The Last Toqeph by Yvonne Anderson, a review

Lost and FoundThe Last Toqeph by Yvonne Anderson, Gateway to Gannah Series #4 of 4
Published by the author, 2014, 402 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/sci-fi, young adult and up

Adam, heir to the throne of the new settlers of the planet Gannah, sees a fairly smooth road before him. Though he’s only one-half native Gannahian, no one is more qualified to succeed his mother, the ruling toqeph.  At least, that’s what he thinks until he goes on a lonely quest and meets a young man in a desolate corner of the planet. This young man may have a better claim.

But, since all native Gannahians except Adam’s mother were wiped out in a plague, this young man isn’t supposed to exist.

Does Adam report the existence of the young man? Or just let things ride?

Gannahians believe they are by nature full of integrity. But Adam discovers that’s not so. He personally has the opportunity to right an ancient wrong, at great cost to himself. Will he do it?

This book caps the four-book Gateway to Gannah series, which winds through a large cast of characters and situations. I really enjoyed reading this series, and I am sure you will too.

Read my reviews of this series:

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

 

Ransom in the Rock by Yvonne Anderson, a review

Lost and FoundRansom in the Rock by Yvonne Anderson, Gateway to Gannah Series #3 of 4
Published by the author, 2014, 295 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/sci-fi, young adult and up

It’s time for Lileela, age 15, to return to her home planet. But she’s disgusted with the parents who sent her away to the planet Karkar ten years before. Karkar’s a civilized place. Why would she want to go back home to backward, underpopulated Gannah?

Soon after the rebellious Lileela returns, she learns that her parents have paid a king’s ransom for her return. And she learns that the people accompanying her from Karkar are planning to conquer and colonize Gannah. Where do her allegiances lie now?

Meanwhile, a crack special forces team from Earth is handed the assignment to kidnap a Christian evangelist and his family and send them into prison and slavery. Problem is, the leader of the team, Faris, was secretly evangelized himself by this man a year earlier. Can he obey his orders? Should he? If he does, where can he flee?

This book continues the tales of Gannah, a richly imagined world where natives can communicate telepathically with each other–and with the Yasha, the Lord. While Jesus died on Earth for sins of Earthers, his death covers the sins of others too, the people of Gannah have discovered. Gannahians are particularly in tune with the Yasha, because they know the ancient language of Gannah is the same language as that of the ancient children of Israel on earth, no coincidence but a work of the creator God.

I enjoyed this book. I really enjoy the richly imagined planet and its history, along with its colorful characters.

Read my reviews of this series:

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Fatal TreeThe Fatal Tree, final book of the five-book Bright Empires Series, by Stephen R. Lawhead
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2014, 335 pages
Genre: Multiverse/alternate history/time-travel written from a Christian worldview, for teens and adults

Former novice Kit Livingstone is a seasoned ley traveler now. He’s been using a method of walking along natural energy-filled “ley” lines in the earth’s crust to travel to alternate, but similar, universes, following in the footsteps of other ley travelers like his late great-grandfather, Cosimo, and the ruthless Lord Burleigh. They’ve all been looking madly for the Skin Map, which they think will show the ley-travel way to the Spirit Well: what seems to be the fountain of youth and life.

In this book Kit and friends discover that the stakes are far higher than they thought, and the Spirit Well is something different from what they thought. The multiverse is getting more and more unstable, and quickly. Ley traveling doesn’t take them where it used to, but to strange and dangerous places.  Napoleon’s soldiers appear in 1930’s Damascus. Kit’s friend Mina runs into a duplicate of herself.

And the key to it all, the Spirit Well, is beyond their reach, because an enormous yew tree has planted itself in the portal leading to it, a tree that zaps to death anyone that reaches for it. If they can’t get around the tree, the multiverse will quickly unravel. The world and all its clones in the multiverse have only a few weeks to live, but only some scientists and some ley travelers know it.

And the key to the tree belongs to the one person none of them wants to trust.

What do I think? I’ve gotten pretty fond of some of the newer characters in this series, the ley-traveling Italian priest Gianni especially. Gianni brings a Christian flavor to some of the book, which is sold in the general market and therefore is very delicate about conveying its worldview, lest non-Christians put it down. I think having the sunny priest convey certain ideas works very well.

The fully-drawn characters, the well-described locales all around the world spiced with those critical details, and an intriguing plot that brings a whole epic series to conclusion make this a winning book.

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

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.

Please check out what others are saying:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Karri Compton
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jason Joyner
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Websitehttp://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-R-Lawhead/84503526872

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Storm Siren by Mary Weber, a review

StormSirenStorm Siren by Mary Weber
Published 2014 by Thomas Nelson, 333 pages
Genre: Young adult medieval/steampunk fantasy with Christian worldview

I think I’ve never done this before. I bought this book solely because I loved the cover.

Well, it is in the genre I love, after all, Christian fantasy. So I did get around to opening the book. When I did, I just fell in, really.

Nym is a slave girl with power over the elements that she cannot control. As a result, her owners or their loved ones keep ending up dead. Her parents are dead too. She carries the guilt around, unable to rid herself of it. She has no hope for the future, knowing that her elemental kind live under a death sentence in her kingdom.

A rich woman buys her and puts her to work training under a mysterious man, Eogan, who teaches her gradually to control her powers and tells her she can save her kingdom from the aggressor nation that’s just about to conquer it. But does she want to? And what of her developing feelings for Eogan, who seems cold and aloof?

It’s a wonderful book, so well written. It’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel. I can see Mary Weber has many wonderful books ahead of her. I hope they all have the same cover artist, who is by the way Wes Youssi of M80 Design.

 

Why read fantasy?

hobbits.richardsonby Jill Richardson

Why read fantasy? Isn’t it escapism? Shouldn’t a Christian be more concerned with this world, rather than spending time reading about things that aren’t even real? Concentrate on the real battles, not epic ones with dragons and wizards.

Every believer who reads fantasy has heard these, and other, objections. We don’t necessarily need to defend our choices, but we would like to be able to enter the conversation with some arguments on our side that fantasy reading, and writing, is far from a waste of a believer’s time.

Here are three suggestions.

Fantasy fights cynicism with hope

The world isn’t a very trusting place. In fact, each generation seems to be getting a little more cynical. What is truth? Is there such a thing as a selfless hero? What are they trying to sell me beneath the story?

JillRichardsonMuch of literature is keeping up with this cultural climate. It’s dark, hopeless, and angry. Yet in the middle of that, we pay millions to see Thor defeat evil and Captain America save the world. Again. Because somehow, we want to believe.

With its focus on epic battles between good and evil, fantasy breaks into the prevailing disbelief to offer hope. It’s hardly escapist. Terrible things happen in these stories. As Sam says in The Two Towers (movie version), sometimes it’s hard to believe life could go on when so much evil has happened.

But it does. Good triumphs, and light shines.

Christians who read and write fantasy can enter the culture’s conversation with stories that show heroes can sacrifice themselves, honest people can win, and “there is some good in this world—and it’s worth fighting for.” That is a huge antidote in a world that no longer believes in absolute good yet hungers for it at the same time.

Fantasy Offers Tools for Our Struggles

 Even a lowly hobbit can save his world. He doesn’t have to find amazing battle skills or magic power. He just has to find . . . his courage.

Most of us feel more like hobbits than wizards. In the face of trouble, we would prefer to go back to second breakfast. But when we read of Bilbo’s willingness, Frodo’s sacrificial spirit, Sam’s loyalty, or Eowyn’s steadfastness, we see a bit of ourselves after all.

They are not perfect, and they are not powerful. Knowing that, we realize we have access to the same tools and gifts. We aren’t fighting dragons or Dark Lords, but we are fighting darkness. We fight “against mighty powers in this dark world” (Ephesians 6.12).

Fantasy heroes, flawed but willing, can help bolster our own willingness and faith for the challenge.

Fantasy Points to God’s Intent

Tolkien defended fantasy by saying that there is nothing wrong with a prisoner who wishes to escape his prison. He argues that the world in its present state is, in fact, a prison where we were never meant to live.

In an alternate world that offers hope, good wins, against the odds. Peace prevails. Restoration happens. Whatever the true kingdom is in that world, it returns.

That’s also what happens here. Good fantasy can start a conversation about what this world was meant for and where it’s going. Is there a Kingdom here as well that will return, has returned, and awaits its complete fulfillment when peace and good reign? Are there heroes at work here and now ringing in that kingdom wherever they can?

It’s hardly escape. It’s a photograph of reality as God always intended. It’s an invitation to renewal, and it transcends worlds.

Author Bio:

Jill’s love for hobbits and elves comes from her time as a literature teacher and as a lifelong reader of great stories. She also loves an epic challenge and a chance for grace wherever they exist. Jill is Pastor of Discipleship at Resolution Church in Illinois. She is the author of Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World, a devotional for teens.

 

Unbound by J.B. Simmons, a review

unbound
Unbound by J.B. Simmons (The Omega Trilogy Book 1)
Published by the author on Kindle
Genre: Young adult end times Christian fantasy

The year is 2066, and we are in Washington, DC.  An unbelieving American Jewish teenager, Elijah Goldsmith, just wants to be a spy and wants to pursue the beautiful woman Naomi beside him in spy school. He also wants to ditch the strange dreams he keeps having, about a dragon that only he can see.

Naomi and her Christian friends think his dreams are prophetic. But Elijah thinks they are all weird.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well drawn and memorable. The book is well edited (often a problem with indie authors, but not this one). There’s plenty of action, and the theology underneath seems reasonably sound to me.

But I did feel disappointed that the book ended when it did. Apparently the author is producing the book in installments, rather than telling a complete story with a character arc (where the main character goes through some kind of inner journey and comes out different).  Unbound is like the first third of a well constructed novel, in my opinion.

So, I guess I’ll just have to wait to read the rest! Hope I don’t have to wait too long!

Robert Treskillard’s Merlin’s Nightmare, more thoughts

merlinsnightmareIs the King Arthur saga so well-worn in our imaginations that we don’t have room for something more on it? Becky Miller has raised this question.

I say there’s room for new imagination. In Robert Treskillard’s trilogy The Merlin Spiral, concluding with Merlin’s Nightmare (which I reviewed here), the author has got some fresh new takes on the characters. Merlin is a blind, lovesick teenager, and Gwenivere is a gypsy. The sword in the stone … well, I won’t spoil it for you. There’s something really wild about that stone, too!

He is able to take us back to Britain in the years after the Romans withdrew, based on a vast foundation of historical research that makes the settings and situations ring true. His Britain is a far cry from the false medieval setting envisioned by early writers of these stories.

In Merlin’s Nightmare, we see a disaster for the Britons unfold. Where they had lived as a majority, many or most of them are overcome by enemies including the Saxons, leaving the survivors a rag-tag band. This group, we expect, will seek to regain their place under King Arthur in future books.

But we know how the story ends: the Anglo-Saxons took over all the Britons’ lands except for Wales and (in France) Brittany.  That’s the thing about writing the Arthurian legend: we know the main characters, and we know how it all ends. But … do you have room for new imaginings here? I do.

Here are the two movie trailers for the first book (and thus the trilogy). The first is from Zondervan, the publisher; the second from the author:

Merlin’s Nightmare by Robert Treskillard, a review

merlinsnightmareMerlin’s Nightmare by Robert Treskillard, Book 3 of the Merlin Spiral
Published 2014 by Blink, an imprint of Zondervan, 431 pages
Genre: Arthurian fantasy, suitable for young adult and up

Robert Treskillard concludes his terrific Merlin trilogy with this book, leaving some threads open for starting a new work focused on Arthur.  Read my review of the first book. Read my review of the second book.

I’m really enjoying Treskillard’s re-imagining of Merlin as a non-magician. Merlin is a Christian who occasionally has visions. As the book opens, Merlin, in hiding in the North, has married his beloved Natalenya and has two children. They have also raised the young Arthur under a different name, withholding from him his true identity. But now that Arthur is 18, it’s time to tell him who he is and let him start making decisions.

The winds of war are blowing. Two summons to fight arrive. Where will they fight? The Britons (led by the traitor Vortigern) find themselves attacked by major enemies on three sides: the Picts from the North, the Saxons from the east, and Merlin’s witch sister Ganieda (Morgana) and her wolf-men from the west.  Merlin is inclined to fight in the North, but Arthur slips away south to aid Vortigern against the Saxons, not knowing Vortigern will probably recognize him and kill him. Can Merlin reach him in time?

And how can Merlin protect his family in the North, if he isn’t anywhere nearby? Can he convince Arthur that the most important enemy is Merlin’s sorcerer sister, who orchestrates the others? And how on earth could they defeat her and her savage wolf-men?

I found this book to be quite the page-turner with plenty of unexpected plot points. Merlin’s character goes through a learning curve, which I won’t spoil for you. I enjoyed the fresh take on Gwenivere and the idea of a novel use for Stonehenge. It’s a terrific book; put it on your reading list, and be sure to give it to the young people in your life, especially the guys. Note: I am astounded at the amount of research Treskillard has put into these books, detailed in the appendix.

This review is in conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. For more opinions, check out the other participants listed below. I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in conjunction with this tour.

Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Emileigh Latham
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams

Author website: http://www.KingArthur.org.uk

The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, a review

wardenandwolfkingThe Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, Book 4 of the 4-book Wingfeather Saga
Published 2014 by Rabbit Room Press, 520 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, age 10 and up

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather series that started out as an amusing tale full of rollicking names moved to epic scope along the way and, in this book, builds to a mighty conclusion full of heroic deeds.

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga is the story of the widow and three children of the King of Anniera, which was once a blessed island kingdom, now a ruin. Read my review of the first book in the series. And the second book. And the third.

I’m not the only person who was waiting for this book to come out. Peterson was able to raise $100,000 in donations with a Kickstarter campaign to do the job right.

At the opening of this book, the Wingfeather family lives in the Green Hollows, a land not their own, and try to make themselves useful to the war effort. Gnag the Nameless and his Fangs of Dang attack this peaceful country on Gnag’s borders in overwhelming numbers. Above all he seeks the three children, who are the fabled Jewels of Anniera.

Leeli Wingfeather uses her whistleharp to demoralize the fangs but gets very, very tired. Janner gets lost in the hills. And Kalmar, the eleven-year-old king of Anniera who nearly became a fang, fights the demon within. Meanwhile, across the ocean, their uncle Artham fights his madness with the help of faithful friends and seeks to destroy the fangs there.

The odds are overwhelming. Will they give up?

This is just a terrific book. If you are looking for something for your kids to read, pick it up. And don’t forget to read it yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

Note: Peterson is a musician, first and foremost, and you can tell in his amazing prose. The names in this tale sing: “Bonifer Squoon,” “bomnubble,” “Glipwood,” “Flambode’s Seedery.” Sometimes there’s an amusing contrast between name and meaning. “Toothy cow,” for example, refers to a very dangerous monster that is actually a cow with a lot of teeth.

I have a request to make of Peterson. I would love to hear a recording of him reading troll poetry, full of wild and crazy consonants. I bet it’s very cool.

Oskar Reteep, the bookseller, has a warning for us about Ouster Will, the original sinner.

This is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. I received a copy of the book from the publisher free of charge. For more opinions on the book, check out the blogs linked below.

Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://wingfeathersaga.com

Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington, a review

jupiter-windsJupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington
Published 2014 by Mountainview Books, 288 pages
Genre: Christian dystopia/sci fi, YA and older

Grey, 17, and her 14-year-old sister are orphans under the loose care of a neighbor. They live in a post-nuclear-war desolate America that is ruled by a tyrannical middle eastern regime.

Grey and Rin live on the fringe, smuggling books and cigarettes across a border to eke out a bare living. It’s been five years since their parents failed to come home from a trip. Grey has had to comfort and encourage her small sister, while needing comfort and encouragement herself.

The government sends drones to capture her. Does she run for home and hideout and endanger her sister? Or does she allow herself to be captured?

You guessed it. She allows herself to be captured, setting off a race in space to the planet Jupiter where the tyrants use her as bait to trap her father, who is still alive.  Can she escape?

I found this book to be quite a page-turner. It features strong, unique, and heroic characters and a well-developed faith element. Check it out!

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.