I loved the Journeys of the Catechist. What an excellent trilogy this is. This is Alan Dean Foster at his best. All three novels were of high quality and the characters enjoyable. Fantasy adventure is fun when the author manages to make it work. Our main character Etolje Ehomba takes us through several adventures on his way to fulfill what he sees as his obligation. While there were plenty of adventures and action scenes in the books, for some reason they came across as quiet books to me. Maybe that had to do with all of Etolje’s questions. He does like his questions. Or maybe I like these books because they are different from much of the fantasy and science fiction out there on the market. That probably has to do with the Catechist (teach through questions and answers) part or the story.
CARNIVORES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS (1998)
When a group of dead men are washed up on the beach near the home of Etolje Ehomba, one of them turns out to be alive but close to death. He charges Etolje to save the Visioness Themary of Laconda who has been abducted by Hymneth the Possessed. Ehomba does as he has been charged despite the protests of his family. Armed with a sword, a spear and a few things that the women of the village have collected for him Ehomba sets off.
Shortly after setting off, Etolje meets up with Simna ibn Sind. Simna ends up following Ehomba on the whole quest. Our suspicions of Etolje’s magical abilities are soon aroused, as he seems able to do miraculous feats. But Etolje never agrees with that description. Instead all credit is given to the collection of things that the women of his village gathered for him.
These two travelling companions’ adventures are like Aesop’s tales. There is a moral behind each encounter. A Catechist is one who teaches by word of mouth. Sometimes Etolje’s tendency to ask questions of everything and everyone, patiently waiting for answers, frustrates Sind. As a reader it gives us insight into the world of Ehomba, and if we are attentive we should certainly begin to see that perhaps Etolje’s village might not be as every other village that he and Simna encounter.
INTO THE THINKING KINGDOMS (1999)
Into the Thinking Kingdoms is book no. 2 in the Journeys of the Catechist trilogy. It begins where Carnivores of Light and Darkness left off. Ehomba is still asking questions and Simna is still complaining about what he sees as a waste of time. Along with them on their journey they have acquired Ahlitah (a feline).
While their environment has changed somewhat, all three still manage to get themselves in and out of trouble. Etolje’s word magic is especially needed when the trio manages to get themselves arrested for thinking and expressing independent thoughts. As in Carnivores of Light and Darkness, each place is left a changed place for having encountered Ehomba, Simna and Ahlitah.
I enjoyed Into The Thinking Kingdoms as much as Carnivores of Light and Darkness. These books show off Foster’s tale-spinning abilities. You need to have read Carnivores of Light and Darkness in order to be able to follow along in the story. Into the Thinking Kingdoms is not a stand-alone book.
A TRIUMPH OF SOULS (2000)
A Triumph of Souls is a great conclusion to the Journeys of the Catechist trilogy. The trio, Etolje Ehomba, Simna ibn Sind and Ahlitah, the feline, are still together on their quest to save the Visioness Themaryl from the evil Hymneth the Possessed.
This time they take to the sea to get to their goal. Once again the trio gets themselves in and out of trouble. Some of this trouble is strange indeed. The island with the faceless people is a clear example of Foster’s ability to play with weirdness. Etolje still denies having sorcerous abilities.
When the gang gets to Hymneth the Possessed we meet a person who makes regular fantasy villains look stereotypical. And the ending of the book. What a perfect, yet surprising story this has turned out to be. While there might not have been a great deal of character development on the part of Simna, he feels real. Some pe0ple aren’t really changed by their experiences. Motivations stay the same. Etolje is Etolje. His role seems to be to surprise, and he does that well. As I said earlier, Journeys of the Catechist is an epic fantasy of great quality and it delivers what it promises.