Tag Archives: christian fantasy books

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson, a Review

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By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson, a Review
Book 1 in the Blood of Kings series
Published 2009 by Marcher Lord Press, 490 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for teens and adults

The kingdom of Er’Rets is pretty hard on its orphans. It calls them “strays” and beats them up. So Achan grows up a stray in the household of a minor nobleman, picked on and beaten regularly.  The nobleman, Lord Nathak, makes sure he takes a red herbal potion drink every day. But one day, Achan doesn’t take the drink. Then he hears voices in his head, and is mightily puzzled. He figures out how to hold the voices at bay: think of his favorite refuge, the shade of a huge tree.

Achan’s household is fostering the spoiled brat who will be king–an orphan about Achan’s age. The prince intends to marry a young woman, Vrell, daughter of the duchess of the northern part of the kingdom, for political reasons.

Vrell, though, will have none of it. In fact, she puts on the clothing of a boy and goes into hiding.  Circumstances bring her to the same city where the prince is to be crowned; the prince has chosen Achan as his bodyguard, so Achan goes too.  We discover that both Achan and Vrell are able to communicate telepathically, a gift given to few. Disguised as a boy herbalist, Vrell tends Achan’s battle wounds. Making friends with him, she teaches Achan to control and use his “bloodvoicing” telepathic gifts.

In this city, some startling news comes to light, and Achan’s circumstances change forever. I’ll let you read the book to find out more.

What do I think?

Vrell is a very engaging character, full of courage and pep. Because of her, I was happy to dive into this story and stay engaged. Achan deals well with his awful circumstances, although occasionally his reactions are too noble to feel true–for example, rescuing an ungrateful person from some bullies, and rescuing the ungrateful prince from attackers.  The fantasy world is well drawn; I can easily enter in.  Although by the end of the book much is revealed, plenty of mysteries remain, such as why exactly half the country is covered in darkness, and why exactly half of Lord Nathak’s face is withered and under a mask.

It’s a Christian book, clearly; Achan is raised praying to an idol, but he learns to recognize that the one true God speaks to him in his thoughts. Vrell is already one of the relatively few followers of this one God, and Achan is becoming one.

This book was very hard to put down. In fact, I didn’t! I read it all the way through on a Sunday afternoon and evening.  It’s quite a page turner. It’s a wonderful book, one that is sure to draw readers into the Christian fantasy genre.–Phyllis Wheeler

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, meaning a number of other bloggers are writing about this book too during the next three days. Please take a moment to check out what they are saying too~

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Gina Burgess
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
R.L. Copple
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Sarah Flanagan
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

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

Nominate a book for Clive Staples Award!

All you Christian fantasy and sci fi lovers out there, it’s time to nominate a book for the annual Clive Staples award. Clive Staples being, of course, what C.S. stands for in C.S. Lewis.  The award, administered by several major players in Christian fantasy-sci fi, is nearly new–the first award went last year to Dragonlight by Donita K. Paul.

For the 2010 award nomination, a book must be published in 2009 by a royalty-paying publisher. The actual selections will be made by reader’s choice. You might want to put in an email subscription to the Clive Staples Award blog so you’ll know when the polls are open! In order to vote, you have to have read at least two of the books which have been nominated.

What’s the point of all this? Why, to generate buzz and admiration for our favorite genre, of course!  The more buzz and admiration, the more sales, and the more books will be published. So readers like us will be happier with all the books to choose from.

So, take a minute to think about it, and then go to this link:

http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/clive-staples-2010-accepting-nominations/

Auralia’s Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet, a Review

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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/

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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

Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka, a Review

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Blaggard’s Moon

A Prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy
by George Bryan Polivka
Published by Harvest House Publishers, 2009, 373 pages.

Worldview: Moral universe, a God who changes people when they pray.

This book consists of two yarns that converge at the end of the book. One is the tale of a pirate, Smith Delaney, who is sentenced by some primitive jungle-dwellers to die a gruesome death. He meditates on his life in the meantime.

The other tale is about Damrick Fellows, told previously by a pirate comrade of Delaney’s. Delaney remembers Damrick’s tale, in his comrade’s words, as Delaney sits on a post in the middle of a pond full of piranhas and gruesome flesh-eating sea monkeys, waiting for sunset and the end of his life.

Both tales take place in a fantasy world called Nearing Vast, where the law-abiding citizens are in the grip of ruthless pirates.  The shipping companies pay off the pirates, and the pirates pay off the Navy, which doesn’t enforce the law.

Into this situation comes Damrick Fellows, a former seaman who dares to challenge the pirates.  Damrick’s tale tells his story and that of Jenta, the woman Damrick loves.

The stories intersect, causing the incident that hands Delaney his death sentence. While sitting on the post in the pond, Delaney ponders and rejects his bad deeds and doesn’t regret the good deed that landed him on the post: saving the life of a tiny girl, daughter of Damrick and Jenta.

The book contains some very memorable and finely drawn characters: not only Damrick and Jenta, but the king of the pirates, Conch Imbry.  Their interactions form a tale of heroic deeds, not the least of which is Delaney’s decision to save the girl.

The book is lyrically written, bringing a song to my heart as I read parts of it. However, there is also plenty of violence in the book, briefly described.  While not for younger children, it’s appropriate for teens–there are no sex scenes in it. Personally I am not fond of reading about violence though.

The Christian faith is evident–there are priests and crosses.  At least one character, a drunk, begins to pray and is changed. Delaney’s heart too changes as he sits on the post and reviews his life.  My heart yearns for more obvious response from God in the tale, though.

Characters in this book are often faced with apparently morally ambiguous situations and must make a decision. Delaney makes wrong choices at first, and so do some of the other characters, including Damrick, whose motivations in attacking pirates originally seem questionable. But many of the wrong-choosers eventually realize the error of their ways and change.

This book is really about the complexities of the human heart, and how it is capable of changing for the better. It has a nice solid moral groundwork, memorable characters, and a literary flair.  For lovers of action, this is a great book.

Check out what others on the CSFF blog tour are writing on this topic:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Blaggard’s Moon: Review Coming Up

This month’s Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour involves a number of bloggers writing about the novel Blaggard’s Moon by George Bryan Polivka.  Our aim is to let people know that Christian science fiction and fantasy make great reading, and can convey great truths.

Unfortunately, the market for new writers in this genre has been soft, shall we say. But Tolkien and C.S. Lewis continue to get a lot of attention, so we know there’s interest! So let me tell you about the work of a very talented writer.

George Bryan Polivka’s pirate novel Blaggard’s Moon is actually a prequel to the Trophy Chase Trilogy. All these take place in the land (or waters) of Nearing Vast. The first of these three books is The Legend of the Firefish (which our local library has bought at my request).  The third one is The Battle for Vast Dominion, which has garnered a Christy Award nomination.

So this brings us to Blaggard’s Moon. For those who like me haven’t read The Trophy Chase Trilogy yet, this is apparently a great place to start in learning about Nearing Vast.

Tomorrow I’ll give you my review of Blaggard’s Moon.

Today I’ll talk about Polivka’s Web site, www.NearingVast.com.

The home page says,
“Welcome, weary traveler, to the Kingdom of Nearing Vast! ”
I like the design a lot. It’s clearly made by someone who knows what he or
she is doing.

On the home page, one of the trilogy’s characters, Cap Hillis, speaks to the reader as if the reader is a tourist and provides a list of entities to beware of, including pirates and firefish.  This is pretty cool. It gives you a good idea of the general lawlessness of the place, and also the idea that in this world, nightmarish monsters can be real.  In addition, it gives you a taste of the colorful characters that fill Polivka’s books.

If we click on “Cap’s Pub,” we come over to a blog where most of the entries are in the voice of Cap, but a few are in the author’s voice. Unfortunately the blog entries ended last September. I guess Polivka got busy with other stuff, like writing and promoting Blaggard’s Moon.

“Rumors” takes us to a set of quotes from happy reviewers of his books.

“Captain’s Log” takes us to a record of book signings, with pictures.

The “Vast Encyclopedia” takes us to a compendium of lore from Nearing Vast, concerning fishing, sailing, pirates, prophecies, and so on.  So, what do YOU think?

Here are the other CSFF blog tour participants this month:
Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespack
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review

Seabird by Sherry Thompson, a review
Book One of the Narentan Tumults
Published in 2007 by Gryphonwood Press, 349 pages
Worldview: Christian

At the beginning of this young-adult novel, Cara Marshall, age 17, is beginning a beach vacation with her family. She buys a silver seabird necklace. When she puts it on, she is suddenly transported to another world, Narenta, a place like our world and yet not like it.

The Narentans make it clear they expect great things from her. They tell her she has a perilous task to do, as an Outworlder, to help them.  But Cara isn’t attached to Narenta and sees no reason to help the people there. She wants no part of the quest they would impose on her. She demands to go home, but finds no way to leave. A new twist on Oz!

She flees and finds she is placing herself and others in deadly peril, as evil sorcerers seek to kill her. She repents and decides to help the Narentans, but not before a kindly couple is dead because of her detour.

Cara is rescued by two enchanters, who do “good” magic and are followers of Alphesis (Jesus), and two seabirds who are sentient beings on Narenta, larger than eagles and full of warmth and good humor. Together, their path leads to a monastery island where Cara meets Alphesis and learns more of her task. She gradually learns to trust Alphesis and becomes braver.

Meanwhile, the evil sorcerers are declaring war on the good Narentans. Cara’s quest, if it succeeds, will allow the good Narentans to win. If it fails, they will lose.

Does she succeed? And does Alphesis allow her to return to our world?

I really enjoyed this book. Sherry Thompson excels at character development.  She gets inside Cara’s self-centered head very well, and also shows her gradual turnaround.  Other characters are shown in consistent detail as well. Cara must learn to trust that Alphesis will tell her what her next step is at the right moment. So this book does model the Christian walk well.

The world Thompson creates is one where good and evil may be easier to spot than in our world. Alphesis is front-and-center: there is no one who thinks he doesn’t exist.  His action in history is obvious, destroying a sorcerer’s castle and locking the sorcerers up for millennia.  We glimpse Alphesis’ action in history in snatches here and there, Tolkien-style.

But there are plenty of illusions as well, created by the evil sorcerers and by the good enchanters. There are imaginative details, such as woods full of copper-colored leaves, not green leaves, and “serpent-hawks.”

A drawback: a number of the characters have names starting with HA.  Halprin, Harone, Hathel.  I had a little trouble keeping them straight, even though they are very different characters. The two seabirds also have similar names, which also was a stumbling block for me.  In addition, the opening scene (which gets the plot rolling) is disconnected from what follows immediately, and so I forgot it completely until I went back to look over the book after I had finished.

Because the protagonist is a typical 17-year-old girl who is eventually enabled to do brave things, I expect girls will like this book. There is also a minor love-interest, which may widen the appeal. The book also has plenty of action. Sherry Thompson is working on a sequel, Earthbow. I’ll be looking forward to reading it.–Phyllis Wheeler

Thinking of buying this book? You can help support this blog by buying it through me.

The Book of Names, Part 2

Today I am going to share some reflections on reading this book, The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs. You got the main review yesterday.

Briggs wrote this book not long after losing his wife. It is somewhat autobiographical; he is the father in the story, and the four boys are modeled on his four sons.  As a result, their characters are finely drawn. It’s a nice basis for a story, the characters of your individual sons.

In addition, the boys in the story are processing their loss. So the story seems doubly real.

The Book of Names has a nice transition from our world to the Hidden Lands.  First the characters are introduced in our familiar world, and then they move to the Hidden Lands where everything is of course unfamiliar to the reader, except for the two characters of Hadyn and Ewan.  This is a nice way to draw the reader into the story, instead of dumping the reader into an unfamiliar world where it takes some work for the reader to get oriented.

Briggs, like other fantasy writers, writes fantasy fiction in order to paint his convictions on a large canvas. Here’s what he has to say on his blog:

“This is the power of fantasy: to capture the mind, to both focus and liberate the emotional, imaginative faculties, to form real and symbolic connections, to viscerally associate yourself with a magical, desirable, grand-scaled life.”

Personally, I love reading fantasy, provided it has a right worldview (God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world!)  This is a great example.

These are fellow Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour participants:

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise