Two for Eternity is the tale of Raiken and Vrag, two entities who keep running into each other every few hundred years, always in different human form as they have to be reborn every time they come back. In the present day, Raiken goes by the name of Scott, and the novel opens right after he has survived an assassination attempt at the hands of Vrag. His wife and sister demand to know what the hell is going on and what he has been hiding from them for years. So he begins his tale.
We go back to Central Africa in 2625BC where Egyptians have just raided Raiken’s town, Nairantu. Vrag is leading the troops into this tiny village in the hopes that he can overtake it as punishment onto Raiken, who rose to the ranks in the pharaoh’s army but ditched that life five years ago and escaped. Vrag, while not Raiken’s brother in the familial/biological sense, represents his dark twin, as though both entities started out as one being split up into a good side and a bad side. Raiken represents the good, and Vrag chooses to go Dark Side. Despite this, Vrag wants Raiken to ditch the good guy role and not to care so much about humans, but Raiken can’t help it—it’s in his nature to be the more protective and noble of the two, so over the centuries, their fights, although they accelerate and become more vicious each time, are essentially about an epic struggle of these two forces butting heads because they admire each other, but one wants the other to ditch his respective side, which of course results in nothing but fights.
It’s never clear what these entities are, or what gives them their powers (immortality, super-strength) as the author never explicitly mentions this fact, but all the reader needs to know is that they’re both two immortal god-like beings who take on human form and make it their life’s work to thwart the other’s plans (well, to be fair, Raiken is the one with thwarting ambitions while Vrag is the one with the “I want to conquer the world” issues).
Raiken and Vrag got along just fine until Vrag stabbed his “twin” in the back and left him for dead, beaten to a bloody pulp and tied to a post under the hot sun. Somehow, Raiken escaped but that was the turning point for him—until then, he thought Vrag’s mind could be changed or that he could be redeemed.
In Babylon, Raiken fights against a tyrannical Queen, while Vrag kills the woman that Raiken loves. Vrag later lives as Judas Iscariot while Raiken does his best to protect The Nazarene, aka Jesus. And later in Hispaniola, Vrag becomes responsible for wiping out the Taino Indians, a nice touch on the author’s part, blending historical detail with fictional reasons behind them. Raiken and Vrag also fight in World War II, with Vrag being a natural choice as someone part of Hitler’s inner circle.
The latter half of the book focuses on what happens after Vrag kills Raiken for the hundredth or so time since their initial meeting. Raiken is reborn as Scott, but as an eight year-old. We then spend the rest of the novel going over how Scott becomes a best-selling child writer after he submits his war memoir repackaged as fiction to a publisher and his books all become smash sensations. He also goes to the trouble of humiliating a less than adequately educated Egyptologist at a museum, beats a bully at a weight lifting competition to preserve his friend’s life, orients all the newcomer students to his school who aren’t adept at English (Raiken speaks pretty much every language known to man), and eventually, we explore his love life as a fifteen year-old Scott has an affair with an older, sexier teacher. They get found out, but Scott has some private investigative help uncover the jealous principal’s shady past, and gets the guy fired. Once he has established a career as a scientist, he marries Dalia, one of the girls he knew in high school, who admits that she had a crush on him then but was afraid that he would spurn her if she said anything.
Then we launch into the reason for the assassination attempt on behalf of Vrag. The dark “twin” has come back to this lifetime as a rich CEO who plans to use Scott’s lab to replicate a nasty strain of the ebola virus as well as the only known vaccine cure, so that he can control who lives and who dies. Only the “worthy” will be given the cure. He and Raiken have one final epic battle that decides everything once and for all, and peace is restored.
Despite the fact that Raiken comes off as a Gary Stu as he’s pretty much perfect all the time, has super knowledge, super strength, is immortal, speaks all those languages, has a benevolent nature, fights and usually wins for the little guy (especially when he becomes Scott, and has to dominate an abusive stepfather for the pain he has caused Scott’s mother), and a few similar good guy traits, he’s still compelling enough of a character that most readers will want to follow his trail and see how he has persevered throughout the centuries when all the odds have been stacked against him. His fight with Vrag towards the end of the novel is a bit better in the sense that it feels more even, and Raiken gets as much as he gives out in terms of punishment. I would have liked to have known more about what Raiken and Vrag are, exactly, and to have been able to explore their relationship when they were the best of friends in the court of the pharaoh in Egypt all those millennia ago. Although Vrag does little to go beyond the “taking over the world” angle, I would also have liked to see his motivations explored a bit more closely beyond the game of cat and mouse that he plays with Raiken.
I also wondered about the logistics of how these two keep coming back from the dead every time one kills the other in a previous lifetime (or how the rules of reincarnation apply to these beings more specifically), how it gets decided what form they will come back in and what vessel they will occupy, and how long it lasts every time one of them kills the other one, which raises the question—would Raiken have to kill himself as well as Vrag to prevent either of them from coming back?
It is a thought-provoking novel in many ways, and the story will definitely keep you turning the pages, as well as the explorations into different historical eras. Of course, the natural comparison would be to Highlander, which also sees two immortals locked in an eternal battle to determine who will win The Prize, but at least in that universe once you cut a guy’s head off, that’s it—there’s no coming back. In other words, the parameters of how to achieve a final death on an immortal Highlander are known. Also, there are multiple immortal beings like this when the story starts out (I wondered if Vrag and Raiken were the only ones to ever exist) but the numbers get narrowed down to two for Highlander’s epic battle with the Kurgan, possibly one of the best and most hilarious 80s villains ever
If you’ve always wanted to find something similar to Highlander in the fantasy section of your local bookshop, give Two for Eternity a try. Fans of exploring historical eras through fiction will also get a kick out of this novel.