Review: Blood of Requiem

Posted on: August 28, 2011
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Blood of Requiem, by Daniel Arenson: What Can a Story About Dragons Teach Us About Resilience?

By Rocky Reichman, Editor-in-Chief

Watch Me Bounce (.com)

(Warning: May contain spoilers).

What is Resilience?

There is no one answer to this question. Resilience can lie in a myriad of situations, and is more of a type of response rather than reaction to a specific adversity. But despite its broad definition, there are situations which anyone will mark as resilient. Let’s take a look at one below:

Imagine you are the son of a powerful king, ruler of a race more powerful than any other people that can shift into dragons at will. You are heir to the throne, and will one day be king. You are engaged to marry one of the most beautiful women in the kingdom. One day, you arrive at your father’s throne room, and find him in a heated argument with your older brother, the supposed heir to the throne until an accident of nature forced your father to reconsider.

Your brother is angry. Your response? Remain calm. Try to placate him.

But that only increases his rage. Everything still seems under control though. You are a prince, after all, right? And you are among the most powerful human race that ever lived. Everything will work out.

But it doesn’t. There’s a flash, and before you can blink, your brother has stabbed your father to death. Anger overwhelms you, but you don’t let it control you. Instead, you rush to help.

But you are too late. By seconds.

Your brother seizes control, and over the next few years, wipes out a million of your race, kidnaps your daughter, raises his own army, and uses his influence to make everyone hate not only you, but your family and everyone like you. Soon you find yourself leading the last of your kind to their deaths, and watch young and old die, slaughtered by someone you trusted. Someone you may have even loved at some point. You fight valiantly, but at the end you are maimed and humiliated. Your family is forced into hiding, and you can only see your loved ones sparingly. You are the last of your race, constantly hiding and running. Throughout the rest of your life, you face poisoning, threats to your integrity and a constant fear of losing your family and the rest of your people. But the sliver of hope you have never dies, and you keep fighting.

This is resilience. And this is the main theme of Daniel Arenson’s latest Fantasy novel , Blood of Requiem. While adversities in our own lives hopefully never approach this magnitude, it is inspiring to read about characters that can deal with even this type of situation and still bounce back.

Blood of Requiem, though a fictional tale, can teach readers a great deal about being resilient in our lives, particularly in the areas of making meaning, optimism, the way we think, emotion regulation, anger and post-traumatic symptoms, all of which will be discussed below.

 

 

        Meaning: Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, speaks about the importance of having a purpose when coping with adversity. The main point of his book, and of  the therapy he created known as Logotherapy, argues that man’s primary will to live comes not from seeking pleasure, like Freud argued, or power (Alfred Adler), but by finding and creating meaning.

          Frankl himself lost everything during the Holocaust, including the original manuscript of his life’s work, but kept it alive within him throughout his ordeal, and eventually returned to his work on Logotherapy. His book documents his own experience coping, surviving and bouncing back to normal functioning after being in the concentration camps. During his ordeal, the most important factor that he believed kept him alive was meaning. His sense of purpose. For him, it was seeing his family again, and continuing his work on Logotherapy to help other people find meaning in life.

          In Blood of Requiem too, author Daniel Arenson shows us the importance of finding meaning. Throughout the novel, many of the main characters face existential battles where they want nothing more than to submit to fatigue and give up. They almost do, but then remember not only what they are fighting for, but for who. Their wife. Their children. Their parents. Their people. Even if they suffer, their suffering has meaning, like Frankl argues in Man’s Search for Meaning. And no matter how hard adversity pushes them, they push back harder, and keep going. They have great meaning in their fight, and no adversity, no matter how stressful, takes that away from them.

     

       Optimism and Thinking Style: The way we think about adversity matters a great deal in our ability to overcome it. Thanks to Albert Ellis, co-creator of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) with Robert A. Harper, we now know that the way you think about adversity matters. Well-known for the creation of the “ABC’s” thanks to Ellis, we now know that it is not only the adversity (the :”A”) we face that determines how resiliently we will respond to a situation (the consequences, or “C”), but our Beliefs (“B”) about that adversity as well: can we overcome it, how long will it last, etc.

          From this, psychologists Andrew Shatte and Karen Reivich have done extensive empirical research and practical interventions that show that the way we think really does play a major role in determining our resilience, in both real-time stress and in bouncing back from major adversity.

          Psychologist Martin Seligman, considered the father of “Positive Psychology,” studied has done extensive research showing that people’s resilience to depression is in part determined by our thinking style. Seligman has conducted a lot of research on what he termes as “Learned Helplessness,” and has proved that people can learn to be helpless, which can lead to hopelessness, despair and even depression. On the other hand, he also flipped the concept and discovered “Learned Optimism,” which showed that people can learn to be more optimistic and therefore resilient.

     

      Emotion Regulation: Another factor of resilience we can learn from this story is that our ability to manage our emotions is critical for maintaining our resilience. Especially during real-time adversity, our ability to control our anger and our fear from conquering rational thinking, determines how well we will fare. And sometimes, giving in to our fear or anger can be adaptive too. Blood of Requiemis ripe with example of both sides, where holding back emotions and letting them loose has saved someone’s life.

     

      The Power of Anger and Hate: Anger is a seductive emotion. It grabs hold easily. It is something you want to keep, because it makes you feel powerful, and in control of the situation. It is something you feel you should hold on to, because it is self-righteous and makes you feel “justified” in your anger. There is a great deal to say about this emotion, but for the purposes of this review, it is important to note its power, and its danger. Though not directly related to resilience, how long you hold onto your hate and your anger after a real or “perceived” betrayal can hinder your ability to think rationally, accept the situation and bounce back. But though it inhibits rational thinking, it does wonders for rationalizing. Blood of Requiemis a poignant example of how anger can twist people’s perceptions, and turn an entire world against a people who not only never harmed them, but used to be their allies.

     

      Post-Traumatic Symptoms: The novel also gives us an inside look to what this reviewer would venture to be “post-traumatic symptoms,” which occur when one of the book’s antagonist’s has images of his murders return to him every night. How does the character deal with these images? With anger. His rage overcomes them, leaving no room for any other emotions, such as guilt, shame, anxiety or even a teaspoon worth of forgiveness.

 
 

Blood of Requiem is written in an engaging style, devoid of any bombastic vocabulary. In addition, unlike many books in its genre, Fantasy, the author has taken careful steps to give his characters names that emit power when rolled off the tongue, but that do so while still being fairly easy to pronounce. For example, names like Agnus Dei and Lacrimosa sound unique and mysterious, but their pronunciation is not an issue.

Author Daniel Arenson has also created a story with a unique idea, one that speaks to universal themes like resilience in the face of adversity and the power and love of family. But it does so in a creative manner: people that can shift into dragons by will, special poisons, and magic that defies reality, even death.

Though the book’s plot moves very fast, it nevertheless keeps the reader involved. The novel would benefit from more time spent developing the characters and their adversities, since at times scenes seemed to fly by and be concluded too fast, too simply. In addition, characters repeat certain thoughts and sentences many times, which though important, may be too frequent. However, overall the work is impressive, and Blood of Requiem is a goldmine for learning about, inspiring and unlocking the dragons of resilience hidden in us all.

 

-By Rocky Reichman, Editor-in-Chief, Watch Me Bounce (.com) (www.WatchMeBounce.com)

Blood of Requiem, is available for purchase at Amazon.com and other stores, in print and on Kindle:

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