With shaking fingers, Cyprian fed a fuse through the breech and lit it. With a cry, they threw themselves behind Grace‘s rear mast. Cyprian slammed his hands over his ears and hunkered down to avoid the blast, trying not to feel sorry for himself. The morning had started so well. ~ Philomena, Mark Guiney
Philomena: A Tale from the Cor Novan Sky Almanac also started so well. Unlike Cyprian’s morning, it just kept getting better. I was hooked in the story in the very first pages. Each new twist and turn in the story make me hungry for more, until the page-turning ending left me scrambling for extra reading time. (Pearl might have gotten extra rocking while I finished this novel…)
Mark Guiney’s novel Philomena: A Tale From the Cor Novan Sky Almanac is the story of an impossible quest, an unlikely king, and a worn-out airship. The story is set in the fantastical realm of Cor Nova, where ships fly in the air and the Imperium rules with an iron hand.
Cyprian Fields is the over-confident fifteen-year-old airman, full of hair-brained schemes to accomplish the quest—or get them out of danger when the quest goes wrong. Veronica Stromm is a Bookkeeper, a young woman whose skill with a rapier is matched only by her knowledge of history and tradition. Basil Black is a boy healer, a miner’s son who has been thrust into the spotlight by a sudden turn of events. Francis Lightlas is the merchant who brings them all together and gets Philomena into the air again, but there’s more beneath him than anyone expects.
Guiney’s world-building skills are superb. As a writer of fantasy myself, I know how hard it is to walk the line between too much information and not enough, over-explaining and confusing. Through the story of Philomena and her crew, I was immersed in the world of Cor Nova and its diverse peoples. Each of the characters was also unique and likeable. It was fun to see how their abilities played together to bring about the success of the quest. It wasn’t always Cyprian’s force and flair that won the day.
I’ll confess that when Mark reached out to me to review this novel, I agreed with a few doubts. It’s a self-published debut novel. While I try to support fellow writers, I also have little patience for poorly written novels. The description of the novel intrigued me and it had won an award, so I gave it a chance. I’m so glad I did. Philomena had a few typos (to be expected) but still earns a place on my bookshelf—and in my annual Best Books list.
Like J. R. R. Tolkien, Mark Guiney writes as a Catholic author. The faith elements in the novel will provide deeper discussion points for a Catholic or Christian book club, but won’t put off non-Christian readers. If you like fantasy, you will like this novel. Philomena made me think of Kathy Tyers’ Firebird series—a fast-paced, faith-based fantasy novel.
Mark Guiney is a Catholic youth minister, speaker and author. Philomena is his debut novel (and hopefully there’s more to come about Cyprian, Veronica and Basil!). After writing Philomena, Mark started his own media company and self-publishes his novel through Amazon. Philomena won the Tuscany Prize for Catholic Young Adult Fiction. You can find Mark Guiney on Facebook or Goodreads or drop by his website.
This book was provided for review courtesy of the author; all opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links.