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Storm Over Atlantis by Adrian Cole
(Cosmos, $19.95, 279 pages, paperback; May 2001.)

Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to cover scandrink. Sort of. Adrian Cole delivers a gripping romp from the very waters' edge to the end of time.

In the city of Athalaantis, where corrupt rulers call themselves Gods and control their subjects with deceit and fear, the innocent 8-year-old Kulcorris, exhibiting his prodigious affinity for the sea, watches raptly as the water teasingly crests to and fro. A group of his schoolmates approaches him, and the most troublesome among them, Menepter, begins to taunt him. Urged on by his friends and eager to humiliate the lonely and gentle Kulcorris, Menepter grabs a piece of driftwood, swings it like the weapon it has become in his hands, and makes direct and immediate contact with Kulcorris's temple. Immediately, Kulcorris falls onto the rocks and into the water. Thinking Kulcorris dead, Menepter swears his friends to secrecy and, with the arrogant triumph of one destined to be a career soldier, announces himself to be warlord of the coast, thus revealing what will be one of his lifelong traits: the quest for power and revenge.

Smugly walking on the sand, Menepter finds himself rooted in place by a mysterious force congealing around his ankles. A huge column of water arises and forms itself into an exact replica of Kulcorris. This image reaches out and engulfs Menepter, filling him with a deep and freezing numbness, and then, as abruptly as it came, frees him, though at first he is too terrified to realize it. His friends long gone, Menepter looks up to see the only person still on the sand: Kulcorris, looking at him in either triumph or scorn.

This boyhood incident sets the stage for what will be an attempt by Kulcorris and Menepter to fulfil their destinies -- Kulcorris guided by his affinity with and love of the sea and the powers it confers upon him, and Menepter, born under the God of the earth, relentlessly attempting revenge and power, though Kulcorris will always lament his lack of restraint towards the vengeful Menepter.

On Kulcorris's sixteenth birthday, his uncle Ahmunses attempts to prepare him for the life choices he must now make. Sixteen is a powerful and magical number, and this is the point at which one sets in stone the path one is destined to walk. Afraid, but following the line of least resistance, deep-seated tradition, Kulcorris agrees to go before the Oracle who will read his destiny.

Thus begins a long and at times wearying account of the boy turned man, Kulcorris, and his endless and circuitous routes towards fulfilling his unwanted and unexpected destiny. The author is expert at building the suspense of the narrative, though keeping it there becomes problematic -- at least, it did for this reviewer. Cole sets up a very intricate plot; the diagram of the Gods of the Empire -- consisting of the Gods of the heavens, elements, seasons and directions -- is much appreciated! The Gods do not battle each other directly, but rather through those born under their signs. These Gods cause great shifts in time and shifts in power. Mountains rise and fall, the sea surges and recedes, ice freezes and melts, water fortifies and destroys. And few, if any, are who and what they appear to be, as foretold in "The Song of Osiris":

Gods have many names, many guises
Great are our burdens, heavy our sorrows
Our tears water the world and from them spring the wells that feed earth

The earth turns, the seasons roll
The harvest culls the strong, the blade cuts deep
Though oceans level continents, new mountains spring like wheat.

Admirably, Cole has created very believable characters, which battle the tarnish of greed, power, corruption and hatred in their alternate universe as we do in ours. That man is inherently both good and bad is personified in Kulcorris, who, though fair-minded and good at heart, nevertheless kills and maims when and if called upon by circumstances -- though to his credit it is always as a last resort.

While Kulcorris's inner and outer journey is rather mesmerizing, the endless and intricate battles become, well, endless and intricate -- so much so that you begin to wish everyone would yell SURRENDER and then just go home. The author introduces some very promising love interest in the form of Neferkhet, but, after she has been deceptively thwarted, she disappears from the story, reappearing, not without explanation, at the end of the tale in time to fall into a disappointingly predictable role.

All in all, Cole creates an alternate world where beauty and truth are ultimately embodied in the elements themselves, and are worthy of the battles waged on their behalf. The pieces of the puzzle eventually all fall into place, although you will at times wish that it were cut into larger, more digestible pieces.

Review by Michelle Reale.

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© Michelle Reale 14 July 2001