It-Tielet Qamar, the first part of an ambitious science fiction/fantasy adventure, was self-published by author John A. Bonello in 2008. Building on word-of-mouth recommendations, the book attracted the attention of science fiction and fantasy lovers, who have a very restricted selection of works available in Maltese. The trilogy, Il-Logħba tal-Allat, was picked up by Merlin, who have just published part two of the epic, L-Aħħar Ħolma.
L-Aħħar Ħolma is technically a prequel, as it is set 60 years before the events of book one. The setting is Malta, with the Ħaġar Qim temples as imposing backdrop and crux of the story. This prequel reveals how il-Qamar and l-Anġlu reopened the Ħaġar Qim portal into five other alternate worlds – the phase of the moon determining which of the five worlds the portal will open into.
One of the strengths of Bonello’s writing is the intensity of the descriptions. Reading about places like Miġra Ferħa, Ġebel Ciantar and Dingli cliffs, instantly transports the reader into the scenery and into the action. For each of the six worlds is similar but slightly different to the others: the rules of time and space do not necessarily operate in the same way in all, as the characters discover during their travels, and different worlds have progressed to different extents and in different directions. L-Aħħar Ħolma also reveals how these worlds, and the portal that is Ħaġar Qim, came about, with Bonello weaving a rich and beautifully complex mythology that provides the backstory for the entire trilogy. The six gods and their games/wars echo the work of Philip Pullman in their interpretation of the creation and evolution of the universe.
But L-Aħħar Ħolma is primarily an adventure story: a breathtaking, action-filled tale with myriad characters from different worlds, who come together to battle the increasing threat that is l-Anġlu. This is a tale based on intrigue, fantasy, adventure, love with an amazing backdrop that is Malta is six different ‘alternate-world’ versions.
The richness of the worlds created by Bonello is depicted in all its visual glory by artist Matthew Grima Connell, who created the stunning, never-seen-before terrain of the worlds, and that is being showcased in the three cover images for allof the books in the trilogy. The cover image for L-Aħħar Ħolma depicts two breathtaking structures that dominate the port in Nuùr, one of the worlds that features in book two.
Merlin packaged and produced the book with a stunning ‘double-cover’ effect, created by designer Pierre Portelli to reflect the intertwining dimensions that are at the heart of this trilogy.
– Teodor Reljic