To all my beautiful people,
I read very few fantasy stories anymore that stay with me. I read very few character portrayals that I remain consistently adoring toward for a long period of time. I have very few books which I can honestly say that I would go back and read again and again. Yet, some part of me feels that I have found one, and I want to share it with each of you as well.
The author of this book is one Rachel Rossano, a self-published author who has been writing and publishing since the early 2000’s. Her creations were something of which I remained unaware of until recently, and now I’ve found my mind in a state of unrepentant desire to mass-read everything to see if it’s as beautifully done as this first book that I have read.
Recently, I had the pleasure to read an ARC copy of Rachel Rossano’s newest release, Seventh Born, a debut novel in her trilogy “The Talented.” This book was engaging and unique in terms of both the writer’s voice and the characters.
Before we get started, I will share with you a little about the author herself. (At the bottom of this article you can find media links for her, as well as a purchase link for the book–JUST RELEASED!)
Rachel Rossano lives with her husband and three children in the northeastern part of the United States. Homeschooled through high school, she began writing her early teens. She didn’t become serious about pursuing a career as an author until after she had graduated from college and happily married. Then the children came.
Now she spends her days being a wife, mother, teacher, and household manager. Her evenings and free moments are devoted to her other loves, writing and book cover design. Drawing on a lifelong fascination with reading and history, she spends hours creating historical feeling fantasy worlds and populating them with characters who live and breathe on the page.
This shared, I only recently finished reading one of her books, and it is certainly one that I wanted to share with my darling little readers.
Seventh Born is a story about two characters, Zezilia and Hadrian as they navigate their world. She, as a seventh born child with special talents that only males are supposed to have. And he, as the Sept Son, the leader of the seventh sons and second in command in his kingdom. Together, they are struggling to stay alive in a world that desperately wants to crush them both. While my description doesn’t fully capture the depth of what’s at stake within this trilogy, I find myself currently unable to capture the fullness of this tale and this world in mere words.
To be honest, I sat before this page attempting to think of the cons of this story for quite some time. I pride myself on writing balanced reviews, on being able to pick out the struggles in a story, in its characters, in its heart and present them to readers in an unbiased fashion. However, I’ve found myself quite unable to think of any vitals faults this story has. I do not wish to simply overflow with praise for a book and hype the reader’s expectations to the point of disappointment, but as a fellow writer and someone who has read far too many books for their own good, I was overwhelmed by the poignant sense of how right this story is.
Therefore, I’ll move straight to the point and touch briefly on all the strengths of this book. I’ll then leave it to you, reader, to determine if this book is something you would prefer. This said, I do believe that this is a book that anyone with a love for story will want to have for their own.
The first thing that captured my interest about this story is that it’s written from two points of view. For those of you who don’t write, you have to understand that this is incredibly difficult to pull off. For those of you who do write, you know that most teachers and other writers seem to believe that it cannot be done in good fiction. Therefore, when I came to this book and first noticed the switching point of views, it was something which immediately concerned me. I went into the first chapter assuming that I would walk out wishing the author had simply chosen one of these main characters to narrate over the other, that one of these main characters would not have anything to add to the story.
I don’t even know how to begin to explain how wrong I was about this. I find it incredible, both as a reader and a writer, how the author managed to pull off such a developed story, with no loose ends, and have both of the main characters support so much of the story. Zezilia and Hadrian are not the heart of this story, not the most meaningful part, but they are the ones actively wrestling the story into shape, actively forming the heart of this story for the reader to see.
I love watching plot and world and character interact to bring a story to fruition, and often I’m disappointed by how much was left unexplored in each of these avenues. Yet, in this story I did not see that happening, and I believe that the double point of view truly added an undeniable power to the tale. Without both of these main characters having a functioning point of view, as they do, the story would have felt underdeveloped, incomplete, and frustrating.
Another thing that I quite enjoyed in this story were the side characters and the relationships. Often these are things which feel forced, undeveloped, and unnatural. Generally writers have one sex or one or two characters that they struggle to portray. To my amazement, when reading this story, even the characters who only showed up for a scene or two felt very involved and vivid. It was an interesting thing, as a writer and a reader, for me to experience. The same could be said for her relationships. Often there is one that feels forced or unnatural, yet (at least in this first book) I have not felt that way about a single interaction unless the author meant for me to feel that way.
(And to be honest, my favorite character in the book was actually a side character rather than the main character. Someone needs to read this and come talk to me about it. That is the greatest need in my life currently.)
The third thing I appreciated was the dialogue. I love reading fresh and enjoyable, natural dialogue. I love it when writers actually write people that speak and act like people. And this author certainly had that ability. Each piece of dialogue was natural, but furthered the point of the scene and developed the character relationships. There was no pointless small talk or hard to get through rambles that didn’t lead anywhere, or characters that didn’t actually talk like someone I could actually meet on the street later today. There were times where the character tones occasionally switched their dialogue between modern and archaic phrasings, which bothered me at first. However, it was patterned to each character, so I settled my differences with the matter fairly easily.
I swear, this won’t carry on forever, but there are two more things that I was more proud of in this story than anything else, and I want to share them with you right away. (Probably should have put them at the top, but if you’ve read this far, I figure you’ll keep plugging along.)
One thing that is extremely difficult to do in fantasy without boring a reader is to write about involved processes of magic or training. I cannot begin to divulge how many times I’ve skimmed or entirely skipped such sections in a book because they felt bogged down or unnecessary. Rossano found a way to balance these matters in a way that felt like each process and each explanation and each training session mattered. I can go back through this story and try to pull such scenes out of the book, yet if I were to do so there would be so many things in the story that didn’t make sense, so many conflicts with no setups, so many empty spaces between happenings. I honestly don’t know how she achieved this level of mastery in her setup between necessity and conflict, nor how she managed to make even the dull so very interesting. For even in these scenes of preparation, there is a magic and a beauty to it that keeps the reader curious and invested.
The final thing I want to mention, that I love the most in this story, is Rossano’s description. I know so many young authors who struggle to balance description with story. Yet Rossano has proven herself a strong storyteller. She has a way of creating vivid description that is unique to anything I have read before. I love strong, intrinsic, and tangible worlds, and Rossano has a way of writing that seems to envelop the reader in setting just as much as in the narrative itself. When asked, she credited this to her work as a storyteller previously, and I must admit that it has certainly done her readers an incredible service.
I wish there were more writers that could pull off the balance which Rossano has managed to find with this story, but that is part of what made Seventh Born fresh and unique. I found it very impressive to say the least.
Generally, I find myself having to state what age group a story is appropriate for or what content is in a story that might bother someone. However, I find myself not needing to do that this time. This is a story that I would share with anyone.
This story is one that I would encourage anyone and everything to give a chance. Whether you prefer fantasy books or not, there is something worthwhile in this story for everyone. Its themes center around so many issues that young people face even today such as having faith, clinging to endurance, the value of right and wrong, and the necessity of understanding oneself and how you mesh with those around you, and many others. All of these themes meshed together with plot and character create a unique experience for even the most calloused reader.
Now that I have finished saying my piece for Seventh Born, I have a special treat for all of you who actually finish reading this. Below you will have the opportunity to read a part of an interview done with Rachel Rossano concerning this book. You will also find a short bio and links to where you can purchase Seventh Born or check out many of Rossano’s other excellent books. So, without further ado, enjoy this interview with our lovely author:
CS Taylor: To start, did you have a favorite character to write? Were there any that you found difficult?
Rachel Rossano: Hadrian and Zezilia were equally challenging and enjoyable to write in Seventh Born. Some of the secondary characters were more fun, though. I loved Errol’s quirkiness and unpredictability. Selwyn, one of Zezilia’s tutors, is another favorite, perhaps because I have always found people with mysterious pasts intriguing.
Sometimes Errol’s daughters, Zezilia’s foster sisters, were a challenge at times mostly because they had to pop in and out of the narrative, but not dominate it. They were crucial to Zez’s development, but not in the forefront of the story. Keeping them individual, memorable, and yet still in the background was a difficult balance to maintain.
CS Taylor: You achieved such a balance in character, narrative, description, and conflict. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Rachel Rossano: For Seventh Born, my biggest challenge was keeping the characters accurate to their ages and experience. Zezilia, my heroine, was so young, sheltered, and inexperienced in many ways, beginning the book at only fifteen. Keeping her responses appropriate to her maturity as she aged was a challenge. At the time I wrote the first draft, being in my mid-twenties at the time, I was more of a similar age with my hero.
I also remember the development of the talents, how they manifested and interacted, turned out to be a big task. Seventh Born lays the foundation, both in character and world building, for the next two novels. I had to get it right of the whole story wouldn’t work.
CS Taylor: How do you put your faith into your writing, and why do you see that as important to your audience?
Rachel Rossano: In all my books, whether I market them as Christian or not, I write from a Christian worldview. By that, I mean sin is sin. It has consequences. God is God, and there is hope. Salvation is available through the death of God’s son. Those who profess to be Christian, followers of the Almighty (The Talented series), or followers of the Kurios (the multiple kingdoms series) are portrayed as living according to God’s teachings in the Bible.
However, The Talented trilogy was meant from its conception to explore the difficulties of serving God as a minority living among a hostile society. I wanted to contrast the mature Christian with the newly converted. Hadrian, though raised to follow the Almighty, is forced to live out his faith in a very public forum of a high political office. Because of his witness, he is attacked, maligned, and constantly facing difficult choices. Meanwhile, Zez is just being introduced to some vital concepts of forgiveness and worthiness. After years of being treated as the disappointment, she is discovering that not everyone will see her that way. There is a God who accepts her despite her flaws and offers her freedom from them.
These books turned out to be studies of faith in action. Two flawed characters with faults and blemishes trying to walk by faith in a hostile world.
CS Taylor: Why do you think this story might be impactful to others?
Rachel Rossano: I tried to keep Zez and Hadrian realistic, with flaws and blemishes. I hoped it would cause readers relate to them more. My characters make mistakes, sin, confess, and repent in an organic way. They pray about all kinds of things. Spiritual issues, practical issues, and seemingly insignificant issues alike are not too small for a conversation with the Lord. I am hoping that encourages the readers to do the same.
CS Taylor: Why is this story important to you? Why did you HAVE to tell it? What inspired you to write it?
Rachel Rossano: I started writing Seventh Born over a decade ago. It was begun at a difficult time in my life while I was wrestling with the prospect of not having children. Working through my struggle with submitting to the Lord’s will even if it meant giving up on a dream I had treasured since childhood was hard.
By God’s grace, He did grant us children. I paused in writing the story while I was pregnant with my first child. Then, after all three kids were born, what got me writing again was a feeling that I had to finish the story. It needed to be told.
Since finishing the final part of The Talented trilogy about a year ago, I have been debating whether or not to publish it. Every time I have almost talked myself out of launching it into the world, a reader will appear either asking about reading it or telling me about how I need to publish it. Through the whole process, I have had the feeling that I needed to share this story more than any of my other books. I am hoping that it blesses those who read it.
As to the inspiration, it came from many different directions, some too hard to trace. It was an attempt to write within the constraints of a genre and…well…it grew from there. I wanted to explore the journey of being faithful while serving in a public office in a world hostile to believers. Also, I wanted to work through the decision processes and results of obeying God’s will during trials. Many aspects of the story can be traced to pieces of my history and struggles. Possibly that is why I felt I needed to share it.
CS Taylor: How can aspects of this fictional story and its lessons apply to the lives of readers/yourself in a meaningful way?
Rachel Rossano: The challenge to walk closer to God is perhaps the foremost in my mind. Both of my main characters are on a journey as they strive to live out their lives. Hadrian’s faith is put to the test daily in his new position. Zezilia discovers acceptance on a whole new level with her introduction to faith and unconditional love. Between them, they challenged me to draw closer to the Lord daily and seek His face in everything. I hope the book does the same for my readers.
CS Taylor: What are your plans for the rest of this series, and what can readers who enjoyed this book look forward to in the future?
Rachel Rossano: The Talented series includes two more books: The Defender and Living Sacrifice.
In The Defender, Zezilia takes up her new position as one of Hadrian’s defenders as his party of loyal followers go to the goddess’ city to attend the Caelestis Novem, a festival week. There the two of them face plots and intrigues together. As their friendship grows, the complications and danger around Hadrian’s position of Sept Son grows.
In Living Sacrifice, Hadrian has left Zez back in safety at the Sept Son compound. Left suddenly adrift, she struggles with finding purpose after such an upheaval of plans. Hadrian, accompanying the new High King and their joined armies, attempts to reclaim the goddess’ city back from the imposter to the throne. Torn between what he believes is right and his loyalty to the high crown, Hadrian quickly finds himself in a difficult spot.
The whole saga reads like one long story, which is why I am hoping to get the books all out into readers’ hands as quickly as possible.
Well, my dears, I hope that you enjoyed reading this review/interview. I certainly enjoyed both the book and the author and look forward to seeing more from her in the future. For those of you interested in purchasing the book or learning more about Rachel Rossano and her other books, check out the information below. 🙂
Both Rachel and I would love to hear your thoughts on both the book and any of the other topics discussed in this review, so feel free to leave a comment below. Take care. Until next time.
Your unaffectionate supernova,