Zirconya: The Sage of Aluh’Nehn (Zirconya 1) by Diana Ilinca
Publisher: Burst (a division of Champagne Books)
Length: Full Length (265 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
A young elf named Caelum is forced from her world of Zirconya into an unmagical realm called Earth. Ignorant of the life she left behind, she lives as a normal human being, but nothing could be further from the truth. After seventeen years of unknowing exile, a man from her real world, Maze, comes to escort her back, but without her memories of Zirconya, his tales only convince her of his insanity.
When holes begin tearing through the dimensional fabric between Earth and Zirconya, Caelum must find a way to remember her past life before Zirconya's existence is discovered. But how can she remember something she doesn’t even believe has happened? As if surviving high school isn’t tough enough, add the constant dogging by an annoying, though hunky, mythical man, and the appearance of a creature from her darkest nightmares, and you’ve got a troubled teen.
Sometimes a girl just wants to feel special, but Caelum didn’t want to be quite this special.
I was a little surprised when I started reading Zirconya. After reading the blurb, I thought the story would open on Earth. Instead, I found myself in the magical world of Zirconya as Caelum is riding her horse desperately trying to outrun an unknown pursuer. I was immediately caught up in Caelum’s predicament, and the pacing of the story only intensified from there.
Shortly after escaping her would be captor, Caelum discovers the sages of her world have been killed and she and her best friend Melanya are descendants of the sages of water and fire respectively. It would be a lot for even the most level headed girl to handle, yet I thought Caelum and Melanya absorbed the enormous amount of information they were inundated with remarkably well. Sadly, they didn’t have time to say goodbye to all their friends and family. Caelum does get to have a special moment with Aquin, the boy she intends to marry, and it was heartbreaking to watch them share what was their first and probably last kiss. I couldn't help but wonder what the future would hold for them. Caelum and Melanya didn’t have much time to dwell on the huge changes they were about to face. They are informed that they are to be reborn on Earth immediately for their safety, but the ceremony doesn’t go quite as planned. I won’t spill the details, but I will say the ending of chapter two was so intense that I gasped.
From that point the pace of the story slowed briefly, but picked up again very soon. Caelum, whose name is Chloe on Earth, doesn’t remember a thing. She’s a typical teenager trying to navigate high school, so when Maze, her guardian, shows up telling her she’s a sage from a world called Ziconya, she understandably thinks he’s crazy. Despite offering her proof that he’s telling the truth, Caelum stubbornly refuses to believe Maze. I could tell Maze was going to be fighting an uphill battle trying to convince Caelum of her heritage.
Though Caelum is extremely obstinate, I found it easy to like and relate to her. Part of her yearns to be special and unique while part of her just wants to be normal. She wants to stand out enough that she attracts the attention of the guy she has a crush on, but she doesn’t want to stand out so much that she's labeled weird. It's a difficult line to walk, and I can certainly remember feeling that way when I was a teenager. Caelum didn’t seem to be able to handle stress very well, or at least not when she was living as Chloe on Earth. Every time things got intense or difficult, she ran away from the issue. She even cut school quite a bit, to the point her grades were suffering. I could only shake my head at her actions because she made things much harder on herself.
Maze is certainly an interesting character. At first he seems very arrogant and believes he can capture the attention of any woman he chooses. However, as he spends more time with Caelum, it becomes clear that he's much more complex. He begins experiencing feelings he’s never felt before. He truly cares for Caelum, and I seriously suspect that he’s fallen in love with her. Given the rules Maze follows as a guardian and the life Caelum will lead as a sage, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be allowed to have a relationship someday. I’m very curious as to how things will progress between Caelum and Maze in the next book and I'm wondering if Aquin, her first love, will be a factor at all.
I think the ending of Zirconya slowed down a bit too much. The majority of the book moved at such a fast and exciting pace that I expected all that build up to culminate in a thrilling ending. Instead, the roaring intensity tapered off until it was just a whisper. Despite this small issue, I was still intrigued by the way Ms. Ilinca ended the story. Now that I’ve read the book, I think I have more questions in my mind then when I started reading. I’m anticipating the second book in the series so I can find the answers.
Zirconya is a well thought out fantasy with a fascinating mythology and well developed characters. I’m so glad I had the chance to enjoy this refreshing story. I highly recommend it to young and old readers alike.