I found this at a local bookseller primarily because of its placement on the shelf with a group of featured books. The premise of someone being transported from modern-day Oklahoma to a parallel reality via a vase that had vague Greek goddess overtones appealed to my sensibilities. From the blurb:
Somehow Shannon has stepped into another’s role as the Goddess Incarnate of Epona. And while there’s an upside–what woman doesn’t like lots of pampering?–it also comes with a ritual marriage to a centaur and threats against her new people. Oh, and everyone disliking her because they think she’s her double.
This story pulled me in from the very beginning. Again, it’s a frame story, with the beginning chapters taking place in Oklahoma as a teacher celebrates having the summer off to do the kind of estate auction rummaging that appeals to her didactic heart. She finds an amazing deal on a unique vase, and then gets hurtled into what seems to be an oncoming tornado.
I’m not a big one for country twang, but Shannon lives it so consistently and authentically, her quaint expressions become a key part of understanding who she is and how she sees herself. It brings a dislocated sense of local color to the new world in which she finds herself and helps differentiate her from what readers very quickly ought to call her evil twin, without any sense of irony. As an example of how she handles herself:
And, shazam! I bumble into a little slice of heaven. Grapes! Big, dark, ripe grapes! Rushing through my toilette (Note to self: remember to wash your hands), I (delicately) crammed several of the wonderful pieces of fruit into my salivating mouth. Yummy. …
Dragging my tired and sore behind up–God, my thighs felt like I’d been riding the entire Dallas Cowboy defensive line–I gimped my way over to the sleepy mare.
Even better, this is the first in a trilogy that offers in-depth exploration of her character and faith, as well as how she deals with the absolute culture shock of being in a different world and knowing there’s no ethical way for her to return home again. Coming to terms with being stuck, Shannon makes the most of the situation and decides to accept her new circumstances, despite some concern that she might be unveiled as an imposter and especially since she had no previous experience with magic–and this realm brims with it.
I loved this book. It sucked me in with the initial premise (who hasn’t wanted to escape to a parallel world where they are treated as a god?) and kept me hooked with its multi-leveled conflicts. Having accepted responsibility for her new people, Shannon soon discovers that they are under attack–both from physical enemies crossing into their realm, and from disease. She more than has her hands full, and yet stays true to her inclinations and character. And there’s a very sweet and unusual love story to leaven the rise. I can wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who likes their fantasy tinged with questions about the balance between faith and magic, but with its feet firmly planted in the realities of a worldly life.