Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Promise That Remains

On many a late hour car ride, usually to New Mexico or home therefrom, I've sat in silence gazing at the black against my windshield, enthralled by pictures I see with my mind's eye as I listen to a song with an absolutely beautiful and haunting melody and powerful, evocative lyrics. The pictures I see so vividly threaded through its words are of a man, his sword held aloft, staggering and falling in his strange molten armor, of a dark horse speeding with that man, lashed to his back, across the plains, and of a tall, slender woman gazing toward a flaming western horizon with wide, stricken eyes. The song that inspires these scenes is the Celtic-influenced The Only Promise That Remains.

Strangely for me, this song was written by Justin Timberlake and his friend Matt Morris. I am no Justin Timberlake fan, for sure, but my respect for him exploded the first time I heard him perform the song with Reba McEntire. I had the pleasure of hearing his extraordinary voice for the first time harmonizing with Reba's rich country vocals. I also am no great country music fan, but I have always had a soft spot for red-haired Reba, and somehow her voice suited the song, and blended well with Timberlake's voice.

When my husband later bought Reba Duets, with The Only Promise That Remains, I had just finished The Walking Flame (Book 2 of Kelven's Riddle by Dan Hylton, my dad), and my love of the song became solid when the CD came with us on a winter road trip to Albuquerque, and by chance we played it after dark on the highway. My imagination was set afire; against the shadowy backdrop of the road I saw the cataclysmic events from the close of the book unfolding in vivid detail to these lines:

When the ground beneath you starts a shaking
And you forget the place we came from
Came from...

When you feel a darkness coming
Rising inside
I'll make a light to guide you back home...

The imagery in those words was perfect...eerie...

When I read The Sword of Heaven, Book 3 in the series, this exotic love song became steadfastly tied to the story in my mind. Aram, a former slave turned warrior, is wandering through darkness in agony at the beginning of that book, and Ka'en, the woman he loves desperately, does eventually light his way back home to her. One of the best parts of Kelven's Riddle is something too little honored in tales nowadays: the idea that a man who is essentially good and honorable could be motivated to do extraordinary and dangerous things simply so that he can have the hope of living in peace and safety with the woman he loves, a woman who lives in daily fear that he will die before she can be with him.

If you have read Kelven's Riddle, and I know some of my readers have, I encourage you to listen to The Only Promise That Remains and see if it reminds you, too, of scenes from that story.

If you have not yet read the books in the Kelven's Riddle series, I challenge you to check them out and join me in anticipating Book 4 which is due out late this year. If I get a sneak read before then (and I earnestly hope I do), I assure you that I will write of it here.

Reba DuetsReba Duets   Kelven's RiddleKelven's Riddle: The Mountain at the Middle of the World


  1. Well, I could not have hoped to evoke a more appropriate response from my readers than that which you've described, Hillary. I've often stated to your Mom that if just one person saw, in his or her mind's eye, that which I intended when I wrote the end of book two and the beginning of book three, then I will have succeeded.
    Thank you.
    Love, Dad
    Oh, yes; and the song is magnificent.

  2. I love the song, Papa, but mostly because I see it as Ka'en's love song to Aram, though I don't really imagine Ka'en having a southern accent - haha.

    As for the ending of Book 2, I still go back and reread that brilliant ending. Book 3, however, has my favorite fight scene, because it strikes so true to me, Aram's desperation. That's saying something, because there is not a battle scene in the series that I did not thoroughly enjoy. That is why I'm looking forward to Book 4; you have promised that there will be war. Do not kill off my favorite characters please.


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