Trust in the Unseen is the second book in Seth Mullins’ cerebral and inspiring Edge of the Unknown series. The first installment of the series found Brandon Chane in a band on the way up, Edge of the Unknown, and seeking spiritual counsel from the enigmatic Saul.
The second volume finds Brandon reeling from a break-up, even as his band is on the rise, and as visionary as ever. His mentor, Saul Mason, is having personal issues of his own, and may not be the spiritual rock he purported himself to be. One thing remains true through the turmoil: creativity is the answer to lift Brandon up from the lowest darkness.
As in the first novel in the series, What Casts the Shadow?, there’s a comforting thoughtfulness and erudition in the way Brandon approaches life and music. Though Brandon is hurting for a large part of the book, he’s anything but apathetic, in a way that people aren’t generally. His depth of thought sometimes strains credulity, because he’s so articulate, especially when expressed on the fly as he does in an interview with his band, but then his articulation is one we wish could express ourselves, or at least feel to the depth that he does.
This is what propels the book along – the trajectory of Brandon’s thoughtful self-awareness. Even if he’s a wreck, his self-analysis is something to aspire to. Far from narcissism or self-pity, he’s got a hugely strong will. Put another way, he’s strong even when he’s feeling weakness. Brandon is a portrait of integrity. You’ll feel inspired by his drive, whatever your artform, as he has such a strong connection to his music and his life. He’s a true portrait of genius.
Sometimes, Mullins reach exceeds his grasp, and Brandon’s voice is a bit too lofty for his environment. He seems less like he plays in a rock band and more like he’s composing symphonies in staid concert halls. That’s part of his charm, but the world of rock and roll is also rougher than that, and people don’t necessarily have time for such seriousness. So it does lose some relation to reality in places. However, if you read the book more as philosophy, or even self-help couched as fiction, the novel begins to make more sense, and becomes more powerful. Brandon doesn’t need to exist in the real world, but he should.
In many ways this is a better novel than its predecessor, specifically because Brandon is so self-assured. In What Casts the Shadow? Brandon was confused and unsure of himself – reliant very much on Saul’s insight. In Trust in the Unseen, the tables are turned, and Brandon’s insights are self-willed, while Saul is the one needing help. It’s a true sequel, building on the previous book, and exploring each character in deeper depth. It would certainly help to read this book in conjunction with the first book, but it could work as a standalone as well, given the strength of Brandon’s voice, to which most anyone can relate.
Overall, this second novel really solidifies Mullins as a powerful and ambitious writer, and makes this series really worth checking out – especially if you play in a rock band, and you’re striving to make it, both professionally and personally. Just as the band, Edge of the Known, tries to push the limits of creativity, so does this novel. It’s a deeply emotional book – you’ll feel sadness, joy, creative drive, and more along with the characters – making Edge of the Unknown a series like no other.
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