Monthly Archives: November 2009

Curse of the Spider King’s viral marketing

Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper have created an ingenius “tribe” system that rewards fans for blog posts, tweets, and other mentions of their new book, Curse of the Spider King.  (Maybe that is why there are so many people blogging on this book in this month’s CSFF Blog Tour??)

In Allyra, the fictional world in Curse of the Spider King, there are seven elven lords of seven elven tribes.  The tribes have names like Silvertree, Ashheart, and Oakenflower. Want to join one?

Batson and Hopper encourage fans to form into groups of at least 21 people with their own Facebook group page. Fans can link to the book sites, write articles about the book in their blogs, and otherwise mention the book online to get points, with certain limitations. Tribe members can also get a picture taken of themselves with the book on a shelf in a bookstore, with a bookstore employee. They can get bonus points by ordering the book from a bookstore that doesn’t carry the book. They can create a fan page on Facebook for the book. Etc. etc.

The Tribe contest is limited in duration, lasting between the end of October and January 1.  At that time, the authors will evaluate contestants and select winners. The top winners will get a book-signing visit from one of the authors, complete with sword fighting and freebies.  There are other prizes too, like swords and Amazon gift certificates.

This system is obviously working; the “Underground” bulletin board on the book’s website is full of references to it.

My hat’s off to some marketing geniuses!  Check out what others on the CSFF Blog Tour are saying about this book:

+ Brandon Barr
+ Amy Browning interviews the authors!
+ Valerie Comer
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
+ Shane Deal
+ Jeff Draper
+ Emmalyn Edwards
+ April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
+ Ryan Heart also interviews the authors!
+ Timothy Hicks
+ Jason Joyner
+ Julie
+ Krystine Kercher
+ Melissa Lockcuff
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
+ Nissa
+ John W. Otte
+ Cara Powers
+ Chawna Schroeder
+ James Somers
+ Robert Treskillard discusses the viral marketing
+ Jason Waguespac
+ Phyllis Wheeler
? Jill Williamson
+ KM Wilsher

Curse of the Spider King, Day Two of CSFF Blog Tour

This month’s blog tour of Curse of the Spider King, a middle-grade Christian fantasy book, is drawing unprecedented participation. Maybe the outstanding cover art drew in the reviewers? Or the fact that many reviewers already know and love these authors?  Below is a list a list of blog-tour links to posts on the book.

What did the bloggers think? Nearly all of them really liked this book, myself included.  Some had questions. John W. Otte wonders where the Christian faith is, along with a couple of others. Jason Waguespac has a similar question. He had communicated with author Wayne Thomas Batson a while back about overused plot lines in fantasy fiction. They discussed one: a “chosen” child enters the fray and saves the day. In that exchange, Batson had indicated his next series (this one?) would turn that overused plot line on its head.

In my review posted yesterday, I had wondered whether the stage was set for the elves to turn to Ellos, cry for help with one voice, and be rescued. Batson responded in a comment that that was a very interesting speculation on my part. So perhaps we’ll see something like that in the coming books.

The depth of characterization in this book really is amazing, and in the author interviews posted on the blog tour I found out why: both authors spend their lives ministering to teens, and know their issues well. One is a youth pastor, and the other teaches middle school.  To see the interviews, check out the links below that are marked to include an interview.

You may also want to check out the promotional site for this book, which has a viral marketing setup via its discussion board, “the underground,” that apparently successfully encourages readers to spread the word.

+ Brandon Barr
+ Amy Browning interviews the authors!
+ Valerie Comer
+ Amy Cruson
+ Stacey Dale
+ Shane Deal
+ Jeff Draper
+ Emmalyn Edwards
+ April Erwin
+ Karina Fabian
+ Ryan Heart also interviews the authors!
+ Timothy Hicks
+ Jason Joyner
+ Julie
+ Krystine Kercher
+ Melissa Lockcuff
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
+ Nissa
+ John W. Otte
+ Cara Powers
+ Chawna Schroeder
+ James Somers
+ Robert Treskillard discusses the viral marketing
+ Jason Waguespac
+ Phyllis Wheeler
? Jill Williamson
+ KM Wilsher

Curse of the Spider King, a Review

spiderking

Curse of the Spider King, a Review
Book 1 of The Berinfell Prophecies
by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper
Published 2009 by Thomas Nelson, 361 pages
Genre: Middle grade Christian fantasy

This story unfolds in our own world, focusing on first one, then another of seven (yes, seven) 13-year olds. Each of these adopted teens is going through normal life and growing pains, more or less, when a mysterious teacher or benefactor hands him or her a handwritten book with magical properties, and says it is his or her very own to keep. Through the book and the benefactor, these kids discover they are really elves, born in another world.

A massive background story is the story of the elves in the other world, Allyra. As each of the teens reads parts of the handwritten book, we the readers learn the sad history of Berinfell, the capital of the elves. It was overwhelmed by vastly superior forces belonging to the Spider King, an event that happened 800 years before in Allyra but only 12 years before in Earth time. A remnant of elves survived underground. We learn that Allyra and Earth are connected by portals, created by the Spider King for snatching slaves from this world.

The teens each come of age into some strange powers and suddenly find themselves the quarry of evil “men” wearing trench coats and sunglasses—who aren’t men at all, but beings from Allyra. The kindly teachers and benefactors, who turn out to be elves, protect the kids and discuss with them the need to leave their families in order to protect their loved ones. The elves want the teens to return to Allyra and take up the cause of their kindred. The teens are torn. But they must make the decision.

The reason the evil beings are after them is that the seven teens are the sole surviving elf lords with supernatural powers. Their elf-lord parents died protecting them in the Battle of Berinfell. How did the children end up on earth? Hint: there’s a prophecy involved, and a curse.

What do I think?

This book is very well written and well paced.  A huge back story is dealt with very well, using the device of each teen reading some of the history book, so the back story doesn’t derail the narrative. Characterization is excellent; each of the teens clearly has his or her own personality, as do the elven protectors. The conflict with the Spider King begins in the back story and continues through the whole book, which points to sequels at its end. Description uses the telling detail well. In short, this book is well-told.

How about the Christian basis for it?  There is a God in Allyra, called Ellos, the same being as our God. The elves of Berinfell occasionally ask Him for help, and occasionally remember to quote scripture at the evil beings, which defeats them. But it seems that a lively faith is absent. I am guessing and hoping that this is part of the series’ plot: that the remnant of elves will to turn to Ellos and cry for help with one voice.

Now, there is one strange coincidence pivotal to the plot: a knowledgeable enemy turns traitor to the Spider King and gives the elves vital information about the whereabouts of the elf-lord children.  There is no reason for him to do this, so it’s clearly a divine intervention, at least for a reader looking for such things.

My only complaint about this book is that seven protagonists is too large a  number for me as a reader. I felt the need to keep a written list of them and their traits, in order to process the story.  Since each of these protagonists has one or two elven protectors, I was having trouble keeping those names straight also.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book. Readers of any age will enjoy it and wait for the next one, like I am.

For more points of view, check out others on the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, who are talking about this book for the next three days:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Tina Kulesa
Melissa Lockcuff
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Nissa
John W. Otte
Cara Powers
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

Earth Is Not Alone by John Knapp II, a Review

earthisnotalone

Earth Is Not Alone by John Knapp II
(Emryss Chronicles)
Published 2009 by Ephemeron Press (self-published), 496 pages
Genre: Christian sci/fi, young adult (and up)

This book entwines two story threads which appear to be unrelated. But I am guessing that, in sequels, we will find out that they are in fact related.

Here’s one story thread:  in a future year, an electromagnetic pulse attack from an unknown source knocks out all computer-chipped electronics, which encompasses virtually all things electrical. America descends into a dark age. In the “Susquehannah Territory,” 25 miles by 18 miles in Pennsylvania, citizens form a government and erect a wall around the territory to keep the refugees from the big cities from overwhelming them. Barter is the mode of life.  Kerosene lamps are back in use. There are no telephones. Any electricity comes from generators, and is sparingly used.  We wonder: who did it? why? and is it permanent?

Here’s the other: It is one year after the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) disaster. Triana, the future valedictorian of a high school in Susquehannah Territory, is accused of cheating along with Michael, a friend.

Both of them have turned in folklore papers dealing with the same family–on another planet. Were they in cahoots? No, they say.

As the teacher’s investigation proceeds, we begin to guess that Triana came from this other planet. This is Emryss, the setting of the two tales.

Much of the book is taken up by the telling of the two tales. These provide background information on what appears to be Triana’s family on Emryss, and a reason for her presence on Earth. These tales — actually one long tale — are full of action and hard to put down, as is much of the book. It’s definitely Christian. Jesus Christ is present on other worlds where he is called the God-son.

What do I think?

This book is unorthodox in its presentation. The information on the EMP disaster is conveyed using letters and news articles (an old device, actually). Then the book switches to narrative mode when picking up the cheating accusation story. In the narrative mode, the author does a fine job, using plenty of dialog and action and developing his characters. The two tales are particularly enjoyable.

However, there is a bit of disconnect between what the two tales are said to be–a history written down by someone for later generations–and what they sound like.  They sound like a regular novel narrative. I think they should sound more like a folktale, to be more believable.

That said, the narrative style is definitely conducive to creating a story that is hard to put down, which this is.  Some of it definitely reminds me of Indiana Jones movies.

The characters spend quite a bit of time on detective work using numbers (numbers of weeks, numbers of years) found in the tales.  There’s also some technical info on the electro-magnetic pulse, and a discussion of how the Lord would send his Son to save people on other planets. Once on Earth for all? Or simultaneously on all the inhabited planets?  So the book has more of a sci-fi feel to it.

Unlike nearly all other self-published novels I have read, this one has no typos, confusing wording, or grammar glitches. Knapp is clearly a professional.

Want to speculate about other worlds and how God would save them? Want to read good science fiction with a solid Christian basis? Then this book is for you. –Phyllis Wheeler