Delightful historical vignettes can’t overcome weakness of reincarnation theme
When I view Infinite Sacrifice as four interconnected vignettes, I fall in love with the characters and their personal triumphs and tragedies. Each vignette is a first-class example of short historical fiction. However, when I read the book as spiritual fiction with a reincarnation theme, the novel falls short. Reincarnation is used more as a trope to tease the reader than as a substantial theme that reveals insights into the life of the soul.
Story: Maya’s shocked to discover it’s not the heaven she imagined; in fact, a life of adventure begins the moment you die. Zachariah, her faithful spirit guide, explains the rules of the dead: in order to regain complete awareness and reunite with loved ones, all souls must review their previous lives. Maya plunges warily into her turbulent pasts as a sociopathic High Priest in ancient Egypt; an independent mother protecting a dangerous secret in glorious Sparta; an Irish boy kidnapped and enslaved by Vikings; and a doctor’s wife forced to make an ethical stand in plague-ridden England. All the while, Maya yearns to be with those she cares about most, and worries that she hasn’t learned all of heaven’s most vital lessons. Will she be forced to leave the tranquility of heaven to survive yet another painful and tumultuous life? Or worse, accept the bitter reality of having to go back alone? (From amazon.com)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: Low. Between incarnations, Maya must review four of her past lives and integrate the lessons from each. Although the historical vignettes are very well researched and written, there is virtually no spiritual or metaphysical content even though the novel’s premise sets up that expectation. The epilogue, which purports to show how Maya assimilates the lessons, is very disappointing. A quick re-hash of the complex interactions among the various characters over time simply isn’t enough to carry the reincarnation theme successfully forward. Even though the tables for tracking the characters across lifetimes is helpful, it is difficult to trace what the lessons are and how Maya evolves spiritually.
My take: When I view the novel as loosely connected stories set in ancient Egypt, Sparta, the Viking invasions of Ireland, and England wracked by the Black Death, I enjoy the story and characters immensely–especially the vignette set in Sparta. Waters’ exploration of Sparta’s cultural norms, particularly for women, is fascinating and insightful, and Waters finds unique tidbits in every time period that engage the reader. Waters is an excellent researcher and writer with a knack for vivid detail and a fine grasp of storytelling.
However, Maya’s story, which frames the vignettes and provides context for the reincarnation theme, feels wispy and insubstantial. The storyline hints at great intrigue and drama in upcoming books, but there’s not enough realistic detail and emotional engagement in Maya’s personal story to make me want to read the next book in the series.
Infinite Sacrifice, by L. E. Waters
Rock Castle Publishing, 2011
Paperback, 282 pages
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