Tag Archives: middle grade

One Realm Beyond by Donita K. Paul, a Review

OneRealmBeyondOne Realm Beyond, Book 1 of the Realm Walkers series
Published 2014 by Zondervan, 414 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for ages 12 and up

Cantor D’Ahma has grown into a young man. He leaves his elderly mentors and sets off to learn how to become a Realm Walker, using the gifts he was born with. His mentors don’t tell him much about what to expect, though. Just that the first thing he needs to do is find his dragon companion, and then he needs to locate the Realm Walkers Guild for training.

Cantor stumbles immediately across a dragon, but this dragon is clumsy. Surely there’s another dragon out there better suited for realm walking, and he keeps looking. But trouble arrives fast, and it becomes apparent that he needs the help of this dragon, Bridger, as well as some other new friends to even get to the place where he’s able to learn realm walking.

But the Realm Walkers Guild, he learns, is nearly all corrupted. They give him a teacher whom he trusts, but will his training mean anything? And will he and his friends be able to confront and change the guild?

I really enjoyed reading this book, which is rich in unusual characters. They have unusual names, too, such as the female dragon Totobee-Rodolow. The book is delightful in many ways, letting us enjoy the quirks of its characters–Totobee-Rodolow’s love for shopping, and a princess who wears her whole wardrobe at the same time, re-arranging which dress is on top to suit the occasion.  The story line is not high-action and occasionally lacks tension, but the richness of the characters more than make up for these.

 

 

 

The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, a review

wardenandwolfkingThe 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.

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga is the story of the widow and three children of the King of Anniera, which was once a blessed island kingdom, now a ruin. Read my review of the first book in the series. And the second book. And the third.

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.

Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://wingfeathersaga.com

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!

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, Book One of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2012 by Waterbrook, 220 pages
Genre: Middle grade Christian historical fiction with Arthurian hints

It’s England, AD 1312. Thomas is a slave, an 18-year-old orphan raised by cruel, selfish monks. Thomas knows he has a destiny, some of it revealed to him at age 10 as his mother lay dying. He knows he’s destined to rule a kingdom that a usurper took from his family. And he’s determined to bring justice. But how can he do it by himself? He’s just an orphan with no family, no tribe, no helpers, and no faith.

He puzzles over the mysterious words his mother spoke: “My prayer was to watch you grow into a man and become one of us, one of the Immortals.” And then she died. What did she mean?

Thomas in his quest picks up some unreliable companions: a thief, a deaf-mute woman, and a former Knight Templar. Secrets abound. There are bad guys about, and good guys too. Whom can he trust? Anyone?

What do I think?

It’s a middle grade story, meaning it’s briefly told. I’d love more description and so on, but for the intended reader, it’s a good book, not too long. The characters are well sketched and consistent, and the settings are detailed enough to be visualized. There’s a good story arc , and there is a faith element in the book which I expect to get stronger in the sequels as Thomas learns more about God.  In short, it’s a very good book for middle grade readers. It even mentions Merlin and King Arthur, topics which I hope come to the fore in the next books.

As it happens, this book has a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions in it. One of them really nags at me though. Why does Thomas decide to rescue the knight who is about to be hanged near the beginning of the book? Did his mother predict the hanging and tell him to be there? And it’s odd that she’s an Immortal who died. Immortal seems like a funny name for a mortal, if you ask me.  I suppose these questions will eventually be answered later in the series, and so I’ll be happy to read more.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.  Check out what the others are saying, and come back tomorrow for a review of the sequel!

Author Website – http://www.sigmundbrouwer.com/
*Participants’ links
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Eve Nielsen
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler

Children of Angels – a tween fantasy take on angel genes

Today we are hearing from author Kathryn Dahlstrom.

Genesis 6: 4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them; they were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

For me, this intriguing and mysterious Bible verse set up a fantasy concept that I ran with: what if the genes of the Nephilim resurfaced in a kid of today? What if he suddenly developed angel powers?  What if he saw angels and demons?

The concept led to my novel for readers aged ten and up—Children of Angels, book one of the New Nephilim series published by WinePress Publishing.  Synopsis: a young teen, shocked to learn he’s half angel, must battle human and demonic forces out to destroy him for proving that God is real.

Mind you, I’m not saying that the ancient Nephilim had angel powers.  Their name means “fallen ones” which is an apt description of them, I think.  The Bible describes them as giant-sized in Numbers 13 and leaves it at that.  My make-believe premise is this: what if their genetic material was concentrated enough to produce angel traits in a modern person?  (How concentrated half-angel genes wind up in my characters is part of the story’s mystery.  I hate spoilers so I’ll practice the Golden Rule by doing to blog readers as I would have them do to me.)

I’m out to give readers the truth of Jesus’ love and power within the fun of fantasy.  My main character isn’t a kid with all things perfect from his parents to the SUV.  Rather, his dad is in prison, his mom barely scrapes by, and he’s picked on in school.  He thrills over his newfound angel powers—flying is the best—but winds up attacked by demons (the ultimate bullies) in his middle school hallways.  When the Lord of Hosts calls him to be a Battle Leader of Angels, he balks.  Can God really turn a loser into a warrior?

I’m writing Book Two of the series right now.  Meanwhile, a faith-based film producer is considering Children of Angels for a future project!  It has a long road to go from book to film, but his very thinking about it is enough of a miracle for now.

I’m also the author of a six-book fiction series called the Good News Club.  As a screenwriter, I’ve had two screenplays optioned by film companies.  Further, my producer friend has asked me to adapt his family fantasy script into a novel.  The project will be filmed this summer.

So: do you think God can turn a loser into a warrior?  Leave your comments here.

The Brueggen Stones by S.G. Byrd, a review

The Brueggen Stones by S. G. Byrd, Book 1 of the Tarth Series trilogy
Published 2007 by Oak Tara, 163 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade

Lynn graduates from high school and takes a job in a Chicago department store. But she falls, hits her head on the sidewalk, and finds herself bumped into another world: Tarth, where the trees are blue and the water is green, and humans like herself struggle against a race of “root people” led by a sorcerer.

The humans care for Lynn as she catches every disease their children ever get, and she finally is able to start learning their language. A warrior, Chell, takes the time to teach her. Finally she starts to feel comfortable in this world.

Soon enough Lynn realizes why Keshua (Jesus) apparently has brought her to this world. There’s a rhyme about victory over the sorcerer using some “brueggen stones” that only she, an outlander, could fulfill. But will she be able to do it? And how does she feel about this fellow Chell, anyway?

What do I think?

This book, basically self published, doesn’t meet current conventional publisher requirements for the writer’s craft in some ways. However, it does tell a good story and manages to keep the ball rolling, pages turning. It provides a good Christian witness for middle grade readers, too. I wouldn’t dismiss it!

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs
Book 2 of the Legends of Karac Tor
Published 2011 by Living Ink Books (AMG Publishers), 411 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade and up

Corus the Champion starts right where the previous book, The Book of Names, left off. I had read The Book of Names last year, so I plowed into Corus the Champion. Big mistake. I soon got confused, not remembering details, and had to backtrack and re-read Book 1.  Book 2 does not stand by itself! But it does contain the story arc of an individual, Corus.

Corus had been mentioned in Book 1 several times as the missing champion, the person betrayed by one of the major characters, Sorge, a monk. But I get ahead of myself. In Book 1, four boys from Missouri get four invitations from four ravens. These invitations, dropped at the feet of the two older ones in the vicinity of a weird old stone arch, talk about coming to the Hidden Lands.

In Book 1, the older two boys, Hadyn and Ewan, crawl through the arch at dawn and find themselves in Karac Tor, the Hidden Lands. They help the faithful in the land defeat a sorceress. But she’s not the root of the evil–she’s human. The root is Kr’Nunos, a Satan-like figure. Then the two younger boys, twins Gabe and Garrett, crawl through the stone arch into the Hidden Lands, clutching their invitations, and the story gets vastly more complicated. This is the start of Book 2.

The humans landing in Karac Tor arrive with gifts that they didn’t have back on earth. Hadyn can control rope and metal, a useful skill if you’re tied up or locked up. Ewan can play hypnotic music on his flute. Gabe can speak to birds. And Garrett finds himself learning all kinds of new things from the person we know as Merlin, a “merling” or visionary from Karac Tor named Tal Yssen (Taliesin). They find themselves stepping into the sequel to the Arthurian legend. It’s the story that concerns what happened to the dying King Arthur, whisked away to Avalon. Soon Ewan is asked to give up his gift to save his friends. Will he do it?

And what of Corus? He’s the Champion of Karac Tor, betrayed by his best friend Sorge 20 years before over a woman (the defeated sorceress). He was held captive 13 years by the Fey, cold and calculating fairies, who then sold him to the devil Kr’Nunos. Since then he’s been in torment, wanting to die but held to life by the fact that he’s the Champion, and he has no heir. Sorge learns Corus is still alive and determines to rescue him, single-handedly if need be. But does Corus want to be rescued?

And how about Kr’Nunos’ plan to take over Karak Tor with zombie dirt monsters? It certainly looks like he’s going to win.

What do I think?

Pros: It’s a large, wild story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The four brothers have distinctly different personalities that come through to the reader. Sorge, another main character, also is refreshingly real, a sinner who has repented and is determined to right the wrong he did, whether it kills him or not.

There’s a strong Christian faith element woven in, and plenty of heroism and brave deeds. It’s got lots of battles in it, so it’s a book that should very much appeal to boys, but has touches that will appeal to girls too.

Cons: Being a large, wild story, it was occasionally confusing to me. This book has numerous points of view. Each of the four brothers from Earth (Hadyn, Ewan, Gabe and Garrett) has a story and point of view. Then there are occasional chapters with other points of view: Corus, Sorge, Kr’Nunos, Brodan, Reggie (for a total of nine) and also once in a while an omniscient point of view.

I think would be best to read this book when you don’t have to put it down very often. That’s my plan for the next book, which I very much want to read.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. To see what others are saying, follow these links:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Author’s Web site  – http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?Itemid=49&id=19&option=com_content&task=view

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.

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson, a review

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson
Book 3 of the 4-book Wingfeather Saga
Published 2011 by Rabbit Room Press, 348 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, age 10 and up

Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga tells the tale of the widow and three children of the King of Anniera, a blessed island kingdom overwhelmed nine years before by the dreaded fangs of Dang.

Read my review of the first book in the series. And the second book.

We learned in the second book that the fangs, which look like beast-humans, are actually recycled humans. In fact, the bad guys nearly succeeding in turning young Kalmar Wingfeather, the 11-year-old next king of Anniera, into a wolfish fang. He was rescued, but not in time. So he’s not quite a fang, but not quite human either. He looks a lot like a wolf, in fact.

Now the Wingfeather family is fleeing for refuge across the ocean to the Green Hollows, original home of their mother. The folk of the Hollows live in fear of the neighboring fangs, but somehow have managed to stay free, thanks to a mechanical barrier in their harbor and natural barriers at the edges of their lands. Because Kalmar looks like a fang, the Wingfeathers don’t get a welcome.  But because the mother agrees to take any punishment that Kalmar earns alongside Kalmar, the Green Hollows grudgingly lets them stay.

In this hostile land, will Kalmar be able to behave himself, or will he push the tolerance of the Hollows folk too far? And what of the monster that lurks at their house?

What do I think?

The Wingfeather series is getting better and better with each book, in my opinion. The series with this book has moved its center from humor toward serious themes. The book is fast-paced and contains lovable characters and great plot twists. Heroic deeds make it an emotional read, too. And it’s so cool to have such a flawed young hero as Kalmar. The book has a solid Christian foundation, a creator God who loves his people. You’ll love this book. I did.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour. Please take some time and look at what others are saying about this same book, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Cynthia Dyer
Amber French
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
Joan Nienhuis
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Series Web site – http://www.WingfeatherSaga.com/
Author’s Web site – http://www.andrew-peterson.com/