The Unwanted Prophet
Local author Carolina Cruz delights with dystopian fantasy
Walking into Ember and Forge, I expected to find friendly faces and an excellent Americano, but not much else on a gray Tuesday. The barista must have recognized my look of careworn resignation and my desperation to escape a dreary Erie morning. While we idly chatted, she suggested a fantasy novel might be just the kind of medicine I needed. She pointed me toward the center counter and sitting neatly on a small display was a copy of The Unwanted Prophet, a brand-new independently published novel by local author Carolina Cruz.
Initially I was skeptical; while I love fantasy and the novel seemed promising, I'd never purchased an independently published book. I felt I needed the safety blanket of a major publishing house with all its resources and guarantees. But I have since learned to cast aside my aspersions: The Unwanted Prophet proved to punch far above its weight, surpassing countless commercial offerings through which I have painfully slogged. The author put to rest any doubts I had by pointing out that independent publishing has given her complete creative control that most authors simply do not enjoy.
I have now read through the book twice and Cruz's creativity shines with all the freshness of something wholly new and unburdened by many of the conventions of the genre.
The novel tells the story of Quincy Sauer, a prisoner barely surviving as an outcast of society, resigned to squalor. Quincy is a victim of circumstance and struggles with many of the difficulties we have all become familiar with in these past several years. Quincy exists in a world where, despite the provable and knowable existence of gods, the theocratic government wields an iron fist and brutalizes the people they are meant to serve. Quincy soon finds herself caught between divine machinations and the realities of an oppressive, dogmatic, and totalitarian regime.
While The Unwanted Prophet is an excellent example of fantasy world-building, it is the author's character development that shines. Quincy, alongside all the characters in this world (including the gods themselves) are empathetic and complex beings. The novel forces its characters to face their own naivete, depression, anxieties, and distrust, and they work toward redemption. Ultimately, this novel asks its readers as much as it asks its characters: who are we, and what is our purpose in this world so full of death?
The author has shared that this book represents the first of what will ultimately become a trilogy, with the second book slated for release in late 2023. The Unwanted Prophet is available for sale at Pressed Books, Ember and Forge, and Amazon. Cruz can be reached via her website: ninawolverina.carrd.co
Independently published // 532 pages // Fantasy