion hanging on a leather string between her extended fingers. It was just a necklace, of no meaning to me, so I turned and ran. She was still talking as I left, but my mind was already on the bike I was hoping for.
I wish I had paid more attention back then. She had mentioned the importance of my heritage… and that the necklace represented… What? I couldn’t remember anything else, no matter how hard I tried. It must be important; her message is trying to emerge from the fog filling my brain. Her message must be in my subconscious memory; she was still talking when I turned away from her. I speculated. I tried every method I knew of to recall that memory. I tried to picture Mom in different places, waiting for the memory to click. I tried to picture us in my old room; I recalled other birthdays when I was kid…… but it was no use. She never repeated that sentence, and she never had a chance to give me the necklace. She didn’t live to see my twenty-ninth birthday. Oh Momma, you promised to give me that necklace today, I miss you so much! I sobbed softly into my pillow.

Going back to sleep became impossible, and the nagging feeling returned with full force. It started to annoy me. I tried to shrug it off, yet it kept badgering me. I knew it would haunt me relentlessly unless I tried to relax and stop obsessing about it. I threw the covers off, and walked barefoot to the bathroom, deep in thought. I took a wrong turn in the hall, opening the linen closet door by mistake. The change of rooms didn’t set in just yet. Sweet and creamy chocolate, what a dope! I mumbled, and oriented myself toward the bathroom.

During my shower, the nagging feelings grew stronger and stronger. By the time I’d finished drying my hair, my nerves were on edge. I tried to order myself to act normal, to just go about my day as usual. I went down to the kitchen, trying to make my swirling thoughts quiet down, telling myself to just enjoy the day. Frustrated, I realized it was not going to be an easy task – this time I couldn’t control my emotions as I had before.

I found my housekeeper Elza in the kitchen, busy making breakfast. Her long auburn hair was pulled into a tight bun. She was wearing a gray uniform with the crisp white apron pressed and wrinkle free. I had always hated that darned uniform, yet she insists on wearing it and she ends our countless arguments over it every time by saying, ‘I am your housekeeper. I like who I am, and that’s that!’ It makes no difference to her that I am the boss – she always does as she pleases.

I tried to force my disapproval and nagging thoughts to subside. Elza seemed preoccupied; she turned away quickly when I reached for her hand. She knew I could read her feelings by touching her. She surprised me, but I respected her wish. Yet it bugged me that she was trying to hide something from me. To feel that strong yearning inside, and then be emotionally rejected by my own housekeeper, started affecting me more than I could tolerate. I just hoped that after prayer and breakfast everything would return to normal.

Ema, Elza’s daughter and Rua, my groundskeeper, joined us in the living room to begin our usual Morning Prayer. The role of leading the ceremony had fallen on my shoulders ever since my mother had died. I never fully understood why I had to do it. After my mother was gone, Elza insisted that I continue the True Hun tradition, so I obeyed to please her. When I had pressured her to give me an explanation, she always clammed up. She said I would find out when the time was right. There goes nothing, again. I don’t understand all the secrecy about being a Hun. What the big fuss is about is beyond me. I hoped the awful feeling would stop so that I could enjoy the day. Hopefully, concentrating on the ceremony will help me to calm down, I thought.

I lit the sacred candles infused with herbs, and I placed it in silver candleholder on the small round table. The ancient wooden figurines of male and female holding hands stood between the candles, with our delicately carved Turul bird. The statues were small; they had a deep, warm brown color. My family had owned them for who knows how long. The rich shiny brown color came from the hot herbal tea poured over them every morning by Elza, and many before her, for generations. The bird held widely stretched wings over the male and female figurines. Beside the statues was an ancient, dark leather-bound book. It contained the names and life stories of my ancestors.

This was a unique introduction to what looks to be a very thrilling series, if the author continues with it.  It goes into detail of a young woman coming into her power with no one helping her or guiding her.  She has waited until the 29th birthday (the year evidently the body is considered full grown) to find out all about her coming gifts or powers.  A new man is introduced into her life, a definite Hun but a stranger none the less.  She feels an immediate attraction to, but also struggles with the love of her best that she has loved since gradeschool.  She begins her tentative journey by unlocking old memories and reciting rhymes her mother made up for her.  She realizes that looking at them through an adult eye, changes the context of what she once considered just a game.

This was a great read.  It took you through the process of Ilona finding herself and letting go.  This author has a wonderful imagination and I can't wait to visit her world once again!!  


1 comment:

seelk said...

Sounds really good. I am adding it to my TBR pile. Thanks Nikki!

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