I began thinking about Jon Darke a couple of months back when I had laid Tree to rest. I needed to write something that was not on a global, epic scale, instead focusing down on a more personal narrative.
Isoland is a vast, circular expanse of darkness, desert, storms and suffering, centred on viral research for the weapons and biotech industries. Separated from the rest of the world (the ‘Outside’) by an insurmountable wall, the test subjects are convicts from the outside world, or captured from the simple tribes of outcasts scattered amongst the enclosed mountains. Unlike the Outside, the tribes have learned how to live harmoniously with their harsh world.
Homested, the biotech farm at the cente of Isoland is ruled by the Vorna Dynasty. Heidi Vorna, fifteen-year-old daughter of oligarch Maxim Vorna, learns of a boy who is uniting the Isoland tribes with golden words and magical deeds. Known as the Magister, the boy appears to have other strange qualities, including an apparent resistance to the plagues used to control outcast populations. Heidi is sent with Maxim’s troops to capture the boy for research. Tragedy follows as he is taken and imprisoned, leaving Heidi deeply troubled. She names him Jon Darke.
Jon grows into a powerful and resourceful young man, forced to survive in the brutal conditions of Homested. Heidi remains fascinated by him, but Jon blames her for his suffering and the deaths of his adoptive parents.
Maxim is both curious and fearful of Jon, and develops a strange relationship with him as teams of scientists try to discover his secrets. Amica Bright, leader of the scientists also falls for Jon, but her love is cruel and his rejection of her turns love to hatred. In return, Jon tries to teach Maxim the truth of life, but his words and actions are wasted.
In the Outside, the fight for remaining resources and viable habitats has led to viral war, and incurable sicknesses cause many deaths. Maxim is given orders to create a new weapon and turns to Jon Darke, but Jon’s growing powers already divine what is intended, and he mysteriously escapes from Isoland, heading for England. The threat of Jon falling into enemy hands is too great a risk, and death squads are sent in pursuit, led by Amica. Heidi tries to persuade her father that she can find Jon and bring him back. When he refuses, she too leaves Isoland and follows him to London.
Jon finds a world being destroyed by greed and it is not long before he has a following. When Heidi arrives at the airport, everyone is talking about the mysterious stranger and the magic of his words. She sees an advertisement for a television interview and manages to get invited, watching from the audience. He is asked if he is Christ reborn. Jon knows nothing of such things, but he does know that the interviewer’s daughter lies in a coma, and tells her the child will recover. Soon after, the child awakens. At the end of the interview, an attempt is made on his life as a bomb explodes and kills many. Heidi escapes with Jon and persuades him to hide with her. During that time, she realises that she loves him, and begs him to stay with her. Jon cannot remain in hiding and leaves Heidi. He is able to cure children where others have failed, and his teachings are being listened to around the world. Soon, vast numbers of people are demanding change and sharing all that they have. Jon is a threat to the world order. More governments want to understand the source of his power, and Heidi cannot find a way to see him. Jon travels to the Amazon, determined to save the last few indigenous peoples, and persuade world leaders how much they need to change. Heidi’s father makes contact with her, asking her to help save Jon. She joins with Maxim’s squad and travels with them, but learns Amica’s true intent. She plans to execute Jon as he gives a world address, broadcasting from within the burning forest. Heidi has one chance to save the man she loves, if she can persuade him to abandon his cause.