BOOK REVIEW: Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon by Angela Stever

Book Review

Title: Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon
Author:  Angela Stever
Imprint: Tellwell Talent
Released: October 30, 2021
Pages: 284
ISBN-13: 978-0228863120
Stars:  4.0

Conquering the Divide: The Legend of Barsicon is new, young adult, LGBTQ-friendly fantasy/dystopian science-fiction for the 21st century by well-known Kingston, Ontario radio host Angela Stever. The book’s hero, Seneca Ellis-Brant, is a girl just turning 16 years old, and she’s the youngest Light Seeker in Barsicon history. Seneca has been training her whole life to be a Light Seeker with the help of her two moms, Ma Marie and Mama C (Catherine), and her combat instructor, JD, a diminutive warrior with a neon-coloured mohawk.

In July 2022, two days before the Light Ceremony, she believes it is her destiny to conquer. Seneca meets Alex, JD’s cousin, who is referred to using the pronouns they/them. Alex is the first stranger Seneca has ever met, a popular singer in Light City, and sexual-spiritual fireworks ensue.

Seneca has trained diligently for the Light Ceremony, believing that she will complete it and be able to move her family from The Darkness, the land to the east of Light City, inhabited by the 1% elite of Barsicon on the shores of West Ocean. To gain the privilege of living in Light City, Light Seekers must complete Seven Steps into the Light, which amounts to a battle to the death. But has Seneca been brainwashed? Is the story she has been told about her miraculous birth true? Is she simply a pawn in a very toxic game?

Light City is ruled by President Barbara Crow, an angry woman with daddy issues whose father, General Walter Crow (a comic book buffoon of a bullying leader with no real backbone), demanded the construction of a wall between Light City and The Darkness following the Battle of Barsicon in 1972. Northern Warriors erected the barrier parallel to the coastline, two miles inland from the West Ocean. Only the wealthy live along the West Ocean, its residents made up of people who sleep until noon and feast until midnight, playing games and dancing all day. The wall offers them protection from the ‘unworthy.’

While reading this book—which could arguably be a parable—during the middle of the umpteenth lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, one cannot help but recognize the parallels in the world in which we live and the authors’ world of Barsicon, a simply constructed, dystopian fantasy world. Many of us are seeking a higher spiritual path in light of the darkness we have found ourselves in for the past two years. The 1% elite who govern and decide how we will conduct ourselves and live our lives, have divided us with vaccine mandates, passports, and other draconian restrictions. In today’s world, there is a divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, people who are described by the media and even our Prime Minister as unworthy of living in regular society. It may only be a matter of time before we are physically segregated, even though many of us can see that our leaders’ plan to deal with the pandemic is not working. Right now, most of our lives are about survival and not thriving, just like the citizens of Barsicon who live in The Darkness.

There are psychopaths, unexpected twists and turns in Conquering the Divide, and a little bit of magic, lots of mystery, and plenty of heart-centred heroes to cheer for. If you loved The Hunger Games or The Mortal Instruments, you’d want to join Seneca as she discovers her new normal and realizes her true destiny, moving out of The Darkness and into the light. This fast-paced, exciting adventure is filled with nuggets of spiritual wisdom and a satisfying ending that will leave you wanting more.

Angela Stever has peppered her story with “Easter egg” references to local singer-songwriters who music fans in this region know and love and named the main protagonist and another heroic character after her two sons. I suspect she may have used Prince Edward County and Sandbanks Provincial Park as inspiration for Barsicon. Conquering the Divide (available on Amazon now) is her first novel, and it is an outstanding debut. This reader cannot wait for more stories by Stever.

May the God of Light’s Final Judgement find you worthy before you are forced to die for the greater good. “The power should be in the hands of the people, not in the hands of one man.” As in all fantasy stories, there is a battle between good and evil, and the protagonists must overcome seemingly impossible challenges to defeat their adversaries. Sometimes the men in power are simply weak, bullying idiots being controlled by psychopathic puppet masters. And sometimes, it takes standing up to our oppressors and being willing to start a revolution before the light can shine through The Darkness.

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