Heir of Hope by Morgan L. Busse, a review

heirofhope1Heir of Hope by Morgan L. Busse, third and final book of the Follower of the Word series
Published 2015 by Enclave Publishing, 427 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy with adult characters, suitable for young adult and up

Third and final books in a trilogy often end the story line with a bang. This one is no exception. The four main characters come into greater focus and into their own, moving against the Shadonae who plan to end the human race and seem to hold all the cards.

Rowen Mar, the first character we met in the longer story, has stepped into her new identity as an Eldaran, a protector of humans with strange strong powers. Loren, captain of the guard , realizes he loves her and vows to follow her to the ends of the earth, handing his responsibilities off to another.  Problem is, she’s headed to confront the Shadonae, and she’s been kidnapped. How can he find her? And if he finds her, how can he help?

Meanwhile, Caleb Tala also has accepted his new identity as an Eldaran, leaving behind his old life as a cold-blooded assassin. Will others accept the new Caleb? Or thwart him as he also focuses on defeating the Shadonae?

And who are the Shadonae, anyway?

I have been looking forward to reading this book for the two years since the last book in the series was published, with this unforgettable set of characters.  It was quite an emotional ride: I was surprised, dismayed, and overjoyed on the way, and encouraged in my faith.  You’ll love this series. Give it a try.

My review of Book 1, Daughter of Light

My review of Book 2, Son of Truth

My review of Book 3, Heir of Hope

 

Wind and Shadow by Kathy Tyers, a review

windandshadowWind and Shadow by Kathy Tyers
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press/Enclave Publishing, 344 pages
Genre: Christian science fiction (space opera) suitable for YA and up

Twins Kiel and Kinnor Caldwell don’t get along very well. One’s a priest, the other a warrior. But when Kiel, the priest, suddenly goes  missing, Kinnor risks everything to look for him.

The scene of the apparent kidnapping is a desolate planet with no atmosphere, with a small population living in domes or underground. Mikuhr is the occupied planet that is home to the ancient enemies of the Caldwell family.

On this planet, a diplomat named Wind feels her calling is to get warring factions to talking and bring peace.  But no one seems to take her seriously.

Meanwhile, Kiel and Kinnor’s sister Tiala in a faraway monastery accepts an assignment that’s even bigger than her brothers’.

This book has intriguing characters and a strong faith arc and message. Tyers’ fourth book in a five-book sequence set in the same universe carries its own weight with a very good story. I’m looking forward to reading the fifth and final Firebird novel next!

 

 

 

Storm Siren by Mary Weber, another review

StormSirenStorm Siren by Mary Weber
Published 2014 by Thomas Nelson, 337 pages
Genre: Fantasy with a Christian worldview, suitable for YA and up, with steampunk elements

After I first read this book last fall, I put it on a shelf with very very few others, my keeper shelf. Few end up on the keeper shelf because most of the books I like I want to share with others, so I put those in my church library. It’s like an extension of my own personal library. But a few I just can’t part with. This was one.

Now my blog tour, Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF), is taking a look at the book, so I was happy to re-read it.

(Read my original review. )

So, what do I like about it? In some ways it’s a familiar plot: a feisty, underdog heroine with super powers battles doubt and self-loathing and all kinds of awful villains, until in the end … no, I can’t tell you. The ending is quite surprising!

This heroine, Nym, takes us on an unforgettable emotional ride. She has great power over the elements, but she hasn’t learned to control it. So people around her die whenever her emotions get out of control and lightning bolts fall from the skies. She keeps a tally of more than a dozen unintended victims, starting with her parents when she was five years old.

The weight of guilt is too much, and her grief comes out in surprising ways. What she wants most of all, at the beginning, is relief from this pain.

She’s a slave, bound for a life of sorrow, but recklessly feisty nonetheless. Then a new mistress recognizes her powers and decides to train her as a weapon to help her nation win a war. The trainer the mistress hires is a mysterious man who seems emotionless. But Nym begins to have feelings for him. And how will she feel when she is asked to kill again?

And … how does it unfold? I really hope you read the book to find out. I’m sure you’ll find this book is a keeper too, not only with the emotionally rich plot but with the woven tapestry of words. This author is a master. And like me you’ll be waiting for the second book to come out, scheduled for this summer.

Disclaimer: the publisher gave me a book in exchange for my honest review. So now I have two copies, one for the keeper shelf, and one for the church library. I’m happy to be able to share it!

Be sure to take a look at what others on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying about this book:

Julie Bihn
Lauren Bombardier
Beckie Burnham
Vicky DealSharingAunt
George Duncan
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Simone Lilly-Egerter
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Michelle R. Wood

Author Websitehttp://www.maryweber.com/
Author Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/marychristineweber

 

The Firebird trilogy by Kathy Tyers, a review

firebird1I’ve been reading, and re-reading, Firebird lately.

Kathy Tyers’ Christian space opera novel, Firebird,was published in the 1980s and hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Marcher Lord Press, now Enclave Publishing, re-published Firebird and its two Firebird sequels in 2011. I reviewed Firebird in 2012. Now finally I made time to read the two following books, Fusion Fire and Crown of Fire.

These three books have the same protagonist, Lady Firebird, originally fifth in line to the throne of the rich planet Netaia, doomed to die for that very reason. She’s a very cool and skilled pilot of fighter spacecraft. And, in the first novel, she fell in love with and married a man with amazing telepathic skills.

firebird2What happens next? In Fusion Fire, Firebird is pregnant with twins. She discovers she has telepathic gifts too–she has an ancestor who was a rogue from the genetically altered telepathic race. But her gift may be more of a curse. Can she use it to save her beloved, or will it tear her apart?

In Crown of Fire, her beloved planet of Netaia invites her to visit. With the queen abdicated, the queen’s heirs dead, and the next-in-line dead, she’s the only member of the royal family left–along with her twin sons.

Some want her to be queen, though many there call her a traitor and want nothing to do with her. Into this stew step the rogue telepathics, who have chosen Netaia as the next world they will conquer. Will Firebird let her pride lead her forward?

These books are worthy sequels to the riveting first book. There’s a strong faith element, along with unforgettable characters. Lots of food for thought and for the soul in these books.

Now I’m looking forward to reading the two sequels that focus on Firebird’s sons, Wind and Shadow, and Daystar.

The Sinners’ Garden by William Sirls, a review

thesinnersgardenThe Sinners’ Garden by William Sirls
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 401 pages
Genre: Christian fiction with a touch of the weird

A small-town police officer, Heather, wonders whether she’d really rather be a teacher. Her good friend, former jailbird Rip, just wants to be a blessing to his family, especially his troubled teenage nephew. That nephew, Andy, hides behind his facial scar from a burn inflicted when he was three years old. And his mother continues to blame herself for that incident.

Into this stew come some strange things. Someone starts breaking and entering around town, leaving paper bags full of just the right amount of money to meet the inhabitant’s needs, confounding Officer Heather and others who would solve the “crimes.” Teenager Andy hears and speaks prophetic words from his broken ipod, and a mysterious flower garden appears overnight in an inaccessible urban wasteland for all of them to see and wonder at.

If you love complex characters, unexpected plot twists, and messages of hope, you’ll love this book. I did.

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.