Tag Archives: Christian book reviews

A terrific blog tour on Jill Williamson

The CSFF blog tour on By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson ends tomorrow.  I checked out what is posted so far and am really impressed.  There were many reviews and some criticisms, but everyone recommends this book.

In particular I liked KM Wilsher’s interview with the author, discussing how she got the ideas to write the book, and even including her sketches of the characters.

Check these out!

Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Beckie Burnham
R.L. Copple
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Tori Greene
Becky Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Krystine Kercher
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher
KM Wilsher

AND last but not least, the author’s blog:
http://jillwilliamson.wordpress.com/

Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, a Review

ravensladder

Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, a Review
Published by Waterbrook Press, 2009, 380 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for teens and adults

I read the first book in this series, Auralia’s Colors, but didn’t have time to read the acclaimed second one, Cyndere’s Midnight. This is the third in the series of four called The Auralia Thread. As I read Raven’s Ladder, I missed out on various references to previous happenings. I do recommend you read these in order!

Raven is Cal-Raven, the young king of the refugee community of House Abascar. In the first book, Abascar’s King Cal-Marcus made some terrible decisions that resulted in the loss of the community’s lovely dwelling, most of their people, and the death of Cal-Marcus.

Now Cal-Raven is trying to lead his refugee people through a dangerous land to a new home as revealed to him by the Keeper, an Aslan figure. Problem is, they mostly don’t trust his vision for a new home, or for a new order for them where previous class lines are erased and former nobles are expected to rub shoulders with former criminals. They remind me of the reluctant Israelites following Moses in the desert.

After a year of hiding out in a large cave, they take a sojourn in Egypt, so to speak: another of the four houses of the Expanse, Bel Amica, draws them in. In Bel Amica they find plenty of food and material wealth and are given jobs to earn their keep. However, it’s a Godless place, where everyone is out for himself. Wicked seers are in charge in all but name. Treason is afoot. Will House Abascar be able to leave?

Another thread in the story involves more refugees from House Abascar who are prisoners of the beastmen of House Cent Regus. House Cent Regus at some point in the past was accursed, and its people became hideous beastmen, addicted to the elixir that binds them to beastliness,  mindless in their aggressions.

The Keeper has sent a boy named Rescue to save them, but he needs Cal-Raven’s help. Will these prisoners be set free?

What do I think?

This book is very lyrical, full of wonderful and original uses of words. It’s also a great page-turner of a story, impossible to predict and full of illusions where things are not as they seem at first.

I was struck by the portrayal of godless House Bel Amica, where everyone is out for himself, people worship moon spirits, and occult seers are in charge in all but name. The materialism described  sounds familiar. Could it be a version of America? What does this vision have to tell us about ourselves? Interesting thing to ponder.

Men who become beasts, with their exterior imitating their dark interior, is a theme as old as the folktale. Like other stories, this story includes a beast who is redeemed. Also good to ponder: where is the beast in me?

In short, this book engaged me on mental and emotional levels, and tickled my beauty appreciation sense. I suspect other lovers of fantasy will want to feast on this book too. –Phyllis Wheeler

My review of the first book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/2010/04/26/auralias-colors-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

My review of the fourth book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/2011/05/16/the-ale-boys-feast-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

This is Day Two of the CSFF Blog Tour on Raven’s Ladder. Check out what others have to say about this book. Participants who had blogged about it as of this morning have a “+” by their name below.

Author’s Blog

+ Brandon Barr
Rachel Briard
Keanan Brand
+ Beckie Burnham
+ Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
+ Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
+ Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
+ April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
+ Jason Joyner
+ Julie
+ Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
+ Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
+ John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
+ Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
+ James Somers
+ Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
+ Fred Warren
+ Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet, a Review

auralia
Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet
Published 2007 by Waterbrook Press, 333 pages.
Genre: Christian Fantasy, suitable for teens and adults

Auralia’s Colors is a multi-layered story, the beginning of a longer story arc called The Auralia Thread. Auralia, an orphan of mysterious origin, comes to live with the outcasts outside the kingdom of House Abascar.  As the story unfolds, Auralia’s unusual powers become apparent; she has powers of healing related to amazing uses of colors.

In the Expanse, the land where Abascar is one of four houses or communities, color has different properties from what we are used to. It’s possible to hoard colors and even ban them, which is what the misguided king of House Abascar has done.

This king, full of fears, burdens his people and keeps them from joy. He is confronted with Auralia, who bravely weaves and wears colors to bring healing in defiance of his ban.  He fails the test, with disastrous results.

What do I think?

I had a bit of trouble getting into this book and identifying with Auralia, who seems somehow otherworldly. But once I got into the book, I had trouble putting it down. The characters are well drawn, the plot has wonderful twists and turns, and many subplots with a variety of characters weave together to create a cohesive whole.

It’s not an overtly Christian book, but the Christian worldview is plainly there. There is a deity called the Keeper who figures in the plot, and who reminds me a bit of Aslan–appearing as an animal, yes, but far more than that.

Auralia’s Colors clearly lays the foundation for a larger work, and I am very interested to read the rest! –Phyllis Wheeler

My review of the third book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/2010/04/27/ravens-ladder-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

My review of the fourth book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/2011/05/16/the-ale-boys-feast-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

****************

This is the first post for the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour on Jeffrey Overstreet’s newest novel, Raven’s Ladder. That book is third in the series that began with Auralia’s Colors, so I thought I had better read Auralia’s Colors first.  For my take on Raven’s Ladder, take a look tomorrow at this blog! In the meantime, please take a look at what others on the blog tour are saying about Raven’s Ladder, and possibly the books that came before it too.

Author’s Blog

Brandon Barr
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

A controversial book!

The Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour bloggers had enormously varied reactions to Athol Dickson’s 2009 book Lost Mission. Many, like me, loved it. Others couldn’t get into it. Yet others disapproved of it. What a wild tour!

Here’s a little roundup of some of what they said:

Amanda Barr “Lupe was such an inspiring character. Her faith, optimism and thankfulness were convicting.”

Keanan Brand “Faith without works is dead, but works do not make faith. We show our faith by our works. Many of the works done by the characters spring from reliance on themselves rather than faith in God. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?” He also finds this book to be like a mirror.
Keanan Brand again
Use of omniscient narrator works well.
Valerie Comer Found a podcast interview of the author and discussed it.

Timothy Hicks Full of contrasts and parallels
Timothy Hicks again “As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, many of the characters started out with good intentions. When they took their eyes off God they lost their life’s focus or mission.” Hence the name Lost Mission.

Cris Jesse Objects to a woman, Lupe, as a preacher teaching men. Switching time and location too confusing. Foreign names too confusing. Doesn’t like the book.
Jason Joyner Found “a rich tale to chew on for a while.”

Krystine Kercher “Each of these four characters does things that we as readers may disapprove of. Each of them also does things that are right. But in the end, the real story is not about them; it’s about The Story; HIS story…
Dawn King Couldn’t finish the book–didn’t see any sci fi or fantasy in it, found it dragged.

Rebecca LuElla Miller Themes of obedience, how Christians handle wealth
Becky Miller again
This book produced controversy!
John W. Otte Interested in idea that America needs evangelizing

More from John Otte In each of these cases, each person lost sight of what God really wanted. They trusted in themselves and their own abilities and ultimately, they wound up seeking after their own will.
Donita K. Paul What is “magical realism”? Turns out some Latin American writers made it up. She quotes a definition for us, and tells us she seems to be writing a magical realism novel too.
Chawna Schroeder “Yet there does seem to be an underlying, unifying thought, captured by the title—lost missions. At its core, the novel seems to focus on people who feel called or driven to a specific purpose and somewhere along that way loses sight of that purpose. The reasons are as diverse as the characters themselves, as are the results and their responses to such lost mission, but this only gives more for the reader to ponder.”
James Somers “It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Steve Trower It “isn’t science fiction. Or fantasy. At least, not in the strictest, where-to-look-in-Waterstones sense.”

Phyllis Wheeler A review
Phyllis Wheeler again An author interview

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, a Review

lostmission

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson, a review
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2009, 345 pages
Genre: “Magical realism” according to the publisher.  I will call it supernatural suspense. Suitable for teens and adults.

There are two alternating story lines, each with its protagonist, that unfold as the book progresses. One takes place around 1772 and the other in modern times. Both story lines focus on the same location near Los Angeles.

The two stories, while seemingly not similar at first, become more and more alike.  A small three-paneled painting is common to both stories, as is a certain character, described as an Indian with shining hair, who I think must be an angel.

In 1772, three Franciscan friars and some Spanish soldiers set out on a missionary journey northward from Baja California. They eventually start a mission in a desert spot near an Indian village. We readers know from the beginning that the mission fails and that just one of the three friars, Fray Alejandro, and an Indian  miraculously survive the fire that burns the place down.

The sad tale of the failed mission unfolds as the book progresses. The other two friars, keeping secrets, are at cross purposes. The superior of the three routinely mistreats the Indian converts. Through it all, Fray Alejandro works on his assigned task, painting the three-panel altarpiece painting, but oddly cannot make any headway.

In the modern tale, a devout young Mexican woman, Lupe, feels called to travel to the US and confront Americans with their wickednesses. She’s a missionary to the lost in the modern U.S.  Miraculously she survives walking through the desert to California, carrying two panels of the three-panel painting (given to her by the village priest). We readers learn that the painting shows something extraordinary–apparently Lupe’s own face is in it, along with faces of others.

The other two main characters connect with Lupe in Orange County, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  Eventually we can figure out that these two characters, a rich man and a preacher, are given parallel personalities to the wayward friars in the earlier story.

As I read the modern day and historical stories, I tried to guess the outcome for the modern story and the reason for failure for the historical story. I must say, I missed the mark widely for both. I did figure the painting had something to do with the outcome, and that was true.

Both stories contrast grace and redemption to punitive, limited, prideful versions of faith. The book will cause a wise reader to stop and take stock: am I acting like a prideful pharisee? Where am I unrepentant?  What are my own sins that I, a sinner, am too blind to see?

This complex book is intended for adults and would make a fine read for teenagers as well. There are even some discussion questions included at the end.

Full of symbolism and parallels, this work is a reach feast for a reader, hard to put down and wonderful to savor.–Phyllis Wheeler

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

Check out the author’s websites:

Author Web site
Author blog

Check out what others on the blog tour are saying about this book:
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by RJ Anderson, CSFF Blog Tour

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R.J.Anderson, a Review
Published 2009 by HarperCollins, 329 pages
Genre: Fairy fantasy, middle grade, appealing to girls. Underlying plot is a whodunit, with romantic overtones. This work, a bestseller in Britain, is not overtly Christian.

I’m republishing my earlier review of this work for the current CSFF Blog Tour.

A faery child, Bryony, is part of a colony of faeries (seven-inch-tall, winged creatures, all female) living in an oak tree in England.

One day the child Bryony impetuously breaks the rules and climbs out of the tree trunk. She comes face to face with a human child, an encounter neither ever forgets.

The problem is that the faery colony is slowly dying. Only the queen of the colony still has magic. A wasting sickness has taken some members. The queen is valiantly doing what she can to preserve it. Or is she? What happened to the magic, anyway?

Bryony grows up and takes a new name: Knife. She becomes the colony’s Hunter, fearlessly flying abroad to capture small animals for the colony to eat, dodging attacks by crows and foxes. She also spies on the family in the house not far away.

Her story entwines with that of Paul, the boy she encountered in the tree. What will be the result? And will the colony be saved?

What do I think? I think this story is very well written. The characters are fully realized and believable. Knife is a very feisty protagonist, fearless although all her peers are fearful.

The whodunit is well conceived and carried out. We wonder who broke the magic for the faery colony and why through most of the book. There are various red herrings laid before us. Finally there is an answer.

The friendship/ love story between Paul and Knife is less defined. It could be because this book is intended for middle grade, not young adult. We don’t see that obsession with each other that characterizes most love stories for teens and up. But we don’t need that either.

And the Christian foundation? It’s there–the faeries invoke the Great Gardener on occasion, but they never discuss their relationship to him, nor do they depend on him or ask him for help. I know RJ Aderson is a Christian, so I would love to see this more developed in a sequel. I also expect the sequel to address the question of how to fix the faery colony’s magic, now that we know why it is broken.

This is a very good book, with great characters, hard to put down. I’ll be looking forward to reading more in this series.–Phyllis Wheeler

Check out what other CSFF bloggers have to say:
Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Amy Browning
Melissa Carswell
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, a Review

northorbeeaten

North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
Published 2009 by Waterbrook Press, 331 pages
Book 2 in the Wingfeather Saga
Genre: Christian fiction, middle grade

This book, neither the first nor the last in its series, could suffer from middle-of-story sag. But it doesn’t. In fact, it’s an intense read.

The three Igiby children, their mother Nia, and their grandfather Podo have teamed up with Peet the Sock Man as the book opens. In the previous book, we readers got accustomed to the fantasy world, Aerwiar (“Here we are,” the first words said at Creation), and its puckishly named creatures and features.

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have just learned that they themselves ARE the Jewels of Anniera, which according to prophecy contain power. They are the three children of the late king of the faraway islands of Anniera, overcome nine years before by the fangs of Dang.

They have also learned that Peet the Sock Man, a local crazy person, is actually their uncle, the special guardian or throne warden of his late younger brother the king. Likewise Janner has found out that he is now throne warden for his younger brother Tink, king in exile. Janner is 12 and Tink is 10, by the way. The throne always goes to the second son, and the guardian job to the first son.

Not only do the Igiby children know who they are now, but the enemy does too. The fangs are looking near and far for them because of the prophecy about the power of the Jewels of Anniera. And so the Igibys plan to leave Peet’s tree-house hiding spot and set out for the Ice Prairies to the north, with the vague idea of teaming up with some rebels who live there.

But their journey doesn’t even get properly started. In a flurry they leave packs and supplies behind as the fangs attack. Then they flee from disaster to disaster, each less predictable than the last, always heading north.

It isn’t just endurance that’s tested. It’s also their family bond. Eventually Tink gets sick of the whole king idea and abandons the family to join a band of thieves and robbers. (As a result, woe strikes both Tink and Janner in nearly overwhelming measure.) At another point, Podo tries to jump ship too.

Can the family get back together and unite in its purpose? That is the question posed in
this book. I won’t tell you how it works out.

What do I think?

I think this book is very well written. I found myself caring very much about the missteps of this endearing family. It is in fact a different, more intense, sort of story from what I expected by reading the goofy names like Phoob Islands and predatory Bomnubbles.

What about the Christian walk? How is it modeled?  The Igiby family prays to the Maker at times of difficulty, and the Maker miraculously intervenes on a couple of occasions.   Meanwhile, there is recognition of sin and repentance, as characters review their past histories with each other. So the book is modeling some version of the Christian walk, but not deeply.  I’d say this book is more about the adventure than about teaching the Christian walk.

And what an adventure it is.  I am really looking forward to the next book.  I highly recommend the first two for all ages. –Phyllis Wheeler

This is Day Two of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please take a look about what others are saying about this new Andrew Peterson series!

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, a Review

darksea

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson
Book One of the Wingfeather Saga
Published 2008 by Waterbrook Press, 284 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade

The three children of the Igiby family are being raised by their mother and their grandfather. Oddly, they know almost nothing about their late father, not even his name. They live just outside Glipwood, a rustic village on the edge of the sea, in the house built by their grandfather many, many years before.

Their semi-idyllic existence is marred by the fact that their country, Skree, is among those conquered by the fangs of Dang. Dang is an evil country far across the ocean, which first conquered the fabled Islands of Anniera in mid-ocean nine years before, and then soon afterward pushed all the way to the next continent and conquered Skree.  The fangs are lizardlike and also somewhat humanlike, with the remarkable ability to poison others with their saliva. So a bite from a fang is fatal.  It takes just a few fangs to keep the town of Glipwood in a state of grim overtaxation.

The fangs habitually kidnap children, and soon the Igiby children become targets. Their mother, Nia, buys their freedom with some fancy jewelry she has kept secret for years, and offers to make the local commander some maggotloaf regularly if he leaves Janner, Tink, and Leeli alone.

The higher-ups take a look at Nia’s jewelry and realize it came from Anniera.  They have been looking high and low for the Jewels of Anniera, and now they figure she must have them.  Things really heat up!  I won’t tell you what happens, but I will tell you that help comes from unexpected places after the family prays to the Maker.

What do I think?

This is a great tale told by a master storyteller. The most obvious feature is its humor.  The place names and the threats are shaped by a wit:  the toothy cows of Skree, the fangs of Dang, Anklejelly Manor, and on and on. Other features include page-turning intensity and well-drawn characters.  The fantasy world I found quite believable–except for the funny names.  There is nothing objectionable for a Christian family in this book, and in fact, it shows some of the Christian walk on the form of prayer and answered prayer.

In particular, I like the way the main characters don’t value material wealth. They value each other, period. Nia gives away her precious jewelry without a second thought.  At another point, Janner and Tink discover an armory of great value but don’t even think about helping themselves.

My only objection involves my particular sensibility. I have trouble aligning the humorous and therefore unbelievable names with the requirement to suspend my disbelief as I read the tale.  It’s a good thing Peterson is such a good storyteller. Otherwise my disbelief at the amusing names would have mired me down. – Phyllis Wheeler

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, looking at the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson this week and particularly the second book in the series, just published. I’ll review it tomorrow.

Be sure to see what the others on the blog tour are saying:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
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