Veins of Gold

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - KAREN RIGBY

Char­lie N. Holm­berg Mir­ror Press (JULY) Soft­cover $13.99 (310pp) 978-1-947152-22-9

Fantasy novelist Char­lie N. Holm­berg fuses melo­drama, romance, and magic in Veins of Gold, a fan­ci­ful tale set in nine­teenth-cen­tury Utah. Anime flour­ishes and un­pre­dictable mar­vels pave a young woman’s path to­ward be­lief.

Gen­try Abrams is a damsel in dis­tress. At the novel’s start, her wid­owed father abruptly leaves their homestead to join the Cal­i­for­nia gold rush. Gen­try is forced to fend for her­self, her brother, Rooster, and her sis­ter, Pearl. With few pen­nies to spare, Gen­try em­barks on a jour­ney that leads to­ward Winn Ma­heux: a stranger whose ties to the earth teach her to see the magic that lives in the wilder­ness.

In a town where gey­sers, earth­quakes, and other dis­tur­bances are un­leashed as a re­sult of gold min­ing up­set­ting the earth’s bal­ance, the Abrams fam­ily strug­gles to sur­vive. De­spite their cir­cum­stances, the plot sel­dom dark­ens. Nu­mer­ous el­e­ments bring whimsy to an un­for­giv­ing land­scape. These in­clude a float­ing house made of seag­ulls, crea­tures most peo­ple can’t see, and a swarm of sen­tient lo­custs.

Ja­panese film di­rec­tor Hayao Miyazaki’s in­flu­ence is clear from the out­set, through en­vi­ron­men­tal themes as well as en­chant­ing de­tails. The work never slips into easy fan trib­ute; it skill­fully in­fuses its own flair. Here, the Amer­i­can West is a pioneering out­post, a site for der­ring-do, and a mir­ror for mankind.

Winn’s magic re­mains broadly de­fined, with a hand­ful of rules based on re­spect. It’s also rooted in the Ha­gree, a fictional Na­tive Amer­i­can tribe. With less of the sto­ried aura and elab­o­ra­tion that sur­rounds other magic sys­tems—such as alchemy—magic be­comes a means rather than an end. The fantasy keeps its fo­cus on hu­man re­la­tion­ships; the Abrams house­hold es­pe­cially stands out, as the three sib­lings keep faith in one an­other.

The story is as eye-open­ing as it is sat­is­fy­ing as Gen­try re­al­izes that Winn is more than a mage, and as she learns to rely on her fam­ily in­stead of shoul­der­ing ev­ery burden her­self.

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