Beyonders: A World Without Heroes
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|Genre||Fantasy, young adult fiction|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion|
Beyonders follows the exploits of a slightly neglected, thirteen-year-old boy, Jason Walker.
Jason leads a relatively normal life until one day at the zoo, when he notices strange music coming from the mouth of a hippo. While leaning over the hippo tank's guard rail, he falls in. The hippo swallows him, but instead of being digested, he's teleported to a different world called Lyrian.
After wandering a short ways, he learns that the group of musicians playing the music that he heard are called the Giddy Nine and that they plan to ride a raft over a nearby waterfall. In an attempt to save them, he talks to the rescue squad present and asks them why they aren't rescuing the band. The archer states that they are just there so that if someone decides to turn back they can help. Before the raft reaches the end of the waterfall, Jason pushes the little man and grabs his bow with an arrow attached to a rescue line. He aims to shoot the line onto the boat in order to give the band something to grab onto, but instead, his shot goes awry and the arrow pierces the shoulder of one of the musicians. Another musician is able to jump to shore before the line is cut but the rest plummet off the edge of the waterfall. After the incident, the archer and the little man who was part of the rescue squad pursue Jason for interfering, so Jason flees.
After this, Jason aimlessly wanders into the Repository of Learning, where he's informed by the Librarian/lore master that it's an extremely difficult place to reach. The lore master offers Jason food, shelter, and virtually unlimited access to the Library's enormous wealth of books as a reward for completing the journey. Jason accepts the offer, figuring that there would be no better place for him to discover a way home than one of such vast knowledge. Later, the lore master informs Jason that the second story of the building is strictly prohibited. Finding the books on the first floor to be of little use, he lets curiosity overwhelm him. After discovering the method by which to open the extremely complex lock guarding the second floor, Jason ventures inside at night. He finds the place (as well as the books inside) to be eerie and sinister. After wandering about for a bit, he stumbles across a large text entitled, The Book of Salzared. The book is bound in human skin and has tiny pores, fine hairs and light blue veins. It is also warm to the touch because it was made with a displacer's skin. Upon opening it, Jason discovers a strong warning stating that anyone who reads further will place themselves in peril. He reads on, valuing the potential to discover a way home over the risk involved. After reading a short section describing the first syllable of a mysterious word, he closes the book, when a seemingly human eye opens out of the cover. Terrified, Jason panics, dropping the book and his candle and making a racket. Stumbling in the dark, he's found by the lore master's dog, who leads him to the lore master. The lore master then informs Jason that he's sealed his own fate, and must leave immediately in search of someone called the blind king. After being given directions to the blind king as well as some food, Jason leaves the repository of learning.
After arriving at the blind king's decrepit keep, Jason learns that the "blind king" is really Galloran, a broken hero who already tried and failed on the same quest that Jason is now committed to. A few moments after learning of Galloran's true identity, Jason is introduced to Rachel, a girl his age from earth, who arrived in Lyrian by walking through a stone arch. Galloran then tells them that they are central to a prophecy spoken by a powerful seer, one in which they will destroy the tyrannical wizard emperor, Maldor. Galloran points out that the easiest (though still extremely difficult) way to accomplish this is to seek a Word of power that when spoken in Maldor's presence will theoretically destroy him. There are six syllables to The Word, the first of which had already been discovered by Jason at the repository of learning. Each syllable of The Word is protected by a guardian, each of whom will only reveal their syllable to those embarked on the quest to destroy Maldor. However, some of the syllables have also been written down (such as the one at the repository of learning), removing the necessity of directly seeking out the guardians of those syllables. They may only speak or write The Word in its entirety once, after which the individual that did so will forget it. Since Jason was the only one to read the book containing this information, Rachel may opt out. However, she decides to join him. Satisfied with their decision, Galloran presents Jason with a dagger whose blade shoots out of the handle at the pressing of a button on the pommel, while Rachel is given an orantium sphere, a type of grenade with an explosive crystal encased in glass that explodes when exposed to air or water. After being given a starting point by Galloran, Jason and Rachel embark on a very long quest for The Word.
Even though he really wants to go home, Jason begins to feel a responsibility to help the people of Lyrian end Maldor's reign of terror. This desire to help a greater cause rather himself leads Jason to focus far more on the quest rather than returning home. Though at first he finds her to be obnoxious, Jason and Rachel develop a strong Friendship and emotional connection over the course of their quest.
The most important allies Jason and Rachel make during their quest whose relevance to the story line cannot go without mention are: 1) Ferrin, a defected servant of Maldor. Ferrin is a member of the displacers, a wizardborn race (a race custom engineered by a wizard using Edomic) that serve exclusively as Maldor's spies, with three exceptions. Ferrin is one of these exceptions, the others being Malar, and Salzared, both ultimately guardians of The Word. Ferrin's appendages are attached by an invisible, interdemensional force, which he calls a "displacement field" similar to "Hyperspace" (fiction). This enables him to remove and reattach them at will, and for them to live and move without being directly attached to his body. 2) Tark, a sturdy but humble musician Jason saved at the water fall. 3) Jasher, a member of the Amar Kabal (another wizardborn race) who openly defies Maldor. Being a "seed person", whenever Jasher dies, a seed attached to the back of his head will fall off. If it's planted, Jasher, retaining his consciousness and memories, will be reborn into a new body that grows from the seed. Jasher is killed near the end of the novel. Whether or not his seed was planted is unknown. 4) Drake, another member of the Amar Kabal. Drake's seed has gone "bad", due to his prolonged and extensive indulgence at Harthenham castle (Maldor's reward to his greatest enemies in exchange for giving up their rebellious activities). This means that his seed will not grow back into another body, and that Drake is living his last life. As a result, he decides that the most purposeful way to spend his final years on Lyrian is to help Jason complete his quest to destroy Maldor.
Shortly before obtaining the final syllable of The Word, Jason and Rachel are separated for the remainder of the novel, leaving Jason to discover the final syllable for himself. However, Jason coveys the final syllable to Tark, who in turn conveys it to Rachel by himself. In total, Jason and Rachel discover three of the syllables directly from the guardians, and three in written form. Altogether and in order, The Word of power is "arimfexendrapuse". The word is practically gibberish in Edomic, meant only as a trigger for Maldor's destruction.
After obtaining every syllable of The Word, Jason is voluntarily captured and subsequently taken before Maldor. But when Jason speaks the entire Word in front of Maldor, it has no effect. Maldor then explains to Jason that The Word was really meant to destroy a wizard named Orruck, who has long been dead, and that the whole thing is really a grand hoax meant to distract his most dangerous enemies. Jason is then taken to the dungeons of Felrook (Maldor's fortress) to be psychologically tortured.
After enduring what is perhaps weeks of torture, Jason is broken out by Ferrin, whom Maldor still believes is loyal to him. Ferrin then takes Jason to a gateway to earth, an endless pool inside a cave. However, Jason refuses to go through, insisting that it's more important for him to gather his allies and inform them of the word's true nature. That he enable what little opposition to Maldor exists to stop wasting their time and start looking for a real way to defeat him. Ferrin pushes him into the pool anyway, but Jason manages to detach and hold onto one of Ferrin's hands on his way down.
The next thing he knows, Jason has exited Lyrian and is lying down in a corn field on earth. The novel ends with Jason knocking on someone's door, and when they open, asking if he can use their telephone.
The novel is set in the parallel universe of Lyrian, a world distinct from all others (with every other referred to as "the beyond"). This uniqueness stems from the fact that it was intentionally created by an unnamed, extremely powerful mortal. This ambiguous figure created Lyrian using the language he invented, Edomic. Edomic, when spoken and "felt" properly, enables the user to manipulate the matter and energy of Lyrian in a variety of ways. However, to use Edomic in this way requires great natural talent and many years of practice, leading "magic users" to be extremely rare. Humans came to inhabit Lyrian by accidentally transporting themselves there through gateways on Earth. In this way, every human on Lyrian is at some point descended from a "Beyonder". Because people have crossed over from Earth to Lyrian many times throughout history, Elizabethan English happens to have become the dominant language. The technology level is about that of Earth's Middle Ages, supplemented by Edomic and other elements of magic. Roads are both few and primitive, with nature dominating the majority of the landscape. A ruthless wizard (extremely powerful Edomic user), Maldor, has slowly but surely conquered almost all of Lyrian, oppressing the people to an extreme degree. At the end Jason ends up back on Earth which is another setting change.
The main theme of Beyonders: A World Without Heroes can be broadly interpreted as stressing the importance of moral responsibility and personal sacrifice in service of a greater cause. Lesser themes are Jason's coming of age, as well as his realization that the individual must sometimes accept unwanted responsibilities for the good of all. The presentation of Jason as a character focused on personal honour and resistance to temptation are in line with the symbolism of his being the last "true" hero on Lyrian.