Waking Beauty by Sarah E Morin
Published 2015 by Enclave Publishing, 467 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for 12 and up
What if Sleeping Beauty refused to wake up? This book plays with that question. It fleshes out Sleeping Beauty as Princess Brierly, dreaming for 100 years, many of the dreams tainted by the presence of the evil fairy who lured her to the spindle.
When Prince Arpien kisses her awake, she thinks he’s just another figment of the dream world. She’s reckless and heedless, actually downright rude. Besides, he looks just like his ancestor who was once her fiance. So she consistently calls him by the wrong name.
It’s enough to make a guy give up. But Arpien, who has motivations of his own, doesn’t back down easily.
What do I think? This book was a little hard for me to get into because a fairy tale re-imagined with humor just didn’t seem “true.” But then what fairy tale is true? After a little while I got into it though and enjoyed the story. I was able to empathize with these cardboard characters whom the author managed to bring to life. Four stars.
Storm 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.
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:
Storm 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.
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!
The 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.
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.
Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson, a review
Published 2014 by Thomas Nelson, 289 pages
Genre: Middle grade fantasy fiction
Archer Keaton, age 14, serves humanity as a Dreamtreader. In his dreams, what he imagines becomes “real.” So, in a battle, he can call amazing weapons into being (such as a bulldozer blade to mow down the opposition). But the bad guys can too, when they’re not trying to deceive him. It’s fun and kinda scary.
Archer seeks to make repairs in this lovely fantasy place, the world of dreams, where things are beginning to turn dark. It becomes apparent that even his life is at risk, and the lives of his loved ones in the real world.
Speaking of the real world, there are strange things going on there too. Can it be that the troubles in the dream world and the real world are connected? Can it be linked to his best friend who seems to have abandoned him? What about the new boy at school? Is he a friend–or not?
It’s a great story (first in a series) that should appeal to a variety of ages, but particularly to boys who are squeamish about reading. It’s full of action with a well-constructed plot, and characters we can all identify with. It has a reasonably subtle faith element, so nonChristians should enjoy it too, and maybe even find some food for thought. I’d be happy to share this book with others.
This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, and I received the book from the publisher free of charge. To see what others are saying, take a look at the following:
The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead, Book 4 of a 5-book series, Bright Empires
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 379 pages
Genre: Multiverse fantasy with a Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults
Five books is a lot for a series. Devotees of Stephen Lawhead, like me, will of course eagerly pick up each book as it comes out. But it is necessary to do a bit of reviewing before plunging in. There’s just too much to remember.
Kit Livingstone has stumbled through the previous three books slowly getting a little wiser in his search for the Skin Map. Why do Kit and a variety of others want the map? It leads to the Spirit Well, a possible key to conquering death. And Kit has even been there, though briefly. Can he find his way back?
Kit has some loyal compatriots, starting with his former girlfriend Mina, and in this book picks up some more: Cass and Gianni. He’s also got a compatriot who betrayed him before, Haven, and her servant Giles. Will she betray Kit again?
They all decide to look for the Spirit Well using shadow lamps invented by the evil Lord Burleigh that assist traveling to other universes. But it will be a while before more lamps can secretly be made. So they wait in Prague.
But Haven can’t wait. And soon enough Burleigh finds their trail. Is it too late?
Lawhead is a masterful writer. I enjoyed his rich characters and twisty plot. I’m also enjoying all the zillions of possibilities that the multiverse concept gives. With such a long series there are many threads and characters to weave together, and Lawhead does a masterful job. As with any masterful job, there’s always a quibble: one scene didn’t seem to add to the plot in my opinion (concerning how Lord Burleigh found and hired his henchmen).
The Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr, Book 2 of The Staff and The Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 427 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy, epic scope
Errol Stone, town drunkard turned sober warrior, wonders what his place is in the wider world. At the capital city, the king has made him an earl. The king’s gorgeous niece likes him. It looks like all will be well. Except for the fact that he has powerful enemies who wish him dead.
The old king has no heir. The first king’s death two thousand years ago bought the kingdom protection from the unseen realms of spiritual darkness, but it’s about to end. Nobles jockey for influence in the power vacuum soon to come, most not believing in spiritual matters at all. And there’s Errol, who doesn’t believe in spiritual matters either, having been tortured by an angry priest when he was a child.
A prophecy says Errol could either become the next king or he could die young. Soon he finds himself sent on a hopeless quest to an Godforsaken enemy kingdom. What good can come of it?
A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Book One of The Staff and the Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 428 pages
Genre: Christian Fantasy (medieval, epic)
Errol Stone is a piteous drunk, nineteen years old, a village orphan with no past and no future. When a church messenger sends him on an errand, he discovers he’s a marked man. Assassins are shooting or hacking at him as he delivers the message to a hermit priest and then accompanies the priest and friends toward the capital city and the conclave that will soon choose a new king.
The priest and friends discover Errol has a rare talent. But they tell no one. So why do the assassins continue to hound him? And how do they know where he is, time and time again?
In a moment of sanctuary, Errol finds he has a choice: to continue as a drunk, or to take up the offer of a master with the quarter staff to teach him fighting skills. Will he or can he climb out of the pit he has dug for himself?
This book provides a great window into a new fantasy world. Well-drawn characters, a twisty plot, a faith element, and plenty of danger make this a terrific story. I heartily recommend it.
This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others on the tour are saying about this book and its sequel. Read my review of the sequel.
The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck, Book Two of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2012 by Marcher Lord Press, 470 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy
Kieran is angry at everyone. It’s easier to be angry than to have other emotions. A trained warrior, he takes orders from nobody.
God, called the One in his world, is calling him to be the next Restorer. Like Gideon, Kieran is asked to demolish idolatrous temples. Like Jonah, Kieran is asked to speak the words of the One to a land full of ruthless enemies.
But Kieran doesn’t believe.
The book encompasses Kieran’s struggle as God turns him around to face his calling. Will he do it? Can he do it? Can he accept the cost?
This book aims at an amazing transformation in its main character, one you almost never see in fiction. Here’s why: starting the main character out in such a dark place risks losing readers at the beginning of the book. Here it works because this is the second book in a series, building on previous positive and negative information given about Kieran in Book One, where he was a secondary character.
I found this to be a gripping and effective tale, speaking volumes to anyone who has ever wrestled with God.
Men, you’ll like this book. While the (highly effective) protagonist of the first book in the series was a soccer mom, possibly not appealing to male readers, the protagonist of this one is a warrior. The protagonist of the third is also a male. So, dive in, men! If you don’t, you’re missing out!