Daughter of Eden, the third novel in the Dark Eden series by Chris Beckett. Snow-capped mountains tower over a still lake, below a dark sky.

Daughter of Eden by Chris Beckett

Daughter of Eden is the third and final book in the Dark Eden Trilogy. In this review you’ll find my thoughts not only on this last instalment but also the trilogy as a whole. As such, please note this review contains major spoilers relating to the first two books, as it’s necessary to recap a little to explain the context of Daughter of Eden. The TLDR version is this trilogy is one of my favourite sci-fi series of all time. This is a masterful, compelling piece of character-driven storytelling, and the power stories possess over people is central to the third and final novel.

Dark Eden focussed on how humanity’s true nature slowly emerges, no matter the original good intentions of any newly-established community. The characters in this series are the descendants of two marooned and long-dead astronauts from Earth, Angela and Tommy. The trilogy takes place on the world of Eden, a planet drifting through space without its own star to light the sky. This strange planet, cloaked in constant darkness and lit only by the bioluminescence of its native plants and wildlife, is an eerie place. It’s a fantastic, truly alien creation, and the haunting way the world is described lingers long in the mind.

In the original settlement of Circle Valley in Eden, the numbers of people in Family had outgrown the resources of the valley they called home. When John Redlantern pointed this out and challenged the status quo, he set in motion a chain of events which ripple down through successive generations. John and his allies were opposed by David Batwing. Eventually, David’s followers pursued John and his friends, angry at John for splitting apart Family and also taking Angela’s ring, a relic from distant Earth.

After those events the second book, Mother of Eden, moved forward in time, picking up the action many generations after those events in Circle Valley. In that book the main character is Starlight Brooking, who travels to the settlement of New Earth, founded by John Redlantern. Mother of Eden took us on an uncomfortable journey. In New Earth, the strong have grown powerful, keeping their position through the exploitation and oppression of the weak and those deemed to be different, a huge departure from the original ideals established by Family.

Daughter of Eden takes place at the same time as Mother of Eden but changes the perspective. The main voice this time is Angie Redlantern, a ‘batface’ (someone born with a disfiguring congenital birth defect) who was once best friends with Starlight. This time we follow Angie’s story after Starlight leaves the home they shared for New Earth. I found Angie to be a more absorbing and interesting character compared with Starlight. Angie is far less innocent and is full of intelligence. Her lowly position as a batface makes her invisible in some ways, so people overlook her (with the exception of Mary, the shadowspeaker), even though Angie is very observant and misses nothing.

Another strongly defined character (and there are lots of them in this novel) is Angie’s niece, another batface called Trueheart. Trueheart is in many ways a lot like John Redlantern, always asking questions, always challenging the status quo and she wants far more for her life than the very ordinary one Angie has been forced to settle for.

The reasons why Angie is in this position are told in flashbacks, which are entwined with a story in the present day where the people of Eden are at war. There is a terrible confrontation between the Johnfolk, who have sailed over the water from New Earth with deadly metal spears, and the Davidfolk, who believe they have stayed true to the ideals of Family. The Johnfolk and Davidfolk have their own particular views of history, and both sides are completely convinced they are right. The tragedy is the reader knows both these versions of history are wrong. The Davidfolk’s oral storytelling traditions, tied together with the views held by shadowspeakers, who believe they can communicate directly with the spirit of Mother Gela, have slowly deviated from the truth. The Johnfolk’s version of events has also been corrupted, partly through the deliberate mis-recording of written history to suit their own ends.

The reader knowing more than the characters is a fascinating narrative device, which serves to make the tragic impact of the series all the more powerful. This is amplified further in Daughter of Eden, although I don’t want to spoil the story by explaining why. Suffice it to say, some longstanding questions are finally answered. However, as the book itself notes, whenever you answer a question there’s always something else you then need to try and understand as a consequence.

The role of religion and the shadowspeakers is an interesting strand to this tale. It allows Beckett not only to explore religious themes but also to look at the power of history and story, and how they in turn give humans their identity. Daughter of Eden also poses the intriguing question as to whether or not it really matters if the story is true:

“I thought about what Trueheart had said. Stories were important, that was the part she didn’t understand. They were so important that we told them to ourselves inside our heads, every time we went to sleep. They were how we joined together all the things that happened to us into a shape that made some kind of sense. They were how we made the best of things in this sad, lonely place”

Ultimately, Beckett delivers an extremely thought-provoking trilogy, which is built around a very human and relatable tale. I read Dark Eden in 2021 and I still think about that story today, two years on. That’s the mark of an outstanding novel and the two sequels have had a similar impact on me. I actually held off reading this third book, just in case it wasn’t as good and spoiled the whole experience. This was a mistake – I actually prefer this to Mother of Eden and it’s an incredibly strong finish to an amazing series.

One final thing. When you finish the series it’s worth looking at the final lines of Dark Eden and comparing them to Daughter of Eden. It’s just one example of how this whole series is so beautifully written. Simply outstanding.

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Author: Tim Hardie

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