By Victoria Davis, staff writer & journalist
Bestselling author, Alysia Helming’s cultural fantasy novel is this generation’s The Silver Crown. While Helming has likened her book to other fantasies like that of Twilight, Protogenesis: Before the Beginning carries a more coming-of-age likeness to Robert C. O’Brien’s imaginative 1968 science fiction children’s story. Both tales begin with a mysterious fire which kills the parents of the protagonists, who (unbeknownst to these strong female leads) carry a strong, redeemer call on their destinies. Likewise, both stories center around a valuable object such as a silver crown or, in Protogenesis’ case, a sacred Cyprus tree medallion.
Though the parallels are strong between both highly successful novels, which were published nearly five decades apart, O’Brien’s much darker narrative is plagued with harsh truths of the real world and the corrupt use of technology, while Protogenesisis a book filled with immense color and light, centering around Greek myths and legends and also shedding light on a tainted government. This tale spirals the reader into rich swirls of mythological mystery, hope and romance while educating them on the stories that live and breathe in the hearts of Greek families around the world.
Coming-of-age stories can be tricky as most authors have to walk a fine line between their teen characters being relatable and, at the same time, not stereotypical or “cheesy.” Helming seems to have found that balance with 17-year-old Helen who carries all the characteristics of a bookworm girl awkward in love and yet continues to surprise in each chapter with her determination to find the other half of her soul: her mother, Diana. Though it is likely no coincidence, the name “Helen” is Greek for “Shining Light,” and the character is true to her title as she is an ever-present symbol for hope throughout the book and, ironically enough, seems to cause every significant object she encounters on her adventures to glow, like the cats-eye stone in her godfather’s apartment.
Tales of Greek mythology are interwoven perfectly throughout Helen’s journey, never taking readers fully out of reality, but still boldly captivating them with bursts of suspended, fantastical fantasies like Helen’s daydreams of lightning storms over desert sand dunes and larger-than-life mountain lions, gliding over shimmering volcanos. But not only does Protogenesisbreath life into these ancient stories of Greece, showing how real these legends are to the people, but also touches on the very tangible economic and social crises happening now in the nation state, such as organized crime and the vast financial struggle for the middle and lower classes.
Regardless of their differences and similarities, the hope for Protogenesis is that its message, like The Silver Crown, reverberates through the minds of readers for years to come. Perhaps it will be used as a tool to teach young adults about the complexities of Greek myths or the importance of experiencing other cultures. Whatever the future holds for Helming’s novel, it can be certain that this book serves as a much-needed escape from the current world of politics and social unrest to a world of heroic courage and magical mystery where the fairytales of our dreams kick down the doors of atrophied minds.