Elvish fantasy has always been on the top of my reading list. I love the idea of elvish culture: the intricate way that lives evolve over hundreds of years, warriors with valor and those with beyond human abilities creating their own society. However, I often find these novels to be pretentious with over flowery language and idealism that doesn’t reflect complex emotions. But“How to Save a World” by Hollis McCollum changes all of that. McCollum creates an elvish world that is completely relatable in her book. The novel has many unforgettable characters and a great story line that brings the fantastical world of elves to modern storytelling.
The story begins with Eithne: a fiery, red-headed, country elf that lives in a traditional tribal community. She longs to fight and excels with a sword, but this is a death sentence for women. She convinces Darian, the (very handsome) leader of her tribe’s army to take her with him into battle. After embarking on their journey they realize that fate has other plans in mind. It is rumored that their world is dying because the gods turned their backs on them. Crops are disappearing, people are going hungry and wild weather is becoming the norm.
On their journey, Eithne and Darian are introduced to Yocelin and Aram. Yocelin is a quirky part-demon, and Aram is the strong silent type. Together they learn that Yocelin and Ethine are mystical beings that must gather the pieces of the gods that are being kept in other people. They must find these individuals all over the world and in other worlds to do so. They have no idea where these pieces are and they are on a blind quest. Aram and Darian are charged to help the girls and keep them safe. Together they navigate how to find these pieces and who to trust. The only rule: they can’t fall in love.
Character development is a huge portion of this novel. Darian is originally engaged to be married to Ethine’s sister’s Rosalin. Aram is a self-prescribed loner due a mysterious secret. After traveling, when they find a piece there is often bickering among the party on how to handle the situation. Both of the men want the women to be slow and safe, while Yocelin and Ethine want to take an abrupt approach. However, as the novel progresses they learn to work together, to trust in each other and to see from the others’ perspective. This makes them better warriors. For example, Ethine has a fiery temper and would often try to out shout at Darian to get her way. Yet, later in the book, they find several pieces in a dangerous creature. She finds herself taking a deep breath and quoting to Darian exactly how he would handle the situation. They come up with a plan that is best of both their original ideas.
Not being able to fall in love proves a much harder challenge for the group than finding the pieces. Ethine and Yocelin are automatic best friends. While the women are very open and talkative, Darian and Arm are much more subdued. The rule that they can’t fall in love proves nearly impossible for the foursome. Darian has always been an upstanding member of his tribe and followed every rule, but Ethine’s free spirit makes him rethink this. Her passion rubs off on him and while he is resistant to her charm, he can’t help but feel his heart become as fiery as her hair. Aram has been outcasted by society due a mysterious secret, and this has turned him cold. Yocelin has been has always been turned away because of her half demon heritage, but this makes her kinder and desperate for contact. Together the two turn their pain into a deep understanding that neither of them have experienced before.
The end of the novel is suspenseful until you turn the last page. Waiting for a sequel is almost as bad as waiting for the new season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. You are really drawn into the quest and you can see every aspect of these characters. When looking back on the book it feels like I’ve read three different novels. There are so many great plot points and surprises. “How to Save a World” has saved the way that I’ll look at elves forever.
Buy the book here!