The Seekers of Genesis: Empyreal Roots is the debut work of author C. J. Walters. Read on for the review.
Back Cover Blurb
When immortal twins Villow and Dameaon Verchant reach their sixteenth year, they are required to choose Paths to fulfill their purpose. Villow is prepared to become a Guide Seeker, to shape a world and its citizens, far away from his twin. But Dameaon changes his mind at the last minute, switching from a Soldier Seeker to a Guide. To avert disaster, the twins are assigned as co-Guides, tasked with re-creating humanity.
With their fates unequivocally linked, Villow and Dameaon must prove that mankind is inherently good, or humankind will be destroyed and the twins will be banished—or annihilated. With disagreements and failures at every stage, their last chance lies in Ancient Greece. But through their own reckless actions, the twins bring forth the Trojan War, causing more problems than even the gods can solve.
Glanchings are immortals who choose their life’s path at sixteen. Villow Verchant looks forward to becoming a Guide in re-creating an Original Species that was lost in the War of the Fiends. But his carefully laid plans fall to pieces when his twin Dameaon, who has been training to be a Soldier, also declares he’ll become a Guide. The unexpected announcement results in them receiving a joint assignment to revive the human race on planet Earth. But will their sibling rivalry doom their efforts and humankind?
When I read the blurb for this novel, I couldn’t quite get a handle on the kind of story it was. As it turns out, the summary is all over the place because the novel itself is unfocused. On one hand, the world-building is overly complicated; on the other hand, character arcs don’t go anywhere. And inconsistencies of all kinds riddle the entire work.
The novel is divided into roughly two halves. The first half is the fantasy portion that establishes the Glanching world the brothers come from. It is a magic-wielding society obsessed with doing good. Yet although they claim to be vastly superior moral beings compared to humans, their behavior is very human. They lie, bully, gossip, and have petty rivalries. Although Dameaon is the supposed bad egg, supporting cast Portia and Colton are hardly upstanding characters either. And for a society set on the rules, the Glanchings bend them. A lot.
Anyway, Glanching citizens must choose one of five paths, and those who choose the Guide path are tasked with re-creating species that were destroyed in a long-ago epic war. Humankind was one of them, and the twin brothers are tasked with reestablishing humans on planet Earth and “guiding” them to become a good, upright species. However, if humans become evil, they get wiped out, and their Guides are punished with banishment.
The twins’ attempt at guiding humans is the focus of the second half of the book. They go to the ancient city of Troy to influence the inhabitants to become morally good and self-reliant. It isn’t clear if the planet is our Earth or a post-War of the Fiends remake. Either way, this is where the “mythology” aspect comes in. While I enjoy Trojan War retellings, Walters veers too far off cannon for my taste. The identities of the Greek gods stay more or less intact, but the human cast is a big mashup. Oedipus somehow ends up in the Trojan War; Menelaus never actually comes to fight for his wife; Paris is a runaway prince; and Helen is not born a Spartan princess but comes from some unnamed farm. These Trojans also drink wine in glasses in bars and play field hockey with Spartans prior to the Helen fiasco. These elements plus poorly scripted war scenes and very 21st-century attitudes about courtship make this version of Troy less than authentic.
The story is told in first person with the perspectives alternating between the brothers. I believe this was to make readers sympathetic towards both characters, but it didn’t work for me, especially in Dameaon’s case. His snark and arrogance got old fast. His love for animals supposedly makes up for those shortcomings, but that characteristic just makes it more baffling when his influence on humankind results in them (*gasp*) killing animals. And even though he was at fault, he expresses no remorse or regret.
Dameaon’s violent personality is also problematic. During a field hockey game, he gets mad at Achilles for playing rough and starts punching him so violently the other characters are afraid to intervene. Yet when Achilles sprains his ankle in a field hockey accident with Oedipus, Dameaon gets unreasonably indignant at Oedipus. What makes this particular scene even weirder is that both he and Achilles act like a sprained ankle is the worst thing ever when Achilles has supposedly gone through Spartan pain endurance training which involves getting flogged during childhood.
Basically, nothing is consistent about Dameaon except that he’s got no respect for rules and has no concern for anything but himself and animals.
Villow, fortunately, has a more consistent personality, but that doesn’t make him compelling. His obsession with the mean-spirited Portia is especially distasteful given his oft-repeated respect for morals and his touchy-feely relationship with his best friend Katarin. Those relationships and his devastation over his parents’ potential divorce make him come off as weak and immature.
Unfortunately, the two brothers are the main characters, and their infighting dominates the plot. Basically, the brothers are at odds no matter what situation, and circumstances always bend such that they can’t get away from each other. For instance, Villow is the golden child of his prestigious family, and there’s a big deal made over his training to take on the huge responsibilities of re-creating an Original Species. (In fact Villow’s supposed inherent talent for being a Guide is the basis for the twins’ sibling rivalry.) However, when Dameaon declares on a whim that he will be a Guide, not only do the authorities not have a problem, he has no problem with the job, despite his lack of training. Occasionally, he even does better than Villow. So as Dameaon breezes through their duties, I have to wonder what the big fuss over being a “Guide” is. When they re-create the fauna and flora of the earth, all it amounts to is taking templates from a magical laptop and adding features – similar to a videogame.
Ultimately, I couldn’t relate to the twins or their Glanching world, and because of the setting and character inconsistencies, I didn’t care either.
The Seekers of Genesis strives to be epic but comes up short. It starts slow and includes a bunch of terminology and details that don’t add to the plot. As for the historical/mythological aspects, a very contemporary sensibility permeates those elements, which rob them of authenticity. This novel is supposedly the first of a five-book series, but after 444 pages, I’ve had enough of Glanchings and the Verchant twins’ constant and pointless squabbling.
First published at The Fandom Post