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Pamela Blake
Author, Contributor
Earthly Vessels

Some heroes need help. A lot of help.


All cultures have a legend of a Chosen One, a Messiah, a golden child who will be born to redeem them. But thirty-something Arby Keeling is not that guy, and Earthly Vessels is not that story.


Through a mix-up in the great metaphysical switchboard of the universe, a ritual intended to incarnate a long-awaited deity results in Arby instead. He is special, though. So, when his unorthodox energy inevitably attracts attention, Arby finds himself hunted by some who fear he has come to usurp their powers—and sought by others who wish to enlist him as an ally.


When a group of strangers gives him a crash course in navigating the ethereal planes, Arby’s scientific skepticism gives way to his newfound knowledge. As he experiences the myriad ways the physical world interlocks with the more subtle planes of existence, Arby—and the world—gradually learns who he is.


But with dark forces on his heels, he must step into his true self before the danger to him and his loved ones becomes deadly.

This inspired literary fantasy offers an audacious blend of science, metaphysics, romance, cult weirdness, and the rich textures of American life over the upheavals of the second half of the 20th century, years made even more bumptious, here, by astral assassins and other uncanny inventions. As the1960s crash to an end, Arby Keeling is conceived under most unusual circumstances when his mother, a nomadic hippie, falls in with The Children of Pan, a cult searching for the perfect vessel. Later, adult Arby’s nomadic life as a geologist is upended by a devastating phone call from his mother. Flying back home, he meets Elaina, a woman whose eyes never open, and forges an instant connection. Amid much chaos involving bomings, Elaina reveals to Arby that she has a special power—a “Talent”—just as he discovers that he does, too. As he falls in with Elaina and her motley crew of "people of our kind,” Arby learns more about his destiny, his power, and the enemy that seeks to harm him and everyone he loves.

Isaak crafts a riveting contemporary urban fantasy with inventive world building, rich language, crisp dialogue, and out-of-this-world but entirely believable characters. Featuring mages, giants, and astral planes, Arby's heroic journey is an intricate adventure that explores growth, destiny, and acceptance of things one can not control in life. As Arby learns more about his allies, their powers, and the potential evil he must face, he must place faith in himself and learn to trust those around him as he prepares for a battle with an enemy that could mean life or death for the physical world.

Isaak smartly updates classic hero's journey tales for the complexities of real life, as spunk, awkward Arby believes, in a relatable way, that he is anything but a hero. This genre-blending story, published posthumously, captivates as Isaak weaves readers in and out of the physical planes and rewards them with surprises, insights, and scintillating prose.

Takeaway: Smart, surprising literary fantasy of cults, “Talents,” and an unlikely hero.

Comparable Titles: Aleatha Romig's Into the Light, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A