Thursday, July 09, 2015

Review: The Humming of Numbers

Joni Sensel
The Humming of Numbers
By Joni Sensel
Henry Holt, May 2008

About the Book

Aidan is poised to take his monastic vows—until a girl enters the abbey, one who hums of the number eleven. Aidan has the ability to hear the humming of numbers, a buzzing energy given off by living things. He is captivated and tormented by the mysterious girl, Lana, who has some unusual abilities of her own. How can he become a monk when his mind is filled with impure thoughts?

Before he can begin to sort his feelings out, the Vikings raid. Only Aidan and Lana can save the village from certain, violent death—and only if they learn to trust in their mysterious talents.

Joni Sensel’s richly imagined new novel is a compelling blend of fantasy and adventure.

My Review

This one had me at hello. I loved it. This one is going to the top of my oh-so-satisfying-just-can’t-praise-it-enough list. Here’s how it starts off.

Lana Nicarbith hummed of the number eleven. The sound caught Aidan’s attention as he swept the path near the abbey’s front gate. He stared, open-mouthed, while Lord Donagh dragged the girl through the entry, past Aidan’s poised broom, and inside. Plenty of people filled Aidan’s ears with the chiming of four or seven or nine, and many of his brothers in the order purred softly of six. Never in his seventeen years, though, had Aidan O’Kirin met anyone endowed with the energy of a number higher than ten. He’d seen Lana before, but only from a distance—too far to hear the eleven that wafted from her now like fragrance from a flower.

The Humming of Numbers is set during the tenth century. And its primary setting is a Celtic abbey. The premise of this one is simple: Aidan is a novice; he’s in training to be a monk. Why does he want to be a monk? Well, two reasons really. The first is that it is really his only career option. He’s got three older brothers ahead of him in line to work the family farm. He’s got no hope for an inheritance there. But the church, well, the church opens up a whole new world of possibilities for him. It’s unfortunate that this career path would call him to be chaste or celibate . . . but on the other hand, he is fascinated by illumination. He wants to work illuminating texts. And this is a job solely for those in the church.

Lana is a village girl, the illegitimate daughter of one of the local lords. She’s been taken into custody for trying to sell phony sacred objects to pilgrims on their way to the village, to the abbey. Her father is “asking” (as if the church could refuse) those at the abbey to take her on as a servant girl in the kitchens. But before the girl can become a servant scrubbing floors and so forth, she must do her time and repent of her sins.

Two young teens—one boy, one girl—you can imagine where this one’s going. And yet . . . and yet it’s so very wonderful. It’s full of adventure and danger and romance and life and death. What is this danger I speak of? The Vikings. And where the Vikings go there is sure to be danger and adventure and blood and gore and life and death and drinking.

This novel is so many things: great coming of age story, great romance, great adventure, great historical fiction, nice exploration of religion and spirituality.

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