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Rasa by Kevin Shi

Fear what you are when you are in control. 

Free will, family, individuality: here, these are not rights, but commodities.

Every living thing in Albumere is born with a tabula, a disk that grants its owner complete control over the person linked to it. The tabula represent an intoxicating power, a power that has many uses. With tabula, generals can form perfect armies of both beast and man that would march to the death without a single protest. Hunters and explorers harness the wild beasts of Albumere to do battle with legendary creatures in the hopes of becoming legends themselves. Babes vanish from their mother’s arms to be slaves in a country half a world away, and should they be spared bondage then the gods themselves will take them away to grow up alone in the unforgiving wild.

In this brutal world, a young boy will do what no one has ever done before. He has found the tabula of a girl he has never met, and without knowing who or where she is, he is going to find a way to give it back. Following his journey, Rasa is both a simple romance about the power of a stranger’s generosity and a fantastic political epic spanning the breadth of a richly detailed world built entirely from the ground up.

Note: Rasa is unfinished, and will likely remain so.  It contains pervasive harsh language; also, some graphic violence.

An abandoned novel

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Listed: Aug 25, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

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So glad this world is not real

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Jan 16, 2014: No doubt about it, Rasa is beautifully written, original, and a vivid reading experience. I’m quite in awe of the professional, fluid style and the intricacies of geography, social classes and ethnic groups, religion, politics, even folksongs – none of this laid on in exposition but all unfolding naturally along with the characters’ journeys.

Where I have trouble with Rasa is the premise, the unique feature that this world and story is built around – the tabula – which is explained in the second paragraph of the blurb. It’s such a depressingly cruel concept that I feel discouraged for the fate of the characters right from the start, and hardly dare care about them. It’s not quite fair of me to complain that the rules this world works by are contrived and arbitary, as it is a fantasy novel and no more unreasonable than say, the concept of Dust and the children’s daemon companions in the His Dark Materials series (which Rasa reminds me of in some ways). But certain features of it strain my capacity to extend disbelief. Four year olds and younger surviving alone in the wilderness, and growing up able to talk no less? It’s totally unheard of for a child not to be "summoned" by their tabula by the age of four, although apparently all it takes for this to happen is someone else to find it (they grow in trees) and carry it around without invoking it – this is the main plot point but we’re supposed to believe it has only ever happened once.

That’s what runs through my mind as I read, and yet . . . the story really is so beautifully written that part of me thinks I should just trust the author and go with it . . . I think it’s the harsh callous nature of the tabula ruled world that I’m really revolting against.

My other more minor gripe of the otherwise excellent writing is that, though there are some wonderful vivid descriptions of landscape, the visualizations of people and animals are more hit-and-miss. With animals this is especially important, as they are exotic and important to the plot. We get some sense of the fearsome features of an attacking "summer boar" and bat-winged creature, but I’m scratching my head over the "weaseldog" and "camelopard", each of which play important roles in the story and deserve a mental picture. (EDIT: "camelopard" = giraffe – duh . . . now I feel silly)

All that said, the story grows on you, and I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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Most Helpful Member Reviews

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An original, dark, intriguing universe

By Emma, author of Undestined

Oct 15, 2013: Typically, I am attracted to a story by its characters. But in the case of Rasa, it was the world that drew me in. The premise of the story is that all humans and animals posses a ‘tabula’, a small disk that can be used to control them. People aren’t born with their tabula, so they can be found by others who can then ‘summon’ and enslave the disk’s owner.

The story is narrated in limited third person from the alternating [more . . .]

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Like a fantasy epic

By Underwhelming Force, author of Sins of the Fathers

Feb 24, 2014: Rasa puts in mind for me one of those old fantasy epics, where it’s not about the individual cities or events, but it’s a journey to another location or a greater understanding. The characters pass through deep, richly textured cities each with their own unique social pyramid and local politics, and vivid landscapes on their way to find eachother and to find somewhere to call home.

It’s told from the perspective of two children attempting to understand the world around them [more . . .]

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