Sunday 18 December 2016

December's Child by Deborah Williams

Every secret has a key.

As a child worker of the December Mining Corporation, 18-year-old Jett’s plan has always been to earn a life outside the mines by selling her body—a plan she’s nearly fulfilled until she reluctantly takes on a new trainee from the outside world.

The daughter of a government historian, and bartered into the slave trade by her own mother, Fiona is an outsider with a strange wealth of knowledge, and a secret worth dying—and killing—for. While Fiona’s secret may unknowingly bring death and destruction to the December Mines, Jett finds herself letting go of her jaded persona to embrace a friendship that will change her life forever.

When she unintentionally becomes the new keeper of Fiona’s secret, Jett is thrust into a fight for survival and a quest for the freedom she’s longed for. Keeping the secret could cost her her life. Searching for answers all but ensures her death.

The Guru's Review:

This novel was not what I was expecting. Sometimes it pays not to listen to the reviews or even the description. I was under the impression that this novel was going to be dark and gritty all the way through. And yes, at first it was, with the vivid description of the conditions that Jett finds herself living and working in the December mine and being used and abused both in the mine and as a prostitute as one of the conditions of this enslaved environment. 

Williams described this well in all its grittiness and oppression and was effective in making me feel tense, frustrated and angry almost to the point where I could not continue. Just when I was about to abandon this novel, the whole atmosphere changed and this encouraged me to persist. Glad I did. From that point on, I grew to really enjoy this novel. 

One thing that really struck me was that you would never know this is a debut novel from this author. She writes very well, and the topic/themes are very controversial, but Williams does not allow this to weigh the plot down with too much detail or information. She has a healthy balance of this being both plot and character driven if that is possible in the one novel. I am not sure if Williams loves Alice in Wonderland as a fairy tale (I hated it!) or whether elements of that story provided a unique platform for her to strengthen the plot and assist in delivering the novel's message, but either way, it becomes an integral part of Jett's understanding of the world outside of the December mine that she knows nothing about until she experiences it. 

For a novel such as this with its controversial themes, Wiliams must have realised that to show it clearly, she would need to have depicted Jett as a well developed and relational character. She has definitely done so and this is another strength of this novel. Jett is not a two-dimensional character, she is someone who has guts, determination, conviction, a firm sense of justice and right and wrong, although she can be a bit impetuous sometimes. I am sure we can all relate to that at some points in our lives! 

This is going to remain one controversial Christian novel. That will only change when the attitudes of the current "don't rock the boat, don't include topics that we don't want to confront/deal with" mentality that exists among some of the Christian church, Christians themselves and the mainstream Christian publishing world. For a debut author to include such controversial topics as child prostitution/exploitation, cannibalism, and violence is one very brave venture. Even experienced, seasoned authors would not be daring or willing to venture down such a path as this for the most part. It is actions and topics such as what Williams has done that make it all the more edgy and speculative and challenges in a positive way the above-mentioned attitudes that are harming Christian fiction, Christian authors and its readers, whether Christian or not and whether they know it or not. 

I must say having read this novel now with its main theme of child prostitution/exploitation, Williams needs to be applauded for the way she has handled this. There is no glorification of prostitution. There is no graphic detail. What she has achieved (through Jett) is to show the degradation to the human spirit, the demeaning and destructive effects on women and also of men who perpetrate this act. That is what made me feel tense and frustrated, angry and almost to the point of not continuing. But this only succeeded in showing what exists in our real world. Even the other theme of cannibalism is not glorified but shown as part of a warped and distorted mentality and solution to the ills of the dystopian world that has lost its way and is not an answer at all to the failing and diminishing food supply. 

I have stated that the novel becomes very enjoyable after this dark first section ends. Not only has Williams shown she has talent in creating one dark and gritty world, but she is just as talented in showing the opposite. Once the dark first part of this novel ends, the plot takes on a different pace and flavour. There is still tension and suspense but Jett comes into her own. It from this point on that Williams delivers her message concerning the ills that are consequential when a society surrenders its freedom for safety/happiness but is unaware of the enslavement and governmental control that ensues. It is from this platform that motivates Jett to lead her people to fight and restore the freedom that she most desperately longs for and to reveal the secret that Fiona entrusted to her.

I loved the spiritual themes that Jett was introduced to in order to achieve this. Although the relationship between Jett and the Maker was not developed or expounded upon as much as I would have liked, it stood out that Jett was to only continue in her quest by having faith in Him and letting Him be the source of her actions. On a few occasions, Jett identifies that the soft voice that instructs her with the words "Rise" and "Safe" are instructions from the Maker when she is perplexed about how to continue in her quest. On a very basic level, this shows that we need to be obedient to Him who knows the way we should go in any circumstance and that He is always there to guide and protect us. 

I would have loved to have had her relationship with the Maker described more formally and the effects of oppression and sexual abuse and exploitation dealt with through the power of God as this could have shown readers who have suffered similarly in the real world that God can and does heal and restore on every level.

I also loved the romance between Jett and Xylon (Xy). To me, Williamson seemed to focus this from Xy's point of view, with the distinctive male flavour. That I loved and it reminded me of the way that male Christian authors who write romance develop it. This romance theme was another strength of this novel.

For those readers who are undecided about whether to read this novel or not, I have provided a resource to help them understand the controversial themes contained herein, 
an interview from The Crossover Alliance Publishing company that published the novel, 

It is worth reading.  

All in all, a very enjoyable debut novel from Williams. If she continues to produce such challenging and thought provoking novels, the Christian publishing world would benefit from reviewing their guidelines from only publishing the clean and watered down fiction that they believe we want to read and Christians need to expand their horizons and see that Christian fiction can address controversial topics that can glorify God and point the reader towards Him

Strongly Recommended. 4/5 Stars.

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 3/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 2/5

Overall Rating 4/5

To read a preview of December's Child, click on the Preview button below:

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