LOUNSBURY, Lynnette Afterworld Allen & Unwin, 2014 414pp $17.99 pbk ISBN 9781743315101 SCIS 1644335

Fifteen year old Domenic Mathers dies in a car crash and discovers that heaven, hell, Nirvana or any other post death expectation are not to be realized.  Instead, he finds himself in the Necropolis, a city where the dead must wait and work to gain the ‘minutes’ required to move on through the Maze and across the River of Lost Souls and into the next stage of their existence.  Domenic has a Guide and a Guardian to help him with this task, but he is tormented about the fate of his sister, Kaide, who was in the car with him.  When Satariel, the leader of the powerful half human half Angel Nephilim who also live in the Necropolis, imprisons Kaide, Domenic must fight in the gladiatorial Trials to gain her freedom and be free to leave the city.

Part one of this three part novel is slowed by the long, but necessary, exposition of the nature of this unique afterworld, but in parts two and three the pace quickens and the action increases.  The characters are intriguing and the slow revelation of their true identities and past helps to sustain the reader’s interest.

Death is a complicated place in this novel and the twists and turns of the plot reflect the complex relationships and mythology Lounsbury creates.  Those who like their fantasy with a dark side and ethereal content will enjoy the way the author has drawn upon the beliefs of many religions from ancient Egypt and Greece to Christianity and the New Age.  While it is the combative nature of the Trials and the physical challenges of the Maze that will enthrall many teenage readers, Afterworld is a many-layered text.  Lounsbury has used death as the prism through which to examine life, raising and exploring a range of philosophical questions about what gives life meaning and purpose.  Ultimately, it is the enduring human qualities of compassion, truth and love in the face of adversity that win through and give this text its appeal.

reviewed by John Nolan

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