Rescued from enslavement and adopted by two leaders of the realm, Elena has found a new home at Kelach and the safety to explore her developing powers. But when a guised stranger infiltrates the keep and threatens her, Elena learns her birth father is alive and will risk anything to get her back, even collaborating with ancient evils.
This revelation sends her adoptive fathers, Celdorn and Elbrion, into the dangers of Penumbra and ultimately leads them to move Elena to the safety of Queyon. Using secret routes, the journey is long and fraught with opposition from Anakh, her eidola, the Zakad, and humans from Elena’s village—all who want to control and use her powers.
The children rescued from Anakh’s compounds also set off for Queyon, via the main trade route, escorted by Guardians and pursued by the same enemies. Mishon, the six-year-old from Greenholt whose father was killed by Anakh’s forces, rises as a leader and protector of the terrified children. Along the way, he receives assistance from the great forest of Alsimion and the powerful beings that live there—and inadvertently discovers a hidden treasure.
Eventually, the two groups converge and face the perilous crossing of the Pallanor Mountains with unexpected betrayals and devastating losses. As Elena knew even before they left Kelach, not all will survive the journey to Queyon.
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With talk of educational opportunities for minors and good paying jobs for adults, traffickers lured Guatamalan migrants to Ohio. Rather than going to school or finding lucrative employment, they were forced to work long hours for little pay at a chicken farm. Their living conditions were almost as deplorable as those of the chickens. Based on a hotline tip, the traffickers were arrested and the Guatamalan slaves rescued. This is in modern-day America, folks. Read the report: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/guatemalan-migrants-exploited-in-forced-labor-scheme?utm_campaign=email-Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=fbi-top-stories&utm_content=587383
My two favorite quotes from the article that follows:
Sultana reminds us that the greatest untapped resource around the globe isn’t gold or oil, but the female half of the population.
I wish we understood that sometimes the most effective weapon against terrorists isn’t a drone but a girl with a book.
Meet Sultana, the Taliban’s Worst Fear
Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, JUNE 4, 2016
Sultana pursued an education from inside her home in Afghanistan after the Taliban threatened to douse her with acid if she went back to school. Because of the danger to her and a photographer if she was visited there, her picture was taken via Skype. CreditAndrew Quilty for The New York Times
OF all the students preparing to go to college this fall, perhaps none have faced a more hazardous journey than a young woman named Sultana. One measure of the hazard is that I’m not disclosing her last name or hometown for fear that she might be shot.
Sultana lives in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan, and when she was in the fifth grade a delegation visited her home to warn her father to pull her out of school, or else she would have acid flung in her face. Ever since, she has been largely confined to her high-walled family compound — in which she has secretly, and perilously, educated herself.
“I’m unstoppable,” Sultana laughs, and it’s true: She taught herself English from occasional newspapers or magazines that her brothers brought home, in conjunction with a Pashto-English dictionary that she pretty much inhaled. When her businessman father connected the house to the internet, she was able to vault over her compound walls.
“I surrounded myself with English, all day,” she told me by Skype. Today her English is fluent, as good as that of some Afghan interpreters I’ve used.
Once she had mastered English, Sultana says, she tackled algebra, then geometry and trigonometry, and finally calculus BC. She rises about 5 a.m. and proceeds to devour calculus videos from Khan Academy, work out equations, and even read about string theory.
Sultana, now 20, says she leaves her home only about five times a year — each time, she must wear a burqa and be escorted by a close male relative — but online she has been reading books on physics and taking courses on edX and Coursera. I can’t independently verify everything Sultana says, but her story generally checks out. After reading a book on astrophysics by Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, she reached him by Skype, and he says he was blown away when this Afghan elementary school dropout began asking him penetrating questions about astrophysics.
“It was a surreal conversation,” Krauss said. “She asked very intelligent questions about dark matter.”
Krauss has become one of Sultana’s advocates, along with Emily Roberts, an undergraduate at the University of Iowa who signed up for a language program called Conversation Exchange and connected with Sultana.
By Skype, Emily and Sultana became fast friends, and soon they were chatting daily. Moved by Sultana’s seemingly unattainable dream of becoming a physics professor, Emily began exploring what it would take for Sultana to study in the United States.
With Emily’s help, Sultana has been accepted by a community college in Iowa, with a commitment by Arizona State University to take her as a transfer student a year later. Emily started a website to raise money for Sultana’s university education.
Sultana reminds us that the greatest untapped resource around the globe isn’t gold or oil, but the female half of the population. Virginia Woolf wrote that if Shakespeare had had an equally talented sister, she never would have been able to flower — and Sultana is Shakespeare’s sister. Yet it’s also clear that internet connections can sometimes be a game changer.
Sultana’s family is wary of her passion for education but surrenders to her determination. “My mom said a lot of mouths will be open, a single girl going to the Christian world,” she said. “But I will die if they stop me.”
Unfortunately, the United States isn’t helping. Last month, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul rejected her application for a student visa. That happens all the time: Brilliant young men and women are accepted by American universities and then denied visas because, under U.S. law, they are seen as immigration risks.
(As a Muslim, Sultana would also be barred by Donald Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims. I asked her what she thought of Trump, and all she would say, with quiet dignity, was: “He thinks all Muslims are bad. It’s painful.”)
Michelle Obama has pushed an impressive campaign called Let Girls Learn, yet her husband’s administration has never seemed as enthusiastic, and America routinely denies visas that would actually let girls learn. The United States spends billions of dollars fighting terrorism by blowing things up; I wish we understood that sometimes the most effective weapon against terrorists isn’t a drone but a girl with a book.
The Taliban understand this: That’s why their fighters shot Malala Yousafzai in the head. If only we were as cleareyed as the Taliban about the power of girls’ education to transform societies.
Sultana now spends her days working on calculus equations, listening to Bon Jovi and doing household chores while listening to the BBC or self-help audiobooks. It also turns out that she is a longtime Times reader and gets my email newsletter. She’s now working her way through more serious reading: Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason.”
Sultana has set up another appointment for a visa, for June 13. It won’t be Sultana who is tested but American policy itself. I’ll let you know what happens.
The second book in The Innocence Cycle continues Elena’s courageous journey to find healing for herself and her land. Again, $1.00 from each book sale will go to help victims of human trafficking. From the back cover of the book:
Seventeen-year-old Elena is adjusting to her new life as the adopted daughter of the Lord Protector of the Shalamhar realm and his companion, the Prince of the Elrodanar. For the first time, she has friends, a devoted dog, and the possibility of love. With two fathers, seven personal guards, and a keep full of warriors, she should feel safe—but she doesn’t.
The rogue Guardian who nearly killed Elena still hasn’t been found. In addition, Anakh and the remnant of the ancient Alraphim race have vowed to never stop pursuing her until she is theirs again to use, sell, and destroy. While Anakh makes direct attacks on Elena, a new foe—a race of strange half-human, half-wolf creatures—raids her home village and another Guardian stronghold. Soon reports of missing children and brutal assaults are coming in from every corner of the Shalamhar.
In order to save her new family and protect the rest of the realm, Elena knows she must embrace the shattered parts of herself and learn to use the powers hidden in her complex inner world. The answers she needs most are in the place she least wants to go—behind the third door.
Here’s the link to my first interview as a published author. So exciting.
This is a powerful visual presentation of a poem written and performed by a survivor of domestic sex trafficking. Not for the faint of heart.
And I would add: not only are America’s daughters at risk, but our sons as well.