As the passing of the world slips down through fractures in the muck-covered gravel of time, everything is absorbed into everything else. Every bit of matter, whether it be rock, stone, or bone becomes a part of antiquity. Mist, magic, or trembling lips, everything transcends in an elemental eclipse.
Every atom, every slight or obtuse particle of dust, and every swirling cloud of detritus will eventually possess the memory of everything else, etched into its core.
Yes, Cheryl Anne Gardner can write soft. Seriously, there is no murder and mayhem in this story. Sid was shocked as well, but it’s true.
The Splendor of Antiquity: A woman in love with science. A woman in love with a man. A woman in love with the dead and fighting for faith in the living.
You can read Chapter One for free here.
And this is our favorite review of the work originally from The LL Book Review
It is ironic, is it not, how everything seems so poetic in death, yet we rarely see the poetry in life?
I couldn’t think of a more truer statement than this, spoken by a God-like king on the first page of Cheryl Anne Gardner’s book, The Splendor of Antiquity. True, we’d expect our Gods to say such profound things and the narrator of this book does not disappoint with such expectations. After all, he has been dead for centuries and our lead female, an archaeologists named Joliette Deneauve, is about to dig him up.
Gardner has magnificently given the book a theme about faith. The reader will know that right from the start. But this is also a book about passion, and there are two kinds here. First the passion, both physical and emotional, felt between two people. This is evident between Joliette and her fellow archaeologist named Olivier Botton. Then there’s the feeling of passion that one has when they find themselves so truly captivated by something that also steals their heart away. For many, this second passion is the love and faith one feels for God, or should I say a God. And so Joliette finds herself torn between the two. She struggles against her connection with Olivier and is overcome with passion for the dead king she discovers deep in the Siberian mountains.
Tittering on the brink of fantasy, Gardner presented herself with quite a challenge when writing this book. Olivier and Joliette are both human so conversation between the two would obviously come quite naturally. However, remember this book is narrated by the dead king. Though he speaks to the reader, he cannot verbally speak to Joliette. But the one sided conversations Joliette has with his skull will send shivers up your spine. In Chapter 5, Joliette uses technology to sculpt a model of what the king might have looked like, a beautiful metaphor for God breathing life into each of us, but held at bay by the fact Joliette uses technology, science, to recreate the features of the king:
In the simplest and most poetic of terms, she believed, devoutly in her heart, that a thing, once created, should never die. “Doesn’t matter what that thing is: flesh, stone, or bone,” she said. “Even the idea that sparked the courage to create in the first place has merit beyond the moment and should never fade from the world. Neither the memory nor the emotion behind it should ever be cast away and forgotten as if it had never existed, as if it had meant nothing.” Everything means something in a metaphysical sense, even the trivial things. At least they did to Joliette. Restoring to me my face, my name, and my honor was the least trivial of all.
I loved the fact that this book was also not too philosophical despite the boundaries of both religion and science that are explored. Yes, Joliette is consumed with her work as a scientist and shows great passion for her work, but her obsession with the king and with finding out who he is also consumes her. Just as churchgoers long to be closer to God but denounce the scientific explanations behind who we are or how we got here, there’s always that boundary between stories. Joliette never sways in either direction. We are a culture of secrets and history. Gardner reminds us that societies long before us bury their secrets, their sadness, and their past, only to have later societies dig them up all over again:
Over the course of a lifetime, one might never be able to calculate how many tears could be shed on account of death.
When Olivier reveals that their research has not brought them any closer to the real identity of the king, Joliette vows to return to the dig site in an attempt to learn more, growing even more obsessed with the unnamed king. The king tells us he’s already been haunting her dreams, but Joliette returning to his grave is the chance he needs to finally reveal himself to her. Joliette’s fate is oddly revealed to the reader early on in Chapter 2.
It’s not about having to choose between what we believe and what we know is real. Joliette simply accepts her fate and succumbs to it, but not before her and the king share a secret that Joliette chooses to keep to herself. Despite research, despite science, despite the opportunity to be known for something great, sometimes it is just about faith and that which we hold so dear inside ourselves.