Review: 'The Secrets of Yashire: Emerging from the Shadows' by Diamante Lavendar
Could a thrilling adventure possibly take place in one's mind? After all, imagination drives us to seek places we've never been, worlds we would never find in reality. While some read fiction to escape the mundane, some dive into fantasy to discover the truth of reality in a deeper level, to look within ourselves and find out who we really are. As the great author Flannery O'Connor once said, "I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system".
Some pieces of fiction would do one or the other―escape from reality or plunge into it― but Diamante Lavendar's young-adult fantasy novel, The Secrets of Yashire: Emerging From The Shadows, does both. The protagonist is a young teen named Brianna, and her adventure immediately launches when she enters the fantasy world called Yashire, which is described as a "land where dreams and fantasies are real. It is a land where everyone comes to at some point in their lives", a fictional allegory of her subconscious mind, kind of like Christopher Nolan's Inception.
Brianna is portrayed as someone whom many young girls (and some boys) could relate to ―she feels insecure and regretful, and constantly seeks for independence. She's probably the kind of girl who's been sheltered all her life, and as much as she would like to escape her home, she couldn't, so she finds the only means of escape she could: within. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Brianna discovers the Wonderland within her mind, the World of Yashire. Guided by the Spirit of Truth, she embarks on a quest to defeat the evil wizard Zolan, regain her lost memory, and find her soulmate so she could heal The Land, which is pretty much a metaphor of her broken self. Ultimately, it's her quest to master her own emotions.
Lacking the experience and knowledge she needs to accomplish her missions, she is bestowed a sword and fireballs (Though it wasn't clear how the hell she managed to carry them).Yashire is a magical place but its magic is generic, and its rules are governed by the psychological power of love and self reflection. Yet there's society in Yashire: inhabitants embrace like centaurs and faeries embrace. The communities in villages feel vivacious. There's a strong sense of community that sees her as "The Chosen One", the Dorothy to this Oz, yet the wizard is nowhere to be seen. Much of the novel's first half sees Brianna exploring her subconscious world, always concerned about her memory, and trying to find the courage she needs to overcome her "monsters". "How can I know if I'm too deep into my journey?," she asks, but I immediately grew tired of her constant questioning. I get that she's naive and constantly asking her metaphorical subconscious makes sense, but hearing her ask questions all the time feels dreadful. Libban, the Keeper of the Land, and her other companions become walking expositions always feeding her information about Yashire or the positive values that build good character. It's her quest to summon courage and independence, and to acquire those, she needs to master her emotions, focus on the positive, and learn honesty --"Even though truth hurts, it's better than lying". The idea sounds cheesy but it's a powerful allegory that remind us to find our true purpose within.