In November of 2015, not long after I began Finding Heaven, I joined a daily writing group on WANATribe to stay motivated during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)--thinking I would be able to complete a good chunk of the book during the challenge. (Ha!) I did make significant progress, but was maybe 1/3 of the way through at the end of the month. However, I did make several new writer friends from the experience, one of whom has become a personal friend, as well--Melissa Keaster.
I believe it was literally the week that I met Melissa that she experienced miraculous healing from a disease she had been struggling with for four years. You can hear more about that amazing story on her blog, here.
Melissa and I discovered we had a lot in common, especially our mutual love for Jesus, and that we were both writing about sex trafficking.
Melissa's book, Eleora, was released in May of this year. I had the privilege of helping her along with a few of the final stages of the process, but I had to anxiously wait to read the book along with everyone else. Once I got the first draft of Finding Heaven nailed, I dove in. Here's what I thought of it.
A magical story of love and redemption
In Eleora, Melissa Keaster brings to life a world as enduring as Narnia or Middle Earth and characters that will live in your heart next to Lucy Pevensie and Bilbo Baggins. It is a world where spirits walk, crime rings hold sway, and the King, though seemingly absent, still guides the land through the magical Eleora stone--a gem of immense power.
Mara's primary concern has always been her younger sister, Selene. Through losing their parents to raiders to taking over and running her drunken uncle's farm, she has always done everything necessary to both survive and shield her sister from the tragedies of their life--even selling her soul to a water spirit named Rivka.
But when Mara's sister falls mysteriously ill, saving Selene's life means selling her own--Mara sells herself into slavery as payment for an expensive miracle medicine, the final link in the chain that puts her into Rivka's service for good. No longer able to avoid her oath, she agrees to finish the mission for which she sold her soul--find Eleora for her mistress.
However, when she arrives at her new "home", she discovers that her "work" is espionage through seduction. She has sold herself into prostitution. Life in the city holds more surprises--unlike many real-life sex slaves, Mara is given an opportunity to escape through the surprising kindness of a healer on the city's Council. The only problem is that if she does so, she risks her sister's life. But if she doesn't, she must betray the only people who have ever been kind to her.
Much like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Eleora is an allegorical tale of redemptive love, but for grown-ups. While it may be a fantasy, the physical and emotional chains that Mara must overcome to find freedom have direct correlations to real-world situations. The most binding chains that trafficking victims must break are often the emotional, mental, and spiritual ones.
The world of Laeor is rich and believable, the characters are all real people--some of whom you love, and some you love to hate--and the magic has a depth that surprises you. I was drawn into this story a page at a time and soon discovered I didn't want it to let me go.
Unfortunately, all books have an ending. The good news? Ms. Keaster is already working on a sequel. I'll be first in line to purchase it when it is released.