Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Humming of Numbers by Joni Sensel

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.

I picked this book up at the library because the title interested me.  It is YA though it talks about sex and rape. It's almost 250 pages long, but it's a small book so it doesn't seem like that.  It takes place in 10th century Ireland.  That seems bleak enough in itself for me, but the main character Aidan is training to be a monk.  Only he is tempted by women, not that there are any in the Abbey (I thought monks lived in a monastery, but that's what it's called).  He also has a weird talent, ability, thing he can do.  He hears numbers humming from living things and over the years he's developed a theory about what the different numbers mean.  What numbers he can trust, what numbers make a great leader, what number makes a liar, a fighter so when the local nobleman shows up with his bastard daughter looking for her to be taught a lesson for cheating Pilgrims out of their money, he hears a number he's never heard before an eleven.  He is intrigued by her and because of it, his test as a novice is to be responsible for her while she serves her sentence in the Abbey.  But she follows him the very same day he is given this duty, while he is on an errand and in so doing, both their lives are saved because Viking raiders hit the Abbey and the fields and village.

Aidan learns more of Lana while they hide until it is safe, more than makes him comfortable and she won't admit it, but he feels certainly that she is a witch.  She has knowledge of trees and prays for them to protect them and thanks them in prayers just as he would thank God.  And when he is close to her, he has lusty thoughts, ones a monk, a novice rather, should not have.  He leaves her to find out what has happened and finds the Abbey stripped of everything including most of it's monks.  Only a handful remain who insist on sticking to their rigid schedule of prayers despite the bodies all around them.  Aidan leaves in disgust to find his family and finds his oldest brother who has lost his own wife and child as well as their parents, their brother and the Vikings have taken their sister and the nobleman's son and are holed up in the Brewster's Inn.  A plan is formed and with Lana's help Aidan  goes in to rescue the nobleman's son and make the Viking's come out to be ambushed by the villagers.  But, does Aidan have as much faith in Lana's capabilities as he does in his God?

We learn all about Aidan, his thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes from the narrator.  We only know the other characters through what they tell us, but Lana is somewhat easy to figure out.  A young woman who doesn't want to be kept from knowledge just because she's a girl, rebellious and intelligent.  Most of the other characters are so unimportant that they don't matter.

The book was slow to start, and not exactly exciting until the plan was put into action which is only about the last third of the book.  Yes, Aidan did a few exciting things on his own in the middle like sinking the Viking's boats, which I thought was a stupid idea, but the Viking's also had his sister.  In all,  it was okay.  I'm glad I didn't buy it, but the writer has promise.  In fact, I googled her and she has a fantasy series out that is doing very well, so maybe that is more her speed.

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