The story opens with a mysterious figure who trudges along in an unnamed town. With that image, Kramer paints a bleak portrait of struggle and the opening chapter ends with this: "...The harbinger had come home." Harbinger means a sign, indication, or signal. Darker terms for the word includes portent, omen, or forewarning. Okay, this isn't good.
We follow the title character, Blythe, and her family: Father Duffy and mother, Iris. Blythe's an excellent painter (Picasso, not Sherman Williams). Duffy's a decent man who loves to say, "absolutely, absolutely" when in agreement. The running gag is he can't or won't fix his leaky roof. He chides his wife Iris by saying, "It’ll be the death of you; it’s on your side." Iris works in a successful bakery. But something's amiss within this unit and a couple of them harbor dark secrets that I won't reveal.
Aaron, Blythe's knight-in-shining-armor, works for his father's bookshop but gets short shrift in respect compared to his lazy brother, Maddox, who also works at the shop. Their father, Lucre, owns the shop and doesn't hesitate to snap at Aaron for everything. This family also hides a couple of buried secrets that I won't reveal either.
The other cast of characters includes Parissa who despises Blythe and wants Aaron for herself. Sergio and Augustus, Aaron's friends. Ladies Sylvia and Kagetsu, both of which at one time or another attracts the eyes of Sergio. Also, in the cast of characters are Father Philip, the local spiritual leader, Blythe's friends, Maria, Mab, and Haskel, another man of wisdom. But the character that most grates the nerves of these people and mine as well, is Notte. Must read it to concur.
So, all these folks find themselves amidst a hidden mystery that involves the kingdom of Henry IV. Those who enter rarely leave and those who gain entrance must qualify in a very special way. As the story progresses, several of the people of the unnamed town or valley (at least I don't recall a name) wind up residents within the kingdom of Henry IV. If I seem vague about the story, I am for two reasons. One, I don't want to expose too much of it and two, during and after the read, I wondered what I just read. It didn't feel like fantasy, more like a drama, but clearly fantastical elements play a part in the book.
I especially like the courage of Blythe and Aaron. I appreciate the expounding of Father Philip and Haskel, like the ‘Yoda’ of Star Wars. However, I think the story slows too much in giving these life lessons no matter how uplifting and deep-seated the knowledge they advocate. I do have to say some of the characters don't use sound judgment when they clearly know, so I thought, that others don't have their best interests in mind. (See Blythe and Iris). I wanted to scratch more than my head on some of their decisions. Wow! Maybe a little annoying too was a few things that seem like big events occur off-screen.
When the final conflict plays out the story takes on a more thriller aspect for the ending, yes, but I wished for more of that. BLYTHE feels more like a character piece or study than this exhilarating speculative fiction piece. That makes this more of a literary piece and what it did for me was to stretch my reading genre capacities. It was different for me. I recommend patience, not to pray for it Christian readers lol. The story is what it is and maybe that's due to author Kramer's background as a communications director in the legal field. He brings such intellect to his characters that I think it slows the narrative too much.
At the end of the day, the people who populate BLYTHE keep the reader's interest despite some misgivings about the narrative pace and meaning. Again, it's a literary piece that takes its time. There is light profanity within and implied sexual intercourse as well. I give it Four out of Five stars.
P.S.: I read the cover copy and understand better Kramer's goal for BLYTHE. I stand by my review, but I comprehend his mission.