Reading, again!

Hi folks,

I’ve been busy with other stuff, and am now reading a book by Frank Creed. I’ll let you know what I think pretty soon. Unfortunately I don’t have lots of time to read it.

Arana’s Visitor by Julie Rollins, a Review

Arana’s Visitor by Julie Rollins, a review
Book 1 of the Vadelah Chronicles
Self-published in 2005, 288 pages

Worldview: Christian. This book will appeal mostly to Christians.

David Decker, a college student, and his roommate Todd are driving on a country road one night when they see a red-hot plane make an emergency landing. On a hunch, they rescue the pilot, an alien, hide him from authorities at a roadblock, and take him home.

At first they don’t trust him. But they decide to shelter him from bad guys in the government who know of the crash and are looking for the alien. This is Gyra, a very intelligent being who looks a lot like a bird and has both wings and arms.
Once the bad guys figure out who is sheltering Gyra, David and Todd take Gyra and leave town.They teach Gyra English and disguise him as a man in a chicken costume advertising a local restaurant, a scenario with comic moments. At the same time, David, a Christian, witnesses to Gyra and shows him his Bible. Gyra is
captivated.

David and Todd help Gyra get the metals he needs to repair his ship. In Gyra’s hair-raising escape, David on the spur of the moment decides to come along, because Gyra is injured. And so in a switcheroo, David becomes the alien on Gyra’s planet Arana learning Gyra’s language. Gyra is out of the picture, in a coma from his injuries, and so Gyra’s people suspect David of having hurt Gyra.

David learns that his home planet is the first place that the Lord made life, but not the last. These gentle bird-aliens have sophisticated space travel but fear Earth and have marked it off-limits because of the evil that comes from there. Naturally they suspect David of being evil too. But they are looking for fulfillment of a prophecy involving someone bringing news from Earth.

This book is very well told and well edited. The pacing is good. Rollins is able to grab your emotions and tell a tale of good and evil on a galactic scale. I really enjoyed reading it. You will too.–Phyllis Wheeler

Rollins has written more books in this series, so she is currently making this first one available for free download on her Web site, www.JulieRollins.com.

A contest for a Christian fantasy book

There is a Web site that offers free items appealing to Christians in the form of contests. Today and tomorrow, the contest prize is a Christian fantasy young adult novel by Andrew Peterson. It’s called “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.”

Here’s the link: http://christiancontest.com/

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice, a Review

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice

Published 2008 by The Writer’s Cafe Press, 158 pages.

Worldview: Christian

In this short novel, four 14-year-old boys and a nine-year-old sister of one of them discover a “girl” named Genie in a chatroom. Genie is fluent in 26 languages and knows 17,354 jokes with minor variations. A machine? She also reacts to what they say and do with emotions. A girl? A puzzle, to be sure.

Genie asks them their interests. The boys say they like superhero comics. Genie volunteers to make them power suits conferring special powers right out of the comic books, with some scientific-sounding rationale for all the gadgets. In short order we have four super-heroes with super-powers, ready to take on the bad guys.

As the story develops, the five kids find themselves using the special power suits Genie sends them–to try to rescue Genie and the protector she calls Uncle from some really bad guys. The story resolves, but leaves room for a sequel. During the story, the narrator, Tom, and his friends live out their Christian faith. For example, Tom seeks to save the soul of a dying villain, and Genie’s soul as well.

My opinion?

This book has nice pacing and a strong underlying comic-book-style story, with believable bad guys. However, the four boys are almost caricatures–one of them is really good at computer hacking, another speaks a variety of languages, and so on. Their banter is pretty sophisticated too, invoking Voltaire for example. They’re also highly advanced on the road to sanctification, behaving with grace under pressure in a way that doesn’t seem realistic for 14-year-olds, or for adults either for that matter. But then, this is really a sort of comic book, right? I am supposing that a teen boy reading this might find them inspiring in a variety of ways. Or he might have trouble relating to them. I’m not sure which.

I expect this book will strongly appeal to Christian families who want their sons reading books that demonstrate faith in action. It will also appeal to Christian comic book fans. I enjoyed it, that’s for sure.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you want to buy this book, consider buying it through me to help pay the expenses of this blog. Thanks!

Forsaken Kingdom: City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek, a Review

Forsaken Kingdom: City of Prophecy by Peter J. Dudek
Carnation City Press 2008, 311 pages.

Worldview: Christian

The kingdom of Arvalast, which has a medieval flavor to it, has a seemingly absent king. It was once a kingdom of light, but the forces of darkness have gradually overtaken it. When the story opens, the dark forces are targeting the remnant who oppose them.

Woodend is a town at the north side of Arvalast where many of the remaining faithful live. They carry phials of light called illumina, which call to mind the phial of Galadriel carried by Frodo in Lord of the Rings. The illumina serve as means to communicate with the king, who influences events based on that communication. Because times are dark and the faithful are being drawn away, many of the phials emit only a bit of light and seem worthless. But that’s really because the heart of the bearer has turned away from the king.

But there is a (forgotten) prophecy that three servants of the king will arise, and that after them three warriors of the light will follow.

One of the main characters in the fight against dark forces is the governor of Woodend, Willardon, who is a weak-willed fence-sitter at the beginning of the story. Another is Tarin, a teenage boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome traits (doesn’t like to be touched, is overly fearful and avoids company of others). Tarin likes to eavesdrop.

The footsoldiers in the army of evil are physical beings (orc-like?) and also spiritual beings. Tarin has a “gift” and can see the spiritual beings, smoke-like wraiths, who have sharp teeth and weird eyes and who pass through walls. The orc-like beings are gathering in the forest for an assault on Woodend. In fact, the wraiths have already entered and are poisoning the hearts of many of the people of Woodend.

As the story unfolds, Willardon remembers to call on the power of the king. With this help, he is able to defeat the evil wraiths using light. Meanwhile, Tarin and a friend find themselves lost in the woods, and Tarin must put his trust in the king in order to save himself and his friend.

The king isn’t ignoring the situation. He sends his helper, Gildareth, to help the people of Woodend stand fast.

The book ends abruptly. It’s clearly not intended to be an ending, but instead leaves the reader in suspense waiting for the next installment.

—-

My opinion: The characters are well-drawn and consistent. The dialogue reveals their idiosyncrasies well. Dudek has a gift for this.

I did have some trouble bonding with Tarin, who starts the book as a main character. He’s doing stuff I don’t approve of, such as eavesdropping. Now, I do have two kids with Asperger’s, so I see some of their traits in him. Whether the author intended that, I don’t know. If so, this is undoubtedly the first novel starring an Aspie! As the story goes on, it gets easier to like Tarin. That’s a good thing.

Another thing I had trouble with was the number of situations that I found to be frightening. This book might be better categorized as Christian horror. There are just too many really scary beings in it for my taste. But then, I have never liked horror.

The best thing about this book is the personal relationship that characters have with the king. They ask for help (using the illumina) and they get help. When they stop being self-centered, communication using the illumina improves. This models the Christian walk in a way I haven’t seen yet in Christian fantasy.

Dudek, a homeschool graduate, spent five years on this work. The book is self-published but nevertheless reasonably well-polished. Dudek says he is a big-time Tolkien fan. I can see plenty of similarities to the Lord of the Rings in his book, including the way the first book ends: abruptly.

However, a personal relationship with the king is something Tolkien didn’t attempt. I’m really glad Dudek did. It forms the backbone of a great story. –Phyllis Wheeler

Peter Dudek’s Web site: http://www.forsakenkingdom.net

If you want to buy this book, help pay the expenses of this Web site and buy it from this link:

The Book of Names, Part 3

This is the third and final day of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour concerning The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs.

I wanted to talk today about the way this author portrays the Christian walk in his fantasy world, the Hidden Lands (Karac Tor).

As I see it, Christian fantasy writers have two models to follow for this: Tolkien and Lewis.

Tolkien’s faith is evident in the way he sets up his world. There is a creator deity who cares about his world. However, this is rarely mentioned. There are prophecies and dreams through which the deity communicates to the characters. In particular, the deity works through the small and humble, rather than the powerful, to accomplish his aims. The world is dark, but there is clearly hope.

In contrast, Lewis’s Narnia tales have a deity so real you can see, touch and smell him. Aslan is such an effective portrayal of Jesus (our bridge to the Father) that he has been mentioned in plenty of sermons I have heard over the years.

In my own Christian walk, I find I communicate with the Lord in two ways: through prayer and through reading the Bible. The Bible makes it clear to us what God wants our Christian walk to look like: reliance on Him to lead and guide us, acknowledging our blindness and our inability to work on our own.

So how should a Christian fantasy writer inspire the reader on the Christian walk? That’s a question that fantasy authors answer in different ways.

Briggs uses the Tolkien model. A world is set up where prophecy calls for the final return of the Son Aion of the Father god. The characters are given dreams, intuition, and prophecy to follow at critical points in the narrative. So the deity is involved in the story, but yet remains somewhat remote to the reader.

Food for thought! The question becomes, how to cross that gap for the reader.

Rachel Starr Thomson found a You Tube video of Briggs discussing his favorite fantasy authors.

Want to know more about Dean Briggs?

His Website

His blog

Other CSFF tour bloggers:

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell interviews the author
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla
Miller on how much darkness is too much?
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

The Book of Names, Part 2

Today I am going to share some reflections on reading this book, The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs. You got the main review yesterday.

Briggs wrote this book not long after losing his wife. It is somewhat autobiographical; he is the father in the story, and the four boys are modeled on his four sons. As a result, their characters are finely drawn. It’s a nice basis for a story, the characters of your individual sons.

In addition, the boys in the story are processing their loss. So the story seems doubly real.

The Book of Names has a nice transition from our world to the Hidden Lands. First the characters are introduced in our familiar world, and then they move to the Hidden Lands where everything is of course unfamiliar to the reader, except for the two characters of Hadyn and Ewan. This is a nice way to draw the reader into the story, instead of dumping the reader into an unfamiliar world where it takes some work for the reader to get oriented.

Briggs, like other fantasy writers, writes fantasy fiction in order to paint his convictions on a large canvas. Here’s what he has to say on his blog:

“This is the power of fantasy: to capture the mind, to both focus and liberate the emotional, imaginative faculties, to form real and symbolic connections, to viscerally associate yourself with a magical, desirable, grand-scaled life.”

Personally, I love reading fantasy, provided it has a right worldview (God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world!) This is a great example.

These are fellow Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour participants:

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs, a Review, Part 1

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

Book 1 of Legends of Karac Tor, NavPress, 2008, 379 pages

Worldview: Christian.

The story starts in Missouri (my adopted home state) where a family of four boys grieves for their mom, who died of cancer. The kids are four boys, the oldest 15. They have just moved to the country north of St. Louis with their dad.

Hadyn and Ewan, the older two, are clearing a briar patch and discover an arched stone scrawled with Viking runes. Suddenly, four mysterious ravens drop messages at their feet and disappear through the arch. The messages, signed by “A,” are four identical scrolls calling them to the Hidden Lands. Soon the two boys are following the ravens through the arch.

They find themselves in the land of Karac Tor, which is at war. Magic is commonplace here, including some magic familiar to our ears, such as fairy folk and Arthurian mystery, and other unfamiliar magic. The boys, who really just want to go home, are drawn into a massive conflict between godly monks and an evil sorceress who is turning all the teenagers in the land into zombies under her command. Hadyn and Ewan discover they have some special magic powers of their own in this land.

The monks are looking forward to the ninth and final coming of Aion, the son of the father God. But plenty of tribulation is happening first. Hadyn is captured by the sorceress and is on his way to becoming a mindless follower. Younger Ewan finds he has the courage to lead a rescue. Both brothers prove their loyalty and courage in a battle with the sorceress.

Then Hadyn and Ewan discover that their younger twin brothers have come through the portal too, leading into the next book, where the conflict is with the evil power behind the sorceress, the Deceiver himself.

The Book of Names is a keeper. It weaves action together with metaphorical descriptions. Characters are fully drawn and believable. The two boys are full of faults and fears at first, but they learn courage because they have to, facing the sorceress and her slaves. Briggs brings his fantasy world, Karac Tor (a place to build character, I get it!!) to life.

I did find this fantasy world to be rather dark. I wish it had more islands of light in it. Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to the next book, Corus the Champion, coming out in March 2009.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you want to buy this book, you can help pay the expenses of this blog by buying it through this link:

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. Check out other participants of the tour. We’re all looking at the same book for the next three days.

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Valerie Comer
Frank Creed
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene
Timothy Hicks
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Alice M. Roelke
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Timothy Wise

I’m reading!

Well, I’ll be writing a review next week of The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs, a young adult fantasy work. Stay tuned to see what I think!

I’m also reading another book. In fact I have several now to pick from. I have gone from feeling poor, looking at the library shelves filled with secular fantasy, to feeling rich!!! I’ll be sharing all my riches with you soon.

Wikipedia entry for Heroes series?

My son “Mike” has now read all three books in Jay Young’s “Heroes” series. Mike really likes these books. In fact, he clicked over to Wikipedia expecting to find information there on the various characters. Apparently many similar works have such sites, probably written by fans. But Heroes doesn’t have one. Yet.

I suggested to Mike that he write some info for Wikipedia. He said he’d think about it. Now, he has some learning disabilities, and I would personally be very surprised if he went to the trouble to do this. It’s certainly not the easy thing to do for him!

Mike did mention that the third and “final” book in the Heroes series leaves an opening for sequels.–Phyllis Wheeler