Tag Archives: Fantasy

A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr, a review

adrawofkingsA Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr, Book 3 of The Staff and the Sword trilogy
Published 2014 by Bethany House, 457 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy, suitable for teen and up

Errol Stone, the everyman hero, has twice saved the ungrateful kingdom of Erinon. When he returns from his most recent mission, jailers await him and his friends. A usurper has grabbed the vacant throne.  Who can now rescue them from the dungeon?

The last king has just died childless. Little-known prophetic words identify Errol and his military colleague Liam, both orphans from the same village, as candidates for the next king. Of the two, one will die to save the realm. And one will be king. Each believes he will be the one to die.

This complex tale follows story threads involving not only Errol, but Adora (the last princess) and Martin (a churchman) in their separate quests as they all seek to beat back hordes of invading enemies and the demon-animated giant predators that seem unconquerable.

A strong faith element infuses this story.  Many well-drawn characters, plenty of action, and agonizing choices fill the rich story tapestry. An unexpected ending tops it all off. I highly recommend you read this epic work!

This is part of the CSFF Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying about this book:
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Author Website – http://patrickwcarr.com/

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, a review

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, Book 1 of the Toch Island Chronicles
Published 2011 by Splashdown Books, 294 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview

Angel has no idea who her parents are or what her true name is.  She lives in Florida with a foster family who found her wandering in the woods without her memory at the age of six. Now she’s fourteen, and strange things are starting to happen.

She takes a shine to a young man, Gregor, a stranger to her. She realizes he has answers about who she is, and she decides to go with him back to his home. She finds this is her birthplace, Toch Island, a magical place near Ireland. She learns she has magical powers, like others from the island, and Gregor teaches her to use them.

Her parents are off searching for her in Germany, and they’re also searching for the man who tried to kill her when she was six in order to steal her magic powers.

This man is still trying to kill her, the reader learns amid bizarre happenings on and near Gregor’s farm. No one knows who the villain is, and he likes it that way.

Can Angel solve the riddle of a prophecy? Will she live to see her parents again? And will Angel learn who the would-be killer is?

This student-wizard tale is slow-moving in some spots, but provides a pleasing whodunit with some great plot twists and novel characters. I like the story world of the island, full of simple townsfolk, tame dog-like dragons, and dotty professors.

The faith element in this story lies in the deep background. Heckenbach, a Christian, writes for the secular market. In this tale, prophecy works. Things don’t happen randomly, though the bad guy would have us believe so.

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner, a review

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner, Book 1 of The Keepers Trilogy
Published 2010 by Delacorte Press, 312 pages
Genre: Secular middle-grade fantasy

Goldie is protected, so much that she has never been in any kind of danger, never petted a dog, never seen a snake, and … never been off a leash. She lives in a city, Jewel, which is under the heavy “protection” of some super-controllers. It’s a dire situation — when she responds to an emergency and runs away, her parents are thrown into prison.

There’s a strange museum in this city that’s full of shifting rooms and staircases. It’s a terrifying place, hiding plague and murder, unless you’re one of its keepers. And Goldie finds that she is called to be one of its keepers, keeping the city of Jewel safe from the horrors.

Meanwhile, there’s a power-hungry man who wants control of Jewel so badly that he’s willing to do anything–including unleash the horrors.  Can Goldie and her friend Toadspit stop him?

This book is stuffed with imaginative constructions.  Although the museum of horrors might sound terrifying, it doesn’t come off that way because Goldie isn’t scared, at least most of the time, following her training by the other museum keepers. After all, she has some new skills, including sneaking around in plain sight without being seen. This book has no faith element that a Christian would grab onto, but it does have moral lessons, such as courage in the face of injustice, and the virtue of being bold. I do recommend this book. I enjoyed reading it.

The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes, a review

The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes, Book One of the Celestine Chronicles
Published 2012 by Tanglewood Press, 347 pages
Genre: Middle grade fantasy, not specifically Christian

Marcus Frye, 14-year-old orphan apprentice to the magician Master Zyll, has learned a bit of magic that sometimes works. Now his town is sending him and the other five boys his age on a quest as their coming-of-age rite. They’re to head off through the woods across the large island and find the Rock of Ivanore. Problem is, none of them knows what it is or where it is.

The stakes are high: those who come back with honor will live in honor, and those who come back in disgrace will have to work menial jobs the rest of their lives. Will Marcus find courage within himself, or cowardice? Will he work with the other boys, or against them?  Once he makes a promise to an apparent enemy, will he keep his word? Will he have compassion? And how can he tell who his friends are?

What do I think?

Marcus moves through a moral minefield on his way to discover the Rock. This book, for kids aged 8 and up, is sure to provoke some family discussions about honesty and open-mindedness to people who look different. It would make a great read-aloud. While it doesn’t have an explicit faith component, it certainly does not contradict or undermine the Christian faith. It’s a great story with a surprise ending, carefully plotted with increasing suspense and some good characters. If you have boys who are reluctant readers, give them this book!

A Storm in Tormay by Christopher Bunn, a review

A Storm in Tormay by Christopher Bunn, a compilation of the Tormay trilogy: The Hawk and His Boy, The Shadow at the Gate, and The Wicked Day.
Self-published in 2010, 738 pages
Genre: Fantasy, suitable for teens and up

A young apprentice thief is given the task of stealing an item from a house guarded, or warded, by magic. Jute has got a natural talent for detecting the “wards” that protect the house, and he manages to steal the item and give it to the man who ordered it. But not before he disobeys instruction and opens the box. He can’t help himself somehow. And so the beautiful dagger inside it draws blood from his finger.

As a result, a variety of people suddenly want him dead or captured. Can he stay ahead of them? How can he outwit the wizard and the various collection of bad guys? Will the new powers he’s developing help him or betray him?

What do I think?

This book is not in the genre I normally enjoy, Christian fantasy. There seems to be a deity who set the world in motion and created and assigned four guardians to protect it, but there’s no benevolent God in charge, and the forces of evil at times seem overwhelming.

What’s the rating? There are many violent scenes but no sex.

That said, I found the book to be well written. This is a sprawling, page-turner story with a huge cast of characters, each one well drawn. It reminds me a bit of Avatar, the Last Airbender–I wonder whether the author got some inspiration from that, as the boy Jute discovers he has become one of the four guardians, the one in charge of air (as opposed to earth, water, and fire), and slowly grows into his powers. I suspect that fans of secular fantasy will enjoy this book.

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Book 3 of Bright Empires series
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 377 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy for teens and up

Lawhead’s latest book is number three in a sprawling five-book series. To date, there have been two protagonists and one main villain. This book adds another protagonist, Cass, and detail on another villain, Douglas. All of them are seeking the mystery pointed to in the coded Skin Map: the Spirit Well, something like a Fountain of Youth.

You see, the earth is covered with lines of energy along its surface. When one walks at a certain speed at a certain time of day along a particular ley line, it may transport you to an alternate version of our universe, possibly in a very different era, where many things are the same, but some things may be different. It’s possible to consistently hop from say present day to a version of 1890s London and back again, for example, or on from there to many places and times. So a map would be very useful, wouldn’t it?

The main protagonist Kit, fleeing from the villain Burleigh, takes a hop along a ley line near Prague. He unexpectedly finds himself marooned in the Stone Age with hairy men who hardly speak. But their telepathic skills are far above his, and he learns to love living with them. Eventually Kit mysteriously stumbles on the way from there to the Spirit Well. But how can he leave the Stone Age to find his friends and report the discovery? His ley line is no longer active. And does he even want to leave? Here he has a clan who somehow don’t experience dissension, aggression, backbiting, or any of the other petty sins of humans. And they’ve adopted him.

Meanwhile, Cass, a 25-year-old archaeologist, is chasing a native American employee down an Arizona canyon when she finds herself whisked away to a desert landscape someplace else. The native American has gone there too; he shows her how to quickly walk the ley line to return to Arizona. Now she’s hooked: what are the possibilities here? From the canyon she tries to make another leap and finds herself somehow transported not to the desert she expected, but to Damascus where she finds other ley travelers. They are all growing old, and they desperately need a young person like her to continue their quest. Does she want to risk her life to help them find Kit and the Skin Map? Or does she want to return to her safe archeologist life?

Douglas Flinders-Petrie is the great-grandson of the man who had the Skin Map tatooed on himself, Arthur Flinders-Petrie. Nevertheless he is somehow reduced to thieving and conniving to find the pieces of the map. And he spends years perfecting a plan to return in time and deceive medieval intellectual Roger Bacon into helping him decode the map. Will Douglas succeed?

What do I think?

Lawhead, of course, is a master of characterization and detail. He travels to the locales he describes, providing a wonderful authetic feel. His bad guys are very very bad, and his young clueless protagonist, Kit, is very very clueless. I am really enjoying reading this tale.

This particular book, The Spirit Well, is basically the middle of an epic tale. Each of the three story arcs described above are included in this book, so there’s a bit of closure. But mostly this book points you on to the next books by picking up and weaving a number of story threads, including several more than the three I described above.

The faith element? Lawhead is a Christian, but he doesn’t make it obvious. Only in this third book is there a discussion among characters in one scene about the dark and light spiritual forces at work in the struggle over finding the map. Meanwhile, in this and previous books in the series there are odd apparent coincidences that rescue the characters and lead them toward the Spirit Well unawares. In short, this book should be very readable by non-Christians who might be given a bit of food for thought, and also by Christians.

Since Lawhead writes at the rate of one book per year, we’ll have to wait two years to find out how it all ends. But it will be worth the wait.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog tour. Please check out what others are saying too:

Jim Armstrong
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Dona Watson
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Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/StephenRLawhead

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, a review

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, Book Two of the Angaleon Circle
Published 2012 by Waterbrook Multnomah, 233 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/supernatural, suitable for teens and up

Trevin’s a commoner who’s in love with a girl who turned out to be a princess. Now that she’s claimed her rightful place, the prince of the neighboring kingdom has arrived to seek her hand and an alliance. The king, wanting peace, is all ears. But instead of protecting his ladylove, Trevin must head out on a quest to find missing knights and missing magical harps. How can he stand to leave his beloved vulnerable to the advances of this jerk?

But leave her he must, or he’s no knight. The world has been cut off from heaven. Angels are stranded here, and souls of the dead are stuck here too–in the same kingdom of Dregmoor that the prince comes from. The earth sickens. If Trevin can find the harps and give them to Princess Melaia before the upcoming alignment of stars, she is supposed to be able to fix the stairway to heaven, according to prophecy.

The missing knights–do the Dregmoorians have something to do with that too? How will Trevin find them and release them?

What do I think?

Trevin is a hero with feet of clay, a past that comes back to haunt him again and again. It’s refreshing to see him working to overcome his own worst enemy, himself.  He figures out he’s half angel near the beginning of the book, but the people who raised him died when he was young, and he never got a chance to ask them any questions. Many surprising facts about his identity keep coming out as the book rolls forward. It’s refreshing to see a hero who struggles with guilt and temptation just as we struggle.

Any Christian element of the story is in the deep background. This book is clearly intended to appeal to nonChristians as well as to Christians. The author has a ringing statement of faith on her website, so it’s clear she is a Christian. And who better to sate the curiosity of nonChristians about angels than a Christian?

Starting with Book 2 in a series may seem foolish, but I did it, and it worked out okay. There was a compelling story at the beginning of the book, told without referring to the previous story. And the previous story was summarized in snippets throughout the book, providing the needed background without long boring passages.

So, read this book!

In conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.

Author’s Web sitehttp://www.karynhenleyfiction.com/Karyn_Henley_Fiction/welcome.html
Author Bloghttp://www.maybeso.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Karyn-Henley/140411189331787?v=wall

Please check out what others on the tour are saying about this book.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Nissa
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock, a review

Light of Eidon by Karen Hancock, first in the Legends of the Guardian King series
Published 2003 by Bethany House, 433 pages
Genre: Christian epic fantasy, for young adult and adult

Abramm is calling himself Brother Eldrin, and all he wants is to be left alone by his family. But his family isn’t happy about it, not the least because it’s the royal family, and he’s now second in line to the throne.

Soon Abramm discovers that the holy orders that have been his life for the past eight years are a front for evil people who want to use him as a puppet. When he doesn’t cooperate, he’s sold into slavery. A sniveling weakling, he won’t last long at the oars. Or will he? Does Abramm find enough courage to persevere and even prevail? And how about his twin sister Carissa, trying to find and rescue him? Is there any hope for her quest?

I found this book to be full of great characters, broad conflicts, very evil bad guys, and the light of the Lord (Eidon). It’s a great read for lovers of Christian fantasy. Plus, it’s free as an ebook on Kindle. And it’s the first of a series, so there’s more!

Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Light-Eidon-Legends-Guardian-King-ebook/dp/B005UFURVW/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

Divine Summons (Windrider Saga Book 1) by Rebecca P. Minor, a review

Divine Summons (Windrider Saga Book 1) by Rebecca P. Minor Published by Diminished Media Group, 2011 Currently available only as an ebook (99 cents on Amazon or B&N) Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for young adults and adults Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast, an elvish warrior, nearly loses his life rescuing a chalice from the enemy, a group of dragons who practice sorcery and demon worship. But a despised half-elf who styles herself a prophetess resuscitates him.

Soon Vinyanel finds out that the king has assigned her as his teacher in spiritual matters, though Vinyanel couldn’t care less about such things. But he does love the massive silver dragon who’s now his mount and companion.Can Vinyanel put aside his habits and pride enough to learn what he needs to learn?

What do I think? I enjoyed this book–it was full of cliffhangers and action, definitely hard to put down. Unique personalities conflicted with each other’s quirks. It was very well plotted and characterized. It could have been improved in two ways, however. The backdrop story was never explained, leaving me wondering. And in some cases, the setting details were too spare, and I was having trouble imagining a scene taking place as she described.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. You’re in for a thrilling evening! And I’ll love to read the next book. Note: the next book is now out! A Greater Strength can also be found on Amazon Kindle or at Barnes and Noble.

The Aedyn Chronicles by Alister McGrath, a review

The Aedyn Chronicles, three books by Alister McGrath: Chosen Ones (2010), Flight of the Outcasts (2010), and Darkness Shall Fall (2011)
Published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan
Genre: Middle grade and up, fantasy/allegory

A well-known theologian who lives in Oxford, England, writes a series of fantasy books for kids with engaging plots and rock-solid underlying teaching. Sound familiar?

Alister McGrath’s tales do have some similarities to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales. But there are some delightful differences too. Let’s find out more.

The Aedyn Chronicles start with a young English schoolgirl, Julia, and her older brother Peter. They are drawn to a fountain in the mysterious ancient garden of the house in Oxford where they are guests. They step into the water and find themselves in another world, on a beach. This world is Aedyn, where the people have been conquered. The first book, Chosen Ones, traces Peter and Julia’s challenge to help the people of Aedyn, finding courage they didn’t now they had, as well as learning of the Lord of Hosts who brought them there to confront the minions of the shadow.

In the second book, Flight of the Outcasts, Peter and Julia return to Aedyn, this time accidentally followed by their bratty stepsister Louisa. They find Aedyn deserted, and soon make their way to the island to the north where the people of Aedyn have been transported and enslaved. Louisa soon displays some unusual qualities, becoming a healer in this awful place, at the foot of a volcano, where inhuman giants act as overseers.  Louisa remembers a rhyme her mother taught her; in this place, it’s a prophecy about a task. Can they lead a slave rebellion and do the task?

The third book, Darkness Shall Fall, continues the story in the second book. The slaves have successfully rebelled, but things are still terribly wrong. The power of the shadow is growing, not shrinking. The former slaves are in hiding, yearning to return to their island, Aedyn, but not knowing how to get there. Peter, Julia, and Louisa don’t know what to do.

A fair stranger, Peras, says he was sent by the Lord of Hosts and offers to lead them all to Aedyn, starting with 10 men. Peter is overjoyed. But soon he starts to wonder.  Should he be trusting this man?

Julia faces her fears and retrieves the item they need to face the shadow, according to the prophecy. And the story unfolds with grace and truth.

What do I think?

It’s natural to compare this set of books to the Narnia tales. It isn’t the Narnia tales, so we should just enjoy it for what it is. It has engaging young characters who risk their lives to help others, and who learn to trust the unseen Lord of Hosts to save and heal. Plenty of Biblical themes are touched on, good for discussion if reading aloud.

But what I most liked about this book was the vision of the author for healing of Peter, Julia, and Louisa’s blended dysfunctional family in our world. It would be so easy for an author to invent characters who have hangups of one kind or another because of something their parents did or didn’t do, and then not expect to heal the situation. But McGrath has a wonderful vision for complete healing.