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In the Land of Gods and Monsters

The Forgotten Gemstone  (Xiinisi, volume 1)

By Kit Daven 

24 Mar, 2017

A Year of Waterloo Region Speculative Fiction


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To quote Kit Daven’s online biography:

Kit Daven was born in Toronto, Ontario, the only child in a military family. Writing since the age of seven, she has a continued fascination with stories, writing, and making books. After spending many years producing literary zines in her youth, Kit was published in Ryerson University’s White Wall Review under a different pen-name in the mid 1990’s. In 2009, she decided to begin writing a serial to publish online. […] Kit currently lives in Cambridge, Ontario, with her husband, surrealist artist Sean Chappell, and two Siamese cats.

The Forgotten Gemstone is the first volume in Kit Daven’s Xiinisi trilogy.

The Xiinisi are gods (or as good as gods), creating and shaping whole universes as whim dictates. Within the limits of certain guidelines, of course. Gods are as vulnerable to personal setback as puny mortals, but at least gods rule tangible worlds of the imagination, pocket paradises, where they can retreat when life becomes too much.

As Ule discovers when she returned to a world she last visited when she was an adolescent, what the Xiinisi expect to be true and what is true can be very different things.

Time for the Xiinisi and time within their created worlds run at different rates. Enough time has passed within Ule’s little bauble that her oldest friend there is long dead. The climate has changed; lush forests have been replaced by demon-haunted deserts. Tales of the demiurge Ule have become discredited, half-forgotten myths.

The cactus demon Istok meets Ule and decides that she might be useful; he binds her into a gem. The gem attracts notice … and thieves. The Ule-gem is stolen from the demon, and then passes from one owner to the next, often by force, trickery, or theft. Quite some time passes.

Ule eventually regains human form, but has no memory of who she was or what role she might have played in creating the world in which she finds herself. Unaware that she is a Xiinisi, she searches for an obscure niche in which an amnesiac woman can hide

Ule’s situation is not entirely hopeless. Avn and Ibe, two fellow Xiinisi, are looking for her. But of course, so is the deathless and determined Istok. Avn and Ibe descend into Ule’s world and find that they cannot escape from her pocket universe, thanks to some design innovations she made in the basic code. Only if Ule is found, and her memories and powers restored, can the three Xiinisi escape.


Ule’s two would-be rescuers are characters familiar to anyone who has spent any time at all on a college campus. Avn is the senior professor whose pool of acolytes far exceeds his ability to keep a close eye on them. Ibe is the lecturer to whom Avn delegates important responsibilities, the sort of good-looking teacher with whom foolish undergrads could easily become smitten. It’s not clear what sort of ethical guidelines the Xiinisi scholars follow (although it is clear they do have some) but caustic Ibe probably wouldn’t have made the mistake of falling for a student in any case. Much to Ule’s frustration.

This book is yet another argument for proper technical documentation. Ule’s comparative inexperience may blind her to certain ramifications of her design, but I strongly suspect that if Avn had had access to properly commented code, certain features of the world that came as a very unpleasant surprise would have been clear to him. Of course, it’s quite possible the documentation exists and Avn simply didn’t think to look at it because he had no inkling someone would make the unfortunate design choices that Ule did.

Humourless middle-aged readers lacking any sympathy with the young and clueless may find themselves wanting to smack Ule upside the head. The novel chronicles Ule’s dawning comprehension of the consequences of her actions, Ule herself has to suffer some of the consequences … but at the end of the book, she’s alive, which is more than a number of perfectly innocent supporting characters can say.

Although I must admit to being one of those unempathetic readers (I found Ule to be a passion-addled nitwit), I did appreciate the novel’s focus on the responsibilities of creators towards their creations. Although the details are vague, the Xiinisi as a whole mandate considerate treatment of the beings they call into existence. Granted, this is a theme that goes back to Frankenstein, the very roots of the genre, but there is a tendency in F&SF towards autocracy. Ule might expect to be revered by her creation, but the novel makes it clear that Ule has made a misstep—both in the eyes of her own people and in the eyes of author and readers.

The Forgotten Gemstone is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).