Author Archives: Editor

About Editor

Editor and writer, homeschooling veteran, computer skills teacher, occasional engineer. Mother of triplets, mother of two with Asperger’s.

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs
Book 2 of the Legends of Karac Tor
Published 2011 by Living Ink Books (AMG Publishers), 411 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade and up

Corus the Champion starts right where the previous book, The Book of Names, left off. I had read The Book of Names last year, so I plowed into Corus the Champion. Big mistake. I soon got confused, not remembering details, and had to backtrack and re-read Book 1. Book 2 does not stand by itself! But it does contain the story arc of an individual, Corus.

Corus had been mentioned in Book 1 several times as the missing champion, the person betrayed by one of the major characters, Sorge, a monk. But I get ahead of myself. In Book 1, four boys from Missouri get four invitations from four ravens. These invitations, dropped at the feet of the two older ones in the vicinity of a weird old stone arch, talk about coming to the Hidden Lands.

In Book 1, the older two boys, Hadyn and Ewan, crawl through the arch at dawn and find themselves in Karac Tor, the Hidden Lands. They help the faithful in the land defeat a sorceress. But she’s not the root of the evil–she’s human. The root is Kr’Nunos, a Satan-like figure. Then the two younger boys, twins Gabe and Garrett, crawl through the stone arch into the Hidden Lands, clutching their invitations, and the story gets vastly more complicated. This is the start of Book 2.

The humans landing in Karac Tor arrive with gifts that they didn’t have back on earth. Hadyn can control rope and metal, a useful skill if you’re tied up or locked up. Ewan can play hypnotic music on his flute. Gabe can speak to birds. And Garrett finds himself learning all kinds of new things from the person we know as Merlin, a “merling” or visionary from Karac Tor named Tal Yssen (Taliesin). They find themselves stepping into the sequel to the Arthurian legend. It’s the story that concerns what happened to the dying King Arthur, whisked away to Avalon. Soon Ewan is asked to give up his gift to save his friends. Will he do it?

And what of Corus? He’s the Champion of Karac Tor, betrayed by his best friend Sorge 20 years before over a woman (the defeated sorceress). He was held captive 13 years by the Fey, cold and calculating fairies, who then sold him to the devil Kr’Nunos. Since then he’s been in torment, wanting to die but held to life by the fact that he’s the Champion, and he has no heir. Sorge learns Corus is still alive and determines to rescue him, single-handedly if need be. But does Corus want to be rescued?

And how about Kr’Nunos’ plan to take over Karak Tor with zombie dirt monsters? It certainly looks like he’s going to win.

What do I think?

Pros: It’s a large, wild story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The four brothers have distinctly different personalities that come through to the reader. Sorge, another main character, also is refreshingly real, a sinner who has repented and is determined to right the wrong he did, whether it kills him or not.

There’s a strong Christian faith element woven in, and plenty of heroism and brave deeds. It’s got lots of battles in it, so it’s a book that should very much appeal to boys, but has touches that will appeal to girls too.

Cons: Being a large, wild story, it was occasionally confusing to me. This book has numerous points of view. Each of the four brothers from Earth (Hadyn, Ewan, Gabe and Garrett) has a story and point of view. Then there are occasional chapters with other points of view: Corus, Sorge, Kr’Nunos, Brodan, Reggie (for a total of nine) and also once in a while an omniscient point of view.

I think would be best to read this book when you don’t have to put it down very often. That’s my plan for the next book, which I very much want to read.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. To see what others are saying, follow these links:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Author’s Web site – http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?Itemid=49&id=19&option=com_content&task=view

Blood of Kings: From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson, a review

From Darkness Won, Blood of Kings Book 3 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 661 pages

To Darkness Fled, Blood of Kings Book 2 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2010 by Marcher Lord Press, 680 pages

By Darkness Hid, Blood of Kings Book 1 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2009 by Marcher Lord Press, 490 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, young adult and adult

The third and final book in the Blood of Kings series wraps up the many strands in this sprawling tale. The first book in the series, Christy Award winner By Darkness Hid, introduced us to the main characters, Achan and Vrell. Achan lives in a society that seriously mistreats its orphans, calling them “strays.” But Achan at age 16 isn’t just any stray. He discovers he has an amazing gift–bloodvoicing, the ability to speak to others using only his mind. His gift is so vast that others who have the gift are in awe.

Vrell is a young noblewoman fleeing a detested suitor dressed as a boy. She too has this bloodvoicing gift, which seems to run in some of the noble families only. She gets herself into all kinds of scrapes and eventually meets and helps Achan.

The powers controlling the realm of Er’Rets are evil sorcerers. The king was murdered a while back and his infant son lost. Pretenders are running most of the kingdom. But there’s a remnant of good guys who look for the return of the rightful king. And eventually they find him. He’s Achan, the lost son, switched at age 3 with another child.

Can they put him on the throne? The forces of evil seem too powerful. In fact, half the kingdom lies in total inky darkness, like the deepest night. And the darkness is spreading. Lord Nathak is clearly one of the bad guys, but he seems conflicted. He knowingly sheltered the rightful king as a child in his stronghold but allowed the boy to be severely mistreated.

Why is Nathak’s face half withered? And will Arman, the Lord of Hosts, rescue the kingdom from darkness and restore the rightful heir? What is Vrell’s role in all this? Achan, when he figures out she’s a girl, falls in love with her. Does she love him? And in the war, should she sit aside as a noblewoman, or take up her masquerade as a boy and fight?

The tale winds across three fat books, all of them a delight to read. Williamson draws the reader right into a character’s head and emotions in a very compelling way, and convincingly describes the world she has created. I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s my favorite, of all the tales I have read since starting the Christian Fantasy Review three years ago.

See my review of By Darkness Hid: http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2010/05/17/by-darkness-hid-by-jill-williamson-a-review/

Lawhead talks about his research

Stephen Lawhead, whose latest book The Bone House we are examining at the CSFF Blog Tour this week, has some research ideas for writers that you might find interesting. From an interview on his website:

Q: So you’ve been to Egypt, and Prague and Oxford, and all those places?
A: All of those places, to be sure — and others that are yet to appear as well. Oxford is where I live, so that’s a location that I’m becoming increasingly familiar with on many levels.

Sometimes – and this has happened with other books, it’s unavoidable – I can’t travel to the place I need to write about. That may be for political reasons, such as the country being closed to Westerners, or it may simply not be worth travelling to some far-flung place if it only makes a fleeting appearance in the story. It may also be that, now in the 21st-century, it is almost pointless to go to a place and be able to get much inspiration for how it was hundreds of years ago. For example, if I wanted to know what Manhattan Island was like in the 1200s, a week in New York City, as much as I might enjoy it, really isn’t going to be much help.

So, in the past, I have used experiences gained in one place to stand in as another. For example, years ago I visited Haiti – still very primitive in the hinterland – to inform descriptions of India. In The Iron Lance I let a visit to Kairouin Tunisia, stand in for medieval Baghdad, as the ancient walled city was closer visually and historically than the bustling modern metropolis in Iraq would have been.

Pretty neat, huh? Envision Lawhead visiting all kinds of out-of-the-way spots on the globe for his books. No wonder it takes him a year to write a book!

In The Bone House, he describes a trip down the Nile in a small boat. Not surprisingly, he’s done it himself:

And the Nile. Of course, now the Nile has been dammed at Aswan and that has affected the countryside dramatically throughout Egypt, so you have to imagine what it was like when the Pharaohs ran the place. But I made an effort, by spending a week in small wooden boat – a dahabiya – sailing from Aswan to Luxor, berthing on the riverbank each night, and observing along the way the villages and people I could see, and even visiting some of those villages.

Once the boat was tied up, the captain – an elegant man who wore a traditional gallabiyah with a light purple turban – would stroll ashore with a plastic bag of something smokeable in his hand. He’d make a little fire, walking around it as he fed in bits of sticks and wood he found on the riverbank. When he got his campfire going, one of his crewmen brought him his hubble-bubble pipe, and he sat there cross-legged smoking sheesha while his crew trimmed the sails, and settled the boat for the night.

Priceless.

Source: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/interview-on-research.html

For a more general interview: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/faq.html

To read what others are saying, check out these other bloggers on the CSFF blog tour:

More from Lawhead about the Bright Empires series

The Bright Empires series is staggering in its scope. Lawhead gives us an idea in this video:

Check out what other CSFF Blog Tour bloggers are saying about Lawhead’s new book, The Bone House:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead
Book 2 of the Bright Empires 5-book series
Published 2011 by Thomas Nelson, 416 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults

The Bone House continues story threads from the previous book, The Skin Map, which opened the series. In fact, if you haven’t read The Skin Map, don’t read this book. You’ll just get very confused. It’s clear the five-part Bright Empires series must be one giant tale, rather than five smaller ones. And what a tale it is.

At the end of The Skin Map, our hapless hero Kit Livingstone has been mysteriously rescued from the brink of death. The rescuer is none other than Kit’s formerly clueless girlfriend Mina, mysteriously appearing and whisking him away. It’s still sad, though. The ruthless bad guy, Lord Burleigh, did succeed in murdering Kit’s mentor, Kit’s great-grandfather Cosimo.

Cosimo had handed Kit a task, finishing Cosimo’s work of finding and decoding the Skin Map, while eluding Burleigh. But who will tell Kit how to pick up this task? Kit, a newbie, has much to learn. (The Skin Map is a grisly artifact, parchment made of the torso skin of Arthur Flinders-Petrie, a pioneer in ley travel who recorded his findings in tattoos on his own torso. The map has been divided into five pieces and hidden.)

It turns out Kit’s former girlfriend Mina, on her own, is becoming an expert in ley travel and can teach Kit some things. Ley lines are lines of geological force along the surface of the earth which in this series can catapult a person into another dimension. These other dimensions are alternate universes, ones spawned whenever any major decision is made on the home world (ours). All the possible results of those decisions create alternate universes based on differing assumptions. The result is an infinity of universes, all pretty similar, it seems, and connected by these ley-line energy pathways. It’s possible to move from one universe to another rather consistently, with some practice.

In The Bone House we find out plenty about the background of bad guy Burleigh, but not everything–we still don’t know what’s motivating his ruthlessness. And we meet another main character, Douglas Flinders-Petrie, the amoral grandson of the man who gave the world the Skin Map. All these characters are hopping through hot spots in various worlds, chasing each other, trying to get the Skin Map and something more. What? Kit still doesn’t know. Something motivates Burleigh to murder and attempt murder, again and again. What is it? Does the mystery have something to do with the stars?

What do I think?

This book is another 1/5 of a massive construction which is becoming clearer. Details of ley travel are explained in this book, and key characters discuss their faith in a benevolent God.

This faith in God in a book about multiverses is critical for me, a Christian. The multiverse idea was coined by atheists trying to explain how man could have evolved from nothing, with such low probabilities at key points of the evolutionary theory. If you multiply our universe by infinity, surely in one of those universes the probability will be high enough that evolution could indeed have happened. So some people, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, actually believe the multiverse theory is true and use it to support their atheism.

Lawhead, on the other hand, uses the multiverse idea as the basis for a massive adventure tale romping across worlds. The yarn is beginning to remind me a bit of Star Wars, with an young clueless (at the beginning) hero suddenly bereft of his mentor, an unbelievably dastardly villain (whose past is not fully revealed yet), and a very capable heroine, along with other characters. There’s an appropriate dose of mystery at the core. I’ll be very interested to read the next installment.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour. Please visit blogs of other participants to see what they have to say about this book too:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Author’s website: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/

Replication by Jill Williamson, a review

Replication by Jill Williamson
Published December 2011 by Zonderkidz
Genre: Christian young adult suspense with sci-fi flavoring

Abby Goyer’s not too happy when her scientist father moves her to Alaska from Washington, D.C. He’s secretive about his new job, and that bothers her too, especially based on his history of working in a lab that was trying to clone human embryos for use in cancer research. She’s a Christian, and she wishes he would see the light.

The 17-year-old boy’s name is J:3:3, but his nickname is Martyr. That’s because he’s always protecting the younger and weaker ones from the bullies in the underground laboratory where he lives. Of course, all the boys look alike, weak and strong. That’s because they’re clones. Martyr also knows he’s got just two weeks to live, because when he turns 18 he is scheduled to expire. Before he dies, he’d like one simple thing–to see the sky. He’s never seen it.

It isn’t long before Martyr’s and Abby’s worlds collide. Abby wants to shut down the lab and rescue the boys. But there are plenty of people standing in the way, not the least of them Dr. Jason Kane, who will stop at nothing to save himself and the clone who carries the kidneys Kane needs to live: Martyr.

What do I think? This book has some funny moments as well as plenty of drama. Especially unnerving is the scientists’ conviction that the cloned boys they work with are not human, but merely copies, like photocopies. And Williamson does a wonderful job of imagining what it would be like to be raised in a dormitory bunker environment devoid of color, and suddenly finding oneself above ground in wintry rural Alaska. It’s a wonderful book for all ages, with a strong faith element and lots of food for thought. Highly recommended. This book releases in December; you can pre-order it at a discount.

Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul, a review

Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul
Published 2011 by Waterbrook, 387 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for all ages

Set in the world of Amara and Chiril where Paul’s other books take place, this one focuses on a new character, Ellie. Ellie belongs to the hobbit-sized tumanhofer race; she’s a farmer’s daughter who longs to go to the upcoming royal wedding.

Those of us who have read Paul’s two most recent books, Dragons of Chiril and Dragons of the Valley, will recognize the other main character, Bealomondore, a tumanhofer artist. In the previous books, he was a minor character, a unique and quirky war hero. In this book, he gets the romantic lead. (It’s not necessary to have read the previous two books, I am thinking. This one stands on its own very well.)

Ellie’s actually on her way to the royal wedding with her aunt and uncle when her beloved pet goat appears on a hillside where he shouldn’t be. She climbs out of the carriage to corral him and take him back home, but … he runs the other way! Chasing him, she finds herself falling through what looks like a glass wall. Now she’s trapped in a city built for giants, and inhabited by a rampaging horde of six-year-old giant children and a small troop of helpful kitten-sized dragons who mind-speak with humans.

But wait, there’s another adult present: a grumpy giant librarian. And one more: a tumanhofer, also trapped, Bealomondore. Soon Ellie and Bealomondore are working together to survive. Will the wild giant children kill and eat Ellie and Bealomondore, as they are threatening? And are the tumanhofers stuck in this city forever?

What do I think?

Ellie’s a great character, full of determination, big-sisterly instinct, and insecurities. Bealomondore’s your basic swashbuckling artist. The giant librarian is overwhelmed by his assignment, raising 60 six-year-olds. I really enjoyed getting to know these unusual characters. There’s a strong faith element, too. (But I thought the plot could have used some more tension in the middle.) It’s a gentle story, easy on the suspense and violence, and would make a good family read-aloud.

My reviews of the other two books in this series:

Dragons of Chiril (formerly called The Vanishing Sculptor)

Dragons of the Valley

The Aedyn Chronicles by Alister McGrath, a review

The Aedyn Chronicles, three books by Alister McGrath: Chosen Ones (2010), Flight of the Outcasts (2010), and Darkness Shall Fall (2011)
Published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan
Genre: Middle grade and up, fantasy/allegory

A well-known theologian who lives in Oxford, England, writes a series of fantasy books for kids with engaging plots and rock-solid underlying teaching. Sound familiar?

Alister McGrath’s tales do have some similarities to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales. But there are some delightful differences too. Let’s find out more.

The Aedyn Chronicles start with a young English schoolgirl, Julia, and her older brother Peter. They are drawn to a fountain in the mysterious ancient garden of the house in Oxford where they are guests. They step into the water and find themselves in another world, on a beach. This world is Aedyn, where the people have been conquered. The first book, Chosen Ones, traces Peter and Julia’s challenge to help the people of Aedyn, finding courage they didn’t now they had, as well as learning of the Lord of Hosts who brought them there to confront the minions of the shadow.

In the second book, Flight of the Outcasts, Peter and Julia return to Aedyn, this time accidentally followed by their bratty stepsister Louisa. They find Aedyn deserted, and soon make their way to the island to the north where the people of Aedyn have been transported and enslaved. Louisa soon displays some unusual qualities, becoming a healer in this awful place, at the foot of a volcano, where inhuman giants act as overseers. Louisa remembers a rhyme her mother taught her; in this place, it’s a prophecy about a task. Can they lead a slave rebellion and do the task?

The third book, Darkness Shall Fall, continues the story in the second book. The slaves have successfully rebelled, but things are still terribly wrong. The power of the shadow is growing, not shrinking. The former slaves are in hiding, yearning to return to their island, Aedyn, but not knowing how to get there. Peter, Julia, and Louisa don’t know what to do.

A fair stranger, Peras, says he was sent by the Lord of Hosts and offers to lead them all to Aedyn, starting with 10 men. Peter is overjoyed. But soon he starts to wonder. Should he be trusting this man?

Julia faces her fears and retrieves the item they need to face the shadow, according to the prophecy. And the story unfolds with grace and truth.

What do I think?

It’s natural to compare this set of books to the Narnia tales. It isn’t the Narnia tales, so we should just enjoy it for what it is. It has engaging young characters who risk their lives to help others, and who learn to trust the unseen Lord of Hosts to save and heal. Plenty of Biblical themes are touched on, good for discussion if reading aloud.

But what I most liked about this book was the vision of the author for healing of Peter, Julia, and Louisa’s blended dysfunctional family in our world. It would be so easy for an author to invent characters who have hangups of one kind or another because of something their parents did or didn’t do, and then not expect to heal the situation. But McGrath has a wonderful vision for complete healing.

CSFF bloggers like The Monster in the Hollows

Checking around on the websites of others on this blog tour, I’m finding that others really like or love this book too: The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson, Christian fantasy for middle grade and up.

Often, the third book in a sequential series will meet flagging interest. After all, to fully enjoy it, readers should also read Books 1 and 2. But in this case, many readers are saying they really like the book even though they haven’t read the first two books.

It’s the aspect of heroism, I think. The heroic deeds that are mentioned really resonate with us. And of course the book is very well written!

In the words of fellow blog tour blogger Gillian Adams,

“It is a tale of great depth. … It is a tale that sings… It is a tale that rings true.”

See source

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson, a review

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
Book 3 of the 4-book Wingfeather Saga
Published 2011 by Rabbit Room Press, 348 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, age 10 and up

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga tells the tale of the widow and three children of the King of Anniera, a blessed island kingdom overwhelmed nine years before by the dreaded fangs of Dang.

Read my review of the first book in the series. And the second book.

We learned in the second book that the fangs, which look like beast-humans, are actually recycled humans. In fact, the bad guys nearly succeeding in turning young Kalmar Wingfeather, the 11-year-old next king of Anniera, into a wolfish fang. He was rescued, but not in time. So he’s not quite a fang, but not quite human either. He looks a lot like a wolf, in fact.

Now the Wingfeather family is fleeing for refuge across the ocean to the Green Hollows, original home of their mother. The folk of the Hollows live in fear of the neighboring fangs, but somehow have managed to stay free, thanks to a mechanical barrier in their harbor and natural barriers at the edges of their lands. Because Kalmar looks like a fang, the Wingfeathers don’t get a welcome. But because the mother agrees to take any punishment that Kalmar earns alongside Kalmar, the Green Hollows grudgingly lets them stay.

In this hostile land, will Kalmar be able to behave himself, or will he push the tolerance of the Hollows folk too far? And what of the monster that lurks at their house?

What do I think?

The Wingfeather series is getting better and better with each book, in my opinion. The series with this book has moved its center from humor toward serious themes. The book is fast-paced and contains lovable characters and great plot twists. Heroic deeds make it an emotional read, too. And it’s so cool to have such a flawed young hero as Kalmar. The book has a solid Christian foundation, a creator God who loves his people. You’ll love this book. I did.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour. Please take some time and look at what others are saying about this same book, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Cynthia Dyer
Amber French
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
Joan Nienhuis
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Series Web site – http://www.WingfeatherSaga.com/
Author’s Web site – http://www.andrew-peterson.com/