Category Archives: Reviews

The Resurrection by Mike Duran, a review

The Resurrection by Mike Duran
Published 2011 by Realms Press, 307 pages
Genre: Christian suspense with paranormal elements

There’s a struggle going on in the hearts of the citizens of Stonetree, a coastal California town. For decades, the devil has been winning as New Age businesses take over the downtown and church attendance dwindles. And there are rumors about a hanging 90 years before. A murder, resulting in a curse? Others in the town have gone missing recently.

Ruby Case, a hesitant housewife with a limp, hardly seems like a likely agent for change. First she gets a vision of a new, green leaf on the enormous dead tree that broods over the town from a clifftop. Then she prays for mercy for a dead boy at his funeral, and he comes back to life, astonishing her and the town.

Rev. Ian Clark is Ruby’s humble and confused new pastor at her moribund church, where there are only three who want to be in a prayer group, and where many–including Ruby’s husband–have sensed hypocrisy and left.  In his church office, Clark gets regular and mystifying visits from what seems to be the ghost of a puzzled young man.

Clark’s ex-wife calls him and tells him she senses he is in danger.  He is, it turns out, a marked man. And Ruby’s destiny may be defined by an old prophecy as well, one that seems to foretell her death.  Are both of them doomed to die to appease the evil spirits poisoning their town?

This story has memorable characters. It’s well told. There are plenty of reasons to keep turning the pages. In short, it’s a good book.

Yet, when I had finished it, I wasn’t fully satisfied. I hadn’t gotten a real sense of the demons driving the story. Instead, the story focuses on their minions, the human bad guys.  Also, the dead tree was too static a vision to be arresting to me, as it was to the character who experienced it. So for once, I, the thin-skinned reader, was looking for something a little scarier.

But I suppose if the story had focused on the demons, that would have knocked it into a different genre, horror, and I never would have picked it up because it would have been too scary.

I liked the author’s use of “the least of these”–a hesitant housewife and a cowardly pastor–as the Lord’s instruments for change. God does that, using the humble and weak for great ends. Read this book. I think you’ll like it.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. I received a free copy of the book for this post. See what others on the tour are saying:

Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Author’s website: Mike Duran at http://mikeduran.com/

Dragons of the Valley by Donita K. Paul, a review

Dragons of the Valley by Donita K. Paul
Published 2010 by Waterbrook Press, 370 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade/young adult

This book is a sequel to Paul’s recent book The Vanishing Sculptor. However, I think Dragons of the Valley probably stands alone pretty well, because enough explanation is added.

Tipper, the king’s granddaughter, is trying to help save the kingdom of Chiril from the neighboring country to the north. At first these northerners infiltrate and cause lots of trouble, but the Chiril king makes very poor decisions, and pretty soon the trouble-makers are invading.

There’s a very troubling ally of the bad guys called the Grawl. In a world with 14 races, this guy is a cross-breed and has all kinds of abilities that others don’t have. Consequently he is a very formidable assassin, getting rid of Chiril’s magistrates and other officials one by one. After a while the country hardly functions.

Now the Grawl targets Wizard Fenworth, a key character who has appeared in several of Paul’s novels.  Will the Grawl be able to kill the wizard? What about the Grawl’s other targets, the wonderful, mindspeaking, rideable dragons?

Tipper takes up her first assignment, to confiscate a statue and take off on a quest, hiding it in her belongings.  Dealing with various difficulties, she moves from disbelief toward faith in Wulder, the name for Jehovah God in this world. More assignments test her: is she the selfish teen princess, or the maturing future queen?

And don’t forget Bealmondore, the foppish artist. Much to his surprise, the wizard gives him a marvelous sword that teaches him swordsmanship. After Bealmondore gives his life to Wulder, will he be inspired to heroic deeds?

What do I think?

Some of the characters have amusing cartoonish characteristics: Tipper’s mother suffers from foggy brain, useful for confusing the bad guys. Wizard Fenworth continually drops lizards and mice from his clothing whenever he shakes it out. Meanwhile, the characters that undergo change, Tipper and Bealomondore, are believable and well drawn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. You will too.

Check out my review of the previous book in the series here:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2009/09/21/the-vanishing-sculptor-by-donita-k-paul-a-review/

This is part of the CSFF Blog Tour. To see what others are saying about this book, check here:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Keanan Brand
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Amy Cruson
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Amber French
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Dave Wilson

Author’s web site – http://www.donitakpaul.com/
Author’s blog – http://dragonbloggin.blogspot.com/

The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin, a review

The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin
Published 2010 by AMG Publishers, 272 pages
Genre: fantasy/allegory

“A young blacksmith must undertake a perilous journey to the four ends of the world to rescue his wife, who is held captive by the Moon. Along the way, he befriends a powerful wolf who encourages, protects, and ultimately sacrifices his life to save his human friend. A stirring allegory of God’s love in classic fairy tale tradition.”  This is the short summary of the book used for publicity, and it’s a good summary, except for the God part.

The tale is very well told. Lakin has masterful control of the writing craft, developing her characters and drawing the reader to see the world through their eyes.  Her protagonist, Joran, lives in a world where the line blurs between waking and dreaming. “Joran’s wife, Charris, is trapped in a dream that is manifested and upheld by Joran’s anger.” (from C.S. Lakin’s blog) His wife is taken captive by a nightmare, and he is tasked with traveling to the four ends of a flat earth to be able to rescue her. Joran is no hero-type. He bumbles, stumbles, and misunderstands situations, and in fact he needs no end of rescuing himself. Joran’s rescuing is provided by a large white wolf who becomes his traveling companion, and whom Joran can communicate with in thought. The wolf often spouts wise sayings from a variety of sources.  As the story progresses, Joran gains courage.

What do I think?

I guess I am comfortable calling this a fairy tale, which is what the author calls it. It definitely has fairy tale elements.The wife was kidnapped by the Moon; the Moon is a person living in a strange little house; the hero has task to complete to free his wife; and so on.  But it isn’t told in classic fairy tale fashion; it is shown, as a modern novel is. That’s good. It’s very readable.

However, I don’t care for the blurred line between waking and dreaming. I want my fantasy heroes to be dealing with predictable events, not nightmares. I found the dreaming in waking and waking in dreaming to be too unsettling.

There’s another issue too. Actually it’s not with the book but with what the author says about it. The author calls the book “A stirring allegory of God’s love in classic fairy tale tradition.” The wolf, who gives his life for Joran, is the root of the allegory. But this wolf is no Christ figure for me. It’s behaves like a human, dressed as a wolf. In the author’s words, “a ponderous, funny, exasperating wolf.” Not a majestic, holy God who is reaching out to me with nail-pierced hands.

Examining C.S. Lakin’s blog, it’s clear to me that she and I have different ideas of God. For me, Jesus is more like Aslan, C.S. Lewis’s Christ-figure in the Narnia tales. For Lakin, Jesus is more like her dog, always with her, only better.

“… I had a problem with Aslan, the lion. A big problem.

“OK, we know he’s not a tame lion, but he also rarely shows up in all the books of the series. He makes an occasional appearance, and yes, he does give his mortal life to save humanity. That’s powerful. That’s essential. But I felt it lacking, for the God I know isn’t like that. He is, well, more like my dog, but better. I saw God as someone who stayed right by my side–through trials and joys, through fears and confusion. Watching over my while I sleep, keeping me fed and warm, and teaching me all along the way the things I need to know, even things I really don’t want to know about myself. So that is Ruyah, my wolf.” For her, Jesus is a teacher and provider, always there.

This wolf as Jesus just doesn’t resonate with me. Jesus for me is so much bigger than this wolf. More like Aslan.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying too:
Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Earthbow by Sherry Thompson, a review

Earthbow, The Second of the Narentan Tumults, by Sherry Thompson
Published 2010 by Gryphonwood Press, 2 volumes each about 250 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for young adult and adult

Sherry Thompson’s earlier work in this series, Seabird, set a very high standard.  Earthbow continues the tradition and actually expands it.

This story takes place in another world called Narenta. An “outworlder” from Earth is brought there to spearhead deliverance from the evil lord who is taking over the state of Latimin. This outworlder, Xander, is the brother of the outworlder from Seabird, Cara. Like Cara, Xander starts out bewildered and self-centered.

This book features a highly complex plot with several subplots and and plenty of well-drawn and believable characters. Harone, a young wizard initiate (one of the good guys), brings Xander into Latimin from the neighboring country and then sets out on a strange mission: to convince at least one of the extremely evil powerful sorcerers, imprisoned for ages by Alphesis (Jesus), to turn to the light.

Another subplot revolves around a young knight, Coris, who starts out a man-at-arms. He works in the guard for Cenoc, one of the chiefs in Latimin. Coris realizes that Cenoc is torturing innocents, asking Coris to break his noble vows to aid weaker folks. So he flees Cenoc. Meanwhile, Cenoc is gathering evil power to himself and turning into the extremely awful chief bad guy of the book.

And of course Xander, with his strange weapon the Earthbow, which Alphesis has given him. How does it work? It’s a bow, the kind that shoots bows and arrows, and Xander learns to do a bit of shooting with it. It also sings to him. Part of Xander’s assignment is to get to know and love the trees, other plants, and animals of the forests of Latimin. How does that figure into all this?

Cenoc, gathering power like a hurricane, extorts cooperation from the Pannians who look like something with tentacles and eye stalks. The Pannians become Cenoc’s troops, and things look very bad for the good guys. These Pannians are sorcerers, so any normal good guy who doesn’t have a wizard with him for protection is dead.

What do I think?

I think this is a wonderful book. Sherry Thompson does a great job of pulling the reader into the character’s emotions, pulling the reader through a tale that’s massive in scope. The book is a wonderful Christian witness as well, with Alphesis (Jesus) exerting a commanding but loving presence even when unseen. I vote that Sherry Thompson get a regular publisher, rather than an idie publisher, (and a few minor edits) and become more widely known. She deserves to be famous.

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers, a review

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers
Published 2010 by Waterbrook, 305 pages
Genre: middle grade/young adult Christian fantasy

The main fantastic element in this Mark Twain-ish book is the setting. The setting is an island somewhere that sounds like a part of the American South. There cattle drovers and farmers work for their wages and then get fleeced by flim flam operators.  It seems less like fantasy to me than like supreme inventiveness.

By far the best thing about this book is the voice of the narrator, Grady.  He’s an orphan who sounds a lot like Huck Finn. Poor Grady has absolutely no idea what his true origin is, since he can’t trust the charlatan Floyd who raised him to tell the truth. The two of them tour the island with one confidence scheme after another, and some of the time Grady wishes he had a family and a village of his own to live in.

The first and most successful confidence scheme involved Grady pretending to be one of the Feechie folk, and charging admission to see him. But the islanders have stopped believing that the Feechie folk exist, so the lucrative scheme doesn’t work any more.  Grady and Floyd set out to make them fear the Feechie in order to revive the scam. That’s when things get more interesting. Feechie folk, by the way, are skinny little people who may or may not live in the marshes. Inciting Feechie fear involves inventing wind-powered moaning machines, and so on. A scare is born! It’s hilarious how gullible these simple folk are.

What do I think?

I am delighted with the character Grady, the orphan who doesn’t know what to think about himself.  He shares more than a voice with Huck Finn, also basically an orphan.  But the book lacked overarching suspense in the middle, as the tale went from obstacle to obstacle. The ending was satisfying and surprising, and I won’t tell you what it is!

The Christian plot points involve praying for help and receiving it, without mentioning who is prayed to.  Honesty is a big theme for Grady, who has been taught to lie but who manages to have an honest heart anyway. Your kids will enjoy this book.

The author, Jonathan Rogers, invited people to create and submit Youtube videos on the subject of Feechies, and he posted them on his blog. Inventive folks created all kinds of new scary characteristics for Feechies in these videos. Take a look.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying in the next three days on this book:

Sally Apokedak
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Katie Hart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
SarahFlan
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead, a review

skinmapThe Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead
Published 2010 by Thomas Nelson, 398 pages
Genre: Fantasy, suitable for adults and teens

Stephen Lawhead starts off his new Bright Empires series with this book, The Skin Map. The title refers to a grisly artifact: a parchment made from the skin of a man. This man was an experienced time/space traveler across alternate universes who had his torso tatooed with markings that served as a map in case he would get lost. (I was put off by the grisly part, but decided to forge ahead anyway, and I am very glad I did. There was nothing gory about this book.)

An alternate universe, by the way, is spawned by decisions made differently at a key point in history. For example, two of the characters go back to 1600s London and purposefully wake someone up so as to prevent the Great Fire of London. So from that point on, history is different in that universe.

The alternate universes idea is a favorite of physicist Stephen Hawkings, and it has made its way into literature before, most notably in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and following books. Pullman argues that God is either dead or irrelevant, so I, a Christian, found reading those books the opposite of edifying. Lawhead, on the other hand, is a Christian, though his books these days are subtle about their underlying worldview. I did enjoy reading this book.

Many fantasy books start with the protagonist living a humdrum existence. Then the protagonist finds himself  swept into an alternate fantasy world somehow. In The Skin Map, the main characters find themselves swept not into a fantasy universe, but into medieval Europe in the early 1600s.

Kit Livingstone is a young contemporary Londoner leading a boring life, trying to please a boring girlfriend, when he suddenly meets his great-grandfather in an alley. His great-grandfather,  a stranger who is a vigorous old man, invites Kit for a bite to eat and leads him to the other end of the alley–which opens into a medieval fishing village elsewhere in England.

Kit is shocked by the strangeness of the experience and runs back to his humdrum circumstances. He tries to tell his girlfriend about it. She doesn’t believe him, so he brings her to the alley, which runs along a “ley line” or joint line between alternate universes. The ley line returns him to his grandfather’s fishing village, but the girlfriend, Wilhelmina, vanishes into somewhere else. So now Kit and and his great-grandfather have to rescue her–she could be in deep trouble somewhere. But where? And when?

Kit also finds himself enmeshed in his great-grandfather’s struggle against the bad guy, Lord Burleigh, who is crossing time, space, and alternate universes looking for the Skin Map. The great-grandfather has part of the map squirreled away in Oxford, or thinks he does. So Burleigh’s men, armed with a huge saber-toothed cat from the Pleistocene, attack him whenever he uses ley travel.

Meanwhile Wilhelmina finds herself dumped into Prague in the early 1600s. A baker, she is picked up on the roadside by a German baker.  Together they start a bakery business. Soon Wilhelmina is actually doing well. She even runs into Lord Burleigh and gets by unscathed.

But things are not going so well for Kit and his great-grandfather in modern Egypt. Together with some allies, they seem to face certain defeat and death at the hands of the evil Burleigh. I will stop here–read the book to find out more!

What do I think?

Lawhead does a great job with his characters. I especially like how Wilhelmina transforms from a catatonic city dweller to an energetic and enterprising businesswoman. Kit grows too, of course. It’s funny when he, a thoroughly modern guy, tries to make friends with a wagon driver from medieval England, who is in a lower social class and gets very uncomfortable.

The story is told through the eyes of four different characters: Kit; Wilhelmina; Arthur, the man with the skin map; and Lord Burleigh.  Only a bit is told of Arthur and Lord Burleigh. The sole chapter from Lord Burleigh’s point of view informs us that he is a shady antiquities dealer from the present era, leaving much untold about his motives and designs.  But in later chapters it becomes clear that the atheist Burleigh is after information on the mysterious Well of Souls, which may have something to do with reviving the dead.  I am wondering now whether there will be an Indiana Jones-like collision of stupid atheists and the raw power of God at the crux of the series, which will run to five books.

Because The Skin Map is part of a larger story, it leaves many issues unresolved. So finishing it is not entirely satisfying. But I am expecting more great characters, plot thickening, and resolution in the next book, and I hope it’s not too long coming out! Lawhead does a great job of spinning a yarn.  I recommend this book for teens and adults.

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

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog tour.  Take a minute to check out what other bloggers are saying about this book:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

Author’s website:  http://www.stephenlawhead.com/

Venom and Song by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper, a Review

venomsong

Venom and Song, Book Two of the Berinfell Prophecies, a Review
by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper
Published 2010 by Thomas Nelson, 401 pages.
Genre:  Middle-grade Christian fantasy

I reviewed Curse of the Spider King, Book One of the Berinfell Prophecies, last year.  It told the tale of seven elf lords from the world of Allyra, adopted and raised on Earth. At about the age of 13 special powers for each were becoming apparent, such as the ability to walk on air, read minds, shoot arrows accurately, shoot fire from hands and feet, and super strength.

In that book, the young elf lords are told of their heritage at about the same time that horrible beings from Allyra begin pursuing them and their families. It’s clear that living a regular life on Earth isn’t going to be possible, and all seven decide to go to Allyra to see if they can help the elves.

As Book Two opens, the teens are arriving in Allyra, against opposition from the Spider King and his minions. They manage to make it safely to the underground home of the elves, and then they spend several months training to work together and to use their individual special powers.

They learn more history: that the Elves have strayed far from their creator and God, Ellos, and had even at one point enslaved the gwar, the race to which the Spider King belongs. At the end of their training, the seven follow a prophecy and learn an amazing song, a song that calls the hearers back to Ellos.

Finally it’s time to attack the Spider King.  The elves mount an assault on the Spider King’s fortress, Vesper Crag.  It’s a long and complicated battle, where the Spider King matches elven ingenuity with his own, again and again.  Will the seven lords make the difference? And what will be the cost?  Do the elves call on Ellos? Does He answer? And who is the Spider King, anyway?

My thoughts:

What I really like about this series is the waywardness of the elves, the supposed good guys. They remind me of the children of Israel during the time of the prophets, having abandoned their loving God, doing their own thing. In this case they had even enslaved the other major race in their world–and then changed the history books to delete that part once it was over.

The elves have paid a steep price, the loss of their land and city and the deaths of their seven lords who had special powers. (The teen lords are the unexpected survivors.) The elves must hide underground, in a situation particularly difficult because elves require exposure to sunlight to stay alive.

The story opens at a time when the elves are not really aware of how much they have strayed from loving their God. We the readers become gradually aware of the situation at the same time as the elves do.

Now, portions of this book reminded me of the X-Men and similar works, where a group of teens with special powers is receiving instruction in using them.  Another difficulty I had was keeping track of all seven protagonists.  But each is given a unique and memorable personality, along with a unique and memorable gift, and I expect my difficulty has more to do with my age (over 50) than anything else.

I’ll be very interested to read more books in this series. I recommend this book for fantasy lovers of any age.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour, and I received a free copy for review.  Check out the links below to see what others are saying about this book.

Angela
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Also, here are the blogs for the authors:

Wayne Thomas Batson  – http://enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com/
Christopher Hopper – http://www.christopherhopper.com/

Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead, a review

taliesinTaliesin by Stephen Lawhead
Published 1987
Genre: Christian Arthurian fantasy, suitable for YA and adults

The Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour this month is asking each of us to review a favorite book.  I chose Stephen Lawhead’s Taliesin, Book One of his five-book Pendragon Cycle.  Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of this book–I am sure I enthusiastically lent it to various people until someone forgot to return it. But I do remember it pretty well I think.

This is the story of Charis, a princess of Atlantis, and Taliesin, a bard from Britain. A prophet on Atlantis warns of impending doom, but of course everyone there ignores him. Except, after a while, Charis, who prepares her family for disaster. A group of them survives the cataclysm that swallows Atlantis and lands on the shores of Britain in the days when Rome’s influence is waning.

The Atlanteans are bigger, taller, and stronger than the Britons, and they live considerably longer–not to mention they are used to the comforts of civilization. They are called the “Fair Folk” in the book and seem mysterious to the simple Britons.

Taliesin, meanwhile, is a druid bard who becomes a Christian. He woos, converts, and wins Charis, now the “Lady of the Lake” living on an island in a lake in southern Britain with her father.  From the union of Charis and Taliesin comes Merlin, who has prodigious gifts from both his parents.

The rest of the Pendragon Cycle is built on this foundation. I loved these books, especially the solid Christian worldview underpinning this wonderful fantasy.  If you haven’t read them, do so!!

Find out favorite books of the other tour members! See below.

AND don’t forget to vote for your favorite Christian fantasy novel published in 2009.  This is the Clive Staples Award; votes are being taken through the month of August, so your time to vote is running out.

Vote here: http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/2010-clive-staples-award-voting/

See list of nominated books:  http://clivestaplesaward.wordpress.com/2010-nominations-complete-list/

CSFF tour members for this month:

Brandon Barr
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
George Duncan
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Mike Lynch
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Jason Waguespac
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Starlighter by Bryan Davis, a Review

starlighter

Starlighter by Bryan Davis, a review
First book in the series Dragons of Starlight
Published 2010 by Zondervan, 400 pages
Genre:  Christian fantasy/sci fi, Young Adult appealing also to adults

This tale is told in two different worlds, neither one of them our world.  One, the home of dragons, is a place of woe and slavery for humans; the other, the home of humans, is under tyranny, at least in the location we are told about.

At some point in the past, the dragons found a gateway between the two worlds and stole some humans to start their slave colony. They required the work of human slaves to do what they could not: mine deep into their ground and release a gas that the dragons need for life, which was dwindling in their atmosphere.

In both worlds, the story of the Lost Ones is considered a fable; the human slaves think they have always been slaves on the dragon planet, and the world they left considers their story to be a fable as well.

The writer develops heroes on each world, focusing on Jason, a teenager from the human world, and Koren, a 15-year-old girl from the slave world. Jason and his two older brothers are trained warriors who want to bring the Lost Ones back. Jason risks his own lives repeatedly for the mission.  Koren, meanwhile, has amazing storytelling gifts, and so is called the Starlighter on her world.  There is  a  black dragon egg, and prophecies about great or terrible things that will happen when it hatches.

Is this science fiction or fantasy? The book contains many classic fantasy tale elements: sentient dragons, skilled medieval-style swordsmen, a gateway between worlds, and so on. It also contains science fiction elements: gadgets such as a photo gun that doesn’t work very well, and a recording device that allows Jason to see a video of his older brother’s message from the dragon world.  There’s also some kind of gas lighting that lights up homes of the nobility.

The Christian worldview? It’s there. Koren, at least, has a strong faith in a creator God.  There are some references to the Code, apparently a version of the Bible which Koren and her fellow slaves pass around and memorize. Jason’s faith, in contrast, isn’t drawn as strongly. Perhaps it will develop more in future books.

This opening book in the series doesn’t have a major resolution, but points to the books that will follow. Eventually I got into this book and did not want to put down–it has plenty of suspenseful moments. My only objection to it is that I found Jason and his brothers’ obsession with helping the Lost Ones to be a bit unrealistic.  They were risking their lives big time to rescue some people they had never met. Is altruism that strong a motivator?–Phyllis Wheeler

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

Brandon Barr
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
R. L. Copple
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Jane Maritz
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
SarahFlan
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

Author blog for Bryan Davis

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, a review

imaginary
Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos, a review
Published 2010 by Tyndale House, 225 pages
Genre:  Youth group discussion materials for teens

This book is a long, entertaining yarn.  The author characterizes it, tongue-in-cheek, in the middle:

“Wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a sort of semi-autobiographical novel comedy thing instead of a Sunday school lesson for once?” (p. 177)

Matt Mikalatos writes a tale about himself as a seeker, hanging out with Jesus in a coffee shop. But “Pete” (the Apostle Peter) shows up and demonstrates that this is not the real Jesus; he is an imaginary Jesus. Pretty soon we find out that there are lots of imaginary Jesuses, as many as our idolatrous imaginations can cook up.  Finding the REAL Jesus becomes Matt’s goal, although he continually sidetracks himself because he enjoys hanging out with his imaginary Jesus–after all, since Matt made him up, he has a lot in common with Matt!

One of my sons, 17 years old, was talking about zoning out in Sunday School recently. The book they are reading is a exegesis of something or other.  I bet if they were reading this book, he wouldn’t be zoning out. He would get to discuss his own idols and what his imaginary Jesus might be like.

There’s a story in the yarn, too; Matt starts out a novice Christian, fretting over the problem of evil: why did his unborn child die?

The book is delightfully self-conscious; besides the sentence about “wouldn’t it be nice if,” there’s another about a strange coincidence happening “purely for plot convenience,” or something like that.  It’s a lot of fun, full of truth, and peppered with laughter. It’s the perfect thing for my teen son’s Sunday school class.

The book trailer:

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. If you’d like to know what others thought of this book, check out their posts:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Valerie Comer
R. L. Copple
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Tori Greene
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Leighton
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher