Flashback Fridays: The Music of the Spheres . . .

You’re a young man growing up in a world where people have the ability to attract and keep musical floating orbs called heynim.  Ever since you were a boy you’ve stuck up for your friend Caidy, a girl with many talents and struggles who is terribly misunderstood.  When Caidy runs away from home, you decide to go in search of her, leaving your small town behind in an effort to find the friend that means so much to you . . .

Do you remember:

The Chimes of Alyafaleyn by Grace Chetwin (Bradbury Press, c1993)

Some books you read as a kid and feel like they were written for you.  This was one of mine.  In the world of Alyafaleyn, music, sound and vibration help hold everything together.  The people have the ability to attract floating spheres called heynim that produce sounds depending on the size of the sphere.  The more talented a person, the more heynim they can attract and hold and make harmonies with.  That music is used as part of daily life, from the cities to the small farm villages.  In one of these small villages are two extraordinary children.  Caidrun, a girl with the uncanny ability to attract and hold large amounts of heynim from an early age and Tamborel, a thoughtful boy with a keen understanding for music and healing, but no ability to hold heynim at all.  These two become friends through their struggles and the lack of acceptance in the rest of the community.  Caidrun’s extraordinary gifts, rather than encouraged and embraced have been suppressed and kept out of reach for most of her childhood.  It’s turned her angry and rebellious.  Tamborel’s own peculiarities are less problematic, but he’s still a fish out of water in this place.  His friendship with Caidy has been her lifeline over the years, but finally the lack of acceptance prove too much and Caidrun’s actions prompt her to run away.  Tamborel goes in search of her, braving the world he’s never known to find his life long friend.

Tamborel’s journey takes him to the city where he learns more about his own abilities and how to make use of them, but he’s still determined to find his friend.  But finding and helping Caidrun heal will be no small task . . .

Now I’ve only read the original 1993 published book.  I’ve read, re-read and re-read it, until I could no longer find my library copy.  I even wrote a review of this book for Amazon years ago.  In that review I admitted that while I loved the story, I felt a lot of the second half seemed rushed and glossed over.  Caidrun’s adventures are never really described in depth and the whole story just feels a bit cut short.  Turns out, it was.  The author commented on my review that the original page limits meant that she had to shorten the story much more than she wished and ultimately did not get to tell the story in its fully fleshed out form.  So she’s rewritten  and added those parts for a revised and expanded edition (c2008).  This has been done through her own publishing company, Feral Press,  Inc. Most of the time I’d argue that authors rewriting a work after it’s been published is dubious at best, but in this case I think it well worth the effort.  I’ve been meaning to order a copy of the newer version for myself–perhaps this post will remind me to do so.

This book meant a great deal to me, even with it’s early flaws.  It’s never easy being on the outside, being the one who sees things differently, who has talents but no one who really understands them.  Not being accepted, being treated as strange or someone to be avoided . . . it’s painful.  So many kids deal with a loneliness of not fitting in, not being what everyone wants them to be.  Grace Chetwin may be writing a fantasy story, but her characters are living through emotions and situations that are entirely human.  What won me over with this story is that it’s also a tale of friendship–a strong, deeply connected friendship between two individuals that turns out to be a powerful bond indeed.  When I first read this I had to wonder how the author knew my own mind and heart so well–because I felt like this was a story I’d been waiting to read.

Admittedly, this probably is not the book for readers who prefer action-adventure tales full of witty retorts and more traditional epic fantasy fare.  This is much more a story of character, and character growth.  Not to say it doesn’t also have some magnificent world-building, but what makes this book sing, is the people within it.  Grace Chetwin imbues her characters with a strength of heart and emotion that turns them into vivid individuals.  For me, that’s the kind of book I love–but there may be some readers that are not looking for the quieter, more internal journey of this  quest.

Grace Chetwin has written quite a number of fantasy novels for middle grade and young adult readers.  While the original books may be out of print, I believe most of the titles are available through the author’s own publishing company.

Did you ever encounter a book that felt like it was written for you?

Comments Welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on July 21, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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