Category Archives: Reviews

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

Book of Days by James L. Rubart, a Review

Book of Days by James L. Rubart
Published 2011 by B&H Publishing, 376 pages
Genre: Christian suspense with a speculative twist

Cameron Vaux has lost both his father and his wife, Jessie. Now, though he’s only 33, he fears he’s losing his mind, the same way his father’s mind went–one memory at a time. He latches onto something mentioned by both his father and Jessie: God’s book holding all memories, the one mentioned in Psalm 139: “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Problem is, he doesn’t believe in God.

Can he find this book? Could it restore his mind and his memories of Jessie?

Clues point him to the little town of Three Peaks, Oregon. He doesn’t want to go there alone. Who will help him? There’s only one person to ask: Jessie’s foster sister, Ann, who has hardly spoken to him for years.

Cameron’s not the only one who wants to find the Book of Days. There are others, and they will stop at nothing to get to the secret of the universe. Cameron soon finds himself a pawn in a vast chess game. Will he escape with his life?

What do I think?

I kept turning the pages. Vibrant characters leap right off the page, and an unpredictable story line held my attention to the end. Plus, it’s right up my alley–a story set in the real world with some supernatural elements, reminiscent of Indiana Jones tales. Highly recommended.

Hunger Games Books 2 and 3: questions for discussion

I’ve had a chance now to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, books 2 and 3 in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. I am not as taken with them, especially the last one, as I was with the original book. They’re pretty dark.

Your children may have read these books, and if so, there are some good questions you could ask your kids, to help them consider the works from a Christian point of view.

1. Does Katniss have a sense of hope at the end of Book 1? Book 2? Book 3? Does Peeta? Does Gale? At the end of Book 3, what have they each gained? and lost?

2. Does the Bible give us a sense of hope for our lives? If so, can you find some specific passages about our hope? (Hint: look at the end.)

3. How does Katniss deal with adversity in the third book? Is it the same or different from the way Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins (or your favorite hero) deals with adversity? If different, how so? How would you like to see yourself dealing with adversity?

4. Snow, the villain, uses psychological warfare in the final book. Do you think the author should have added this to Snow’s arsenal? Why or why not?

The Hunger Games, a book review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Published 2008 by Scholastic, 384 pages
Genre: Young adult, dystopian futuristic. Not suitable for 15 and under in my opinion because of violence.

Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old living in America some time in the future when it has devolved into a cruel empire, loves her little sister more than anything. So when that little sister is chosen for the Hunger Games, Katniss doesn’t hesitate. She takes the sister’s place. She finds herself fighting 23 other teens to the death in a high-tech arena, for viewing pleasure in the ultimate reality show. Only one person can win, and that winner gets plenty of income for life, unlike everyone else in the conquered territories–who is starving or nearly starving.

That’s not the only reason for the Hunger Games. The 12 districts, or conquered territories, must each provide two children to the Hunger Games each year in order to be reminded that an attempted rebellion 74 years previously was a bad idea.

Katniss, who has fed her family by hunting in the woods, can shoot a bow and arrow with amazing precision. Others in the games may or may not have special talents. Her one friend in the games, Peeta, isn’t going to win. But it’s his plan to sacrifice himself so that she will, because he loves her, and has loved her secretly since they were five years old. But wait. There’s another boy who loves Katniss, too–her hunting buddy, Gale. What’s a ruthless female hunter (who never wants to get married) to do?

What do I think of this book? I had to put it down, and that was very hard. It’s really a page-turner. The characters were well drawn. Situations were original. But what really made this book for me was the believability of this dystopian world. I found it so believable because it’s clearly based on the Roman Empire. Not only does the author use plenty of Roman names for minor characters, but there’s the contrast between the pampered and silly lives of the people who live in the capital and the toil of the slaves who don’t. The government is ruthless, violent, and cruel, just like Rome was when it threw unpopular people to the lions for entertainment. Of course, this society has the reality TV show as a way of viewing its arena. Quite a comment on reality TV!

Katniss is a bold and memorable main character. Not a wimp like Bella in Twilight, but more like Harry Potter, facing insurmountable odds and not giving up. She’ll be with us for a long time, I think.

The movie? I liked it. And I wouldn’t take anyone to see it who’s under 15. The violence is not lingered on, but it’s definitely, um, a lot. Here’s a review by a Christian I know: http://twitchfilm.com/reviews/2012/03/the-hunger-games-review.php

What did I think of the two sequels to the Hunger Games? Find out here.

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.

Dragons of Starlight by Bryan Davis, Books 1-3

Dragons of Starlight by Bryan Davis, made up of:

Starlighter, Book 1, Zondervan, 2010 (I reviewed it here)
Warrior, Book 2, Zondervan, 2011
Diviner, Book 3, Zondervan, 2011
Book 4: yet to be released

Genre: Christian fantasy/sci-fi, young adult, appealing also to adults

Bryan Davis’s four-book fantasy series Dragons of Starlight tells a tale of heroism across two planets, Starlight and Darksphere. Jason Masters, a teen from Darksphere, realizes that people from his planet have been enslaved on the other. He takes it as his mission to rescue them. After all, he’s a warrior. And he wants to find his brothers, who have gone to Starlight before him to free the slaves and haven’t returned.

Once there, he meets Koren, a human enslaved by dragons on Starlight. Koren’s got some unusual gifts–she’s a starlighter, or “magical” storyteller. Can she help save her people? Does she want to?

After all, she’s enslaved by the prophesied new king of the dragons, who has just hatched from a black egg. He needs her because he is blind, and through a telepathic link he can see through her eyes. Plus, he can torture her at will if she turns away.  But the Creator seems to be calling her in a different direction.

Jason’s childhood friend Elyssa accompanies him. She finds that she’s got some starlighter gifts too. Is she willing to risk everything to free these people whom she has never met?

And what about Arxad the dragon? Does his allegiance lie with his overpowering twin brother, or with the humans he knows need his help? Is he a friend or a foe of the slaves?

What do I think?

This is a well-told sprawling tale, with unforgettable characters and surprising plot turns. It’s pretty cool to have two races of sentient beings, one being dragons. With intervention from the Creator at several points, it’s a Christian book. I’m enjoying reading it.  I suspect you will too.

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

Blood of Kings: From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson, a review

From Darkness Won, Blood of Kings Book 3 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 661 pages

To Darkness Fled, Blood of Kings Book 2 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2010 by Marcher Lord Press, 680 pages

By Darkness Hid, Blood of Kings Book 1 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2009 by Marcher Lord Press, 490 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, young adult and adult

The third and final book in the Blood of Kings series wraps up the many strands in this sprawling tale. The first book in the series, Christy Award winner By Darkness Hid, introduced us to the main characters, Achan and Vrell. Achan lives in a society that seriously mistreats its orphans, calling them “strays.”  But Achan at age 16 isn’t just any stray. He discovers he has an amazing gift–bloodvoicing, the ability to speak to others using only his mind. His gift is so vast that others who have the gift are in awe.

Vrell is a young noblewoman fleeing a detested suitor dressed as a boy. She too has this bloodvoicing gift, which seems to run in some of the noble families only. She gets herself into all kinds of scrapes and eventually meets and helps Achan.

The powers controlling the realm of Er’Rets are evil sorcerers. The king was murdered a while back and his infant son lost. Pretenders are running most of the kingdom. But there’s a remnant of good guys who look for the return of the rightful king. And eventually they find him. He’s Achan, the lost son, switched at age 3 with another child.

Can they put him on the throne? The forces of evil seem too powerful. In fact, half the kingdom lies in total inky darkness, like the deepest night. And the darkness is spreading. Lord Nathak is clearly one of the bad guys, but he seems conflicted. He knowingly sheltered the rightful king as a child in his stronghold but allowed the boy to be severely mistreated.

Why is Nathak’s face half withered? And will Arman, the Lord of Hosts, rescue the kingdom from darkness and restore the rightful heir? What is Vrell’s role in all this? Achan, when he figures out she’s a girl, falls in love with her. Does she love him? And in the war, should she sit aside as a noblewoman, or take up her masquerade as a boy and fight?

The tale winds across three fat books, all of them a delight to read. Williamson draws the reader right into a character’s head and emotions in a very compelling way, and convincingly describes the world she has created.  I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s my favorite, of all the tales I have read since starting the Christian Fantasy Review three years ago.

See my review of By Darkness Hid: http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2010/05/17/by-darkness-hid-by-jill-williamson-a-review/

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead
Book 2 of the Bright Empires 5-book series
Published 2011 by Thomas Nelson, 416 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults

The Bone House continues story threads from the previous book, The Skin Map, which opened the series. In fact, if you haven’t read The Skin Map, don’t read this book. You’ll just get very confused. It’s clear the five-part Bright Empires series must be one giant tale, rather than five smaller ones. And what a tale it is.

At the end of The Skin Map, our hapless hero Kit Livingstone has been mysteriously rescued from the brink of death. The rescuer is none other than Kit’s formerly clueless girlfriend Mina, mysteriously appearing and whisking him away. It’s still sad, though. The ruthless bad guy, Lord Burleigh, did succeed in murdering Kit’s mentor, Kit’s great-grandfather Cosimo.

Cosimo had handed Kit a task, finishing Cosimo’s work of  finding and decoding the Skin Map,  while eluding Burleigh. But who will tell Kit how to pick up this task? Kit, a newbie, has much to learn. (The Skin Map is a grisly artifact, parchment made of the torso skin of Arthur Flinders-Petrie, a pioneer in ley travel who recorded his findings in tattoos on his own torso. The map has been divided into five pieces and hidden.)

It turns out Kit’s former girlfriend Mina, on her own, is becoming an expert in ley travel and can teach Kit some things. Ley lines are lines of geological force along the surface of the earth which in this series can catapult a person into another dimension. These other dimensions are alternate universes, ones spawned whenever any major decision is made on the home world (ours). All the possible results of those decisions create alternate universes based on differing assumptions. The result is an infinity of universes, all pretty similar, it seems, and connected by these ley-line energy pathways. It’s possible to move from one universe to another rather consistently, with some practice.

In The Bone House we find out plenty about the background of bad guy Burleigh, but not everything–we still don’t know what’s motivating his ruthlessness. And we meet another main character, Douglas Flinders-Petrie, the amoral grandson of the man who gave the world the Skin Map.  All these characters are hopping through hot spots in various worlds, chasing each other, trying to get the Skin Map and something more. What? Kit still doesn’t know. Something motivates Burleigh to murder and attempt  murder, again and again. What is it? Does the mystery have something to do with the stars?

What do I think?

This book is another 1/5 of a massive construction which is becoming clearer. Details of ley travel are explained in this book, and key characters discuss their faith in a benevolent God.

This faith in God in a book about multiverses is critical for me, a Christian. The multiverse idea was coined by atheists trying to explain how man could have evolved from nothing, with such low probabilities at key points of the evolutionary theory. If you multiply our universe by infinity, surely in one of those universes the probability will be high enough that evolution could indeed have happened. So some people, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, actually believe the multiverse theory is true and use it to support their atheism.

Lawhead, on the other hand, uses the multiverse idea as the basis for a massive adventure tale romping across worlds. The yarn is beginning to remind me a bit of Star Wars, with an young clueless (at the beginning) hero suddenly bereft of his mentor, an unbelievably dastardly villain (whose past is not fully revealed yet), and a very capable heroine, along with other characters. There’s an appropriate dose of mystery at the core. I’ll be very interested to read the next installment.

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

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour. Please visit blogs of other participants to see what they have to say about this book too:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

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

Replication by Jill Williamson, a review

Replication by Jill Williamson
Published December 2011 by Zonderkidz
Genre: Christian young adult suspense with sci-fi flavoring

Abby Goyer’s not too happy when her scientist father moves her to Alaska from Washington, D.C. He’s secretive about his new job, and that bothers her too, especially based on his history of working in a lab that was trying to clone human embryos for use in cancer research. She’s a Christian, and she wishes he would see the light.

The 17-year-old boy’s name is J:3:3, but his nickname is Martyr. That’s because he’s always protecting the younger and weaker ones from the bullies in the underground laboratory where he lives. Of course, all the boys look alike, weak and strong. That’s because they’re clones. Martyr also knows he’s got just two weeks to live, because when he turns 18 he is scheduled to expire. Before he dies, he’d like one simple thing–to see the sky. He’s never seen it.

It isn’t long before Martyr’s and Abby’s worlds collide. Abby wants to shut down the lab and rescue the boys. But there are plenty of people standing in the way, not the least of them Dr. Jason Kane, who will stop at nothing to save himself and the clone who carries the kidneys Kane needs to live: Martyr.

What do I think? This book has some funny moments as well as plenty of drama. Especially unnerving is the scientists’ conviction that the cloned boys they work with are not human, but merely copies, like photocopies. And Williamson does a wonderful job of imagining what it would be like to be raised in a dormitory bunker environment devoid of color, and suddenly finding oneself above ground in wintry rural Alaska. It’s a wonderful book for all ages, with a strong faith element and lots of food for thought. Highly recommended. This book releases in December; you can pre-order it at a discount.