I like Cage’s writing, she is very intelligent and she is a master at keeping her readers in suspense, never giving anything right away, she will make you work to find out what is going on, and you will develop questions along the way. I am not going to try to persuade any potential readers to read her work, as my purpose is to summarize a few of her beginning chapters, so maybe this should be called a Summary instead of a Review. Cage does a wonderful job at adding color to her stories with her descriptive adjectives and letting you inside the thoughts of her characters which makes them very relatable. The title of this novella is a bit scary being “Diaballein’, as the word “devil” originates from the Greek word “diabolos: which means slanderer, and that word comes from diaballein. Another meaning of this word found in the dictionary is to cast apart; to throw apart, or to scatter.
Diaballein is made up of two Latin words “Dia” meaning across and “ballein” meaning to throw, thus the devil can be looked at as “One who throws.” Looking at the picture on the cover of this book you get the idea that Diaballein is some type of hell beast. Cage says that this is a work of fiction and she classifies it as a horror story, so it may not be for you, if you are a fraidy-cat. Cage makes a Confession or issues a Disclaimer about the names of the places that she uses in this book and that they do not relate to the Arabana people who live in Australia and are descendants of Aboriginals, but Cage Dunn lives in Australia and her heart is there. Cage writes Australian stories, which are often about rural areas that include the outback.
Before the book begins, there is a Preface, or maybe an Introduction where Cage gives us a short description of Kano Varre, a research physicist and Eyza Heran a bird enthusiast. She also lets us know that the Diaballein just broke free after being confined for a real long time and it needs a vessel to open a gateway. In this story Kano and Eyza must defeat the Diaballein before it breeds, otherwise awful things will happen. The book is broken up into 23 chapters which comprises about 40,000 words, so it is a quick read and once you get into it, it is hard to put down.
It kicks off with an ominous, eerie feeling as Kano is hallucinating, he is exhausted and in need of water. It is not clear exactly where Kano is, but he comes across a rock drawing and it makes him think about Diaballein. He thinks about death and he decides to inscribe his last will with a stick and leave his possessions to his sister Casi. He is dehydrated and starving and not sure how long he has been lost. He is desperately searching for water, even though he needs sleep and he sees shadows and then the Diaballein looks him in the eyes and says, “We survive.”
Eyza is preparing to count birds which was going to be used for her thesis, where she would conject theories, make proposals about the data she collected most likely to make a statement that bird populations change, and those fluctuations may indicate shifts in pollution levels, climate change, habitat loss, migration timing, and more. She is certainly not a novice at this, as she knows how to remain still and use camouflage so she won’t startle the birds and she enjoys the silence and solitude. She put her canoe in the water which was at a very high level this year, even though there was a drought everywhere else. Eyza would concentrate on the nesting sites and the eggs, while avoiding dragonflies, frogs, snakes, sand-snails, raptors, dingoes, and other carnivores, as she was here for the millions of birds and the peace that it brought to her. Eyza is busy with her camera, clipboard and pencil as some birds landed near her canoe and other flocks of birds hovered near by. She recalled childhood memories of her Nan who gave her the Story Stone to wear around her neck. She hears an eagle say, “Warning, we bring”, and she thinks that she is hallucinating. The eagle speaks again and she asks it what it wants from her. Eyza is in disbelief and the eagle mentions that slavery, and torture will be a blessing when Diaballein comes, which makes her tremble feeling that the family madness has set in and she would die where their ashes were scattered.
Switching back to Kano who is in bad shape and still searching for water. He remembers the flood that swept him away to this place and caused him to lose his map. He needed the map to locate the nyomium and tantalum deposits, metals that are essential for his research to create a flexible steel which he feels is just what the modern society of Australia needs, so that buildings can resist earthquakes, and survive tsunamis. Kano hears voices which he thinks are in his head, but he continues his conversation with the Diaballein which shoves him and then he hears music that has three words recurring, Akhlys, cognomen, and Valki. We learn that Kano was rescued from an orphanage and he wishes that someone would save him from the ravenous beast that wants his blood.
Eyza begins to panic because she misplaced her meds, the same ones that her mother was taking before she committed suicide. She goes back to her tent and looks everywhere, but to no avail. She starts up the generator to charge the battery for her cellphone and then she began to charge her sat-phone. She was done with the birds and she wanted out, so she would to load the sled, top it with the canoe, and walk out till she made it to the bike, which she had hidden. She decides to check out a long, log-shape, a lump that rolled, which is blocking the inflow of the main tributary, that she saw using her binoculars. She makes her way to the lump and finds out that it is a mangled man. She braved the stench and the flies to get him into her canoe which was a difficult task. She would delay her departure till tomorrow, as she needed to get him to the tent, clean him up, get food and water into him, then phone for Emergency Services.
Eyza is cold and she makes soup, but she has a difficult time feeding it to this big lump of a man, as he kept knocking the spoon away. She stripped to her underwear and socks and slid in next to the shivering body and zipped herself into the sleeping bag with him. He wakes up wondering if he is alive and Eyza tells him that he needs to rest and then he asks her why he is naked and she tells him that she had to clean all of the mud off of him. He was glad that he was still alive and she was happy that she was not alone.
The Diaballein needs to get back to the rock, but he can’t cross the water. The world had changed since he was last here. We are given information on the Diaballein and their weapons of flame and their dislike of salt and humans. He stole the life force from a woman and this particular Diaballein is the gatekeeper and many more are waiting. Apparently, they were defeated by the humans and entombed in rock. Kano wonders how he got back to the gorge, which makes me think that this book skipped some details of how he got here, but I assume that Cage will eventually fill in the time lapse of this story. The smell of a woman is on his hand, but his memory is foggy and he thinks that he is hallucinating again. Kano is obsessed with his mission to discover a flexible steel and this sheer drive would prevent the Diaballein from taking over his mind, although he is hearing voices that he does not understand.
Eyza wakes up alone in the tent and finds that many things are missing. She finds her phone, but the charge is very low, so someone must have been using it. She decides to recharge the phone and if the man does not come back, she will leave without him. Being off of her medication, made her wonder what was real. She is tired and having trouble trying to focus, and she is out of food and water. She starts to pack and finds the man’s wallet and sees that the name on the licence is Kano Varre and that he works for a company named Valki. She recalls that her Nan mentioned a hero warrior with that name. She sees lots of smoke and she knows that she has to locate the fire. The phone has a charge and she is mostly packed when she thinks she hears the eagle talking again. She left her tent up and heads into the gorge. She listens to the birds panicking as they leave the fire. She spots the man who she thinks stole her supplies.
Kano gathers the strength to stand and he sees a tent and wonders if the woman that he was with was just a dream. His heart pounds as he sees a woman approaching him and when she gets closer, he tells her to go away. She tells him that he is rude and calls him a thief. Kano asks her to kill him, because he feels like something got inside of him that is telling him to eat her. She wants him to keep walking so the fire doesn’t get them and she assures him that it is not a demon, that madness has set in.
The flames are close behind them and Kano says that he is not delusional and that he will become a vessel for a Diaballein. He tells her that he tried to drown himself in salt last night in order to distract the demon. She lets him know that she found his wallet, she wants to know why he is out here, all the while trying to keep him moving. Kano is incoherent and she fears that he has gone mad.
I don’t want to ruin the remaining chapters for anyone who wants to read this book, so I am ending my summary here. I can’t make a prediction of what will happen next with Kano being haunted by a Diaballein and Eyza being off of her meds. Will they get out of the fire and become lovers or will the Diaballein open up a gate for the rest of the monsters to take over earth? I will have to finish reading this story, but it will go much easier without having to take notes.