Unbound by J.B. Simmons (The Omega Trilogy Book 1)
Published by the author on Kindle
Genre: Young adult end times Christian fantasy
The year is 2066, and we are in Washington, DC. An unbelieving American Jewish teenager, Elijah Goldsmith, just wants to be a spy and wants to pursue the beautiful woman Naomi beside him in spy school. He also wants to ditch the strange dreams he keeps having, about a dragon that only he can see.
Naomi and her Christian friends think his dreams are prophetic. But Elijah thinks they are all weird.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well drawn and memorable. The book is well edited (often a problem with indie authors, but not this one). There’s plenty of action, and the theology underneath seems reasonably sound to me.
But I did feel disappointed that the book ended when it did. Apparently the author is producing the book in installments, rather than telling a complete story with a character arc (where the main character goes through some kind of inner journey and comes out different). Unbound is like the first third of a well constructed novel, in my opinion.
So, I guess I’ll just have to wait to read the rest! Hope I don’t have to wait too long!
I say there’s room for new imagination. In Robert Treskillard’s trilogy The Merlin Spiral, concluding with Merlin’s Nightmare (which I reviewed here), the author has got some fresh new takes on the characters. Merlin is a blind, lovesick teenager, and Gwenivere is a gypsy. The sword in the stone … well, I won’t spoil it for you. There’s something really wild about that stone, too!
He is able to take us back to Britain in the years after the Romans withdrew, based on a vast foundation of historical research that makes the settings and situations ring true. His Britain is a far cry from the false medieval setting envisioned by early writers of these stories.
In Merlin’s Nightmare, we see a disaster for the Britons unfold. Where they had lived as a majority, many or most of them are overcome by enemies including the Saxons, leaving the survivors a rag-tag band. This group, we expect, will seek to regain their place under King Arthur in future books.
But we know how the story ends: the Anglo-Saxons took over all the Britons’ lands except for Wales and (in France) Brittany. That’s the thing about writing the Arthurian legend: we know the main characters, and we know how it all ends. But … do you have room for new imaginings here? I do.
Here are the two movie trailers for the first book (and thus the trilogy). The first is from Zondervan, the publisher; the second from the author:
I’m really enjoying Treskillard’s re-imagining of Merlin as a non-magician. Merlin is a Christian who occasionally has visions. As the book opens, Merlin, in hiding in the North, has married his beloved Natalenya and has two children. They have also raised the young Arthur under a different name, withholding from him his true identity. But now that Arthur is 18, it’s time to tell him who he is and let him start making decisions.
The winds of war are blowing. Two summons to fight arrive. Where will they fight? The Britons (led by the traitor Vortigern) find themselves attacked by major enemies on three sides: the Picts from the North, the Saxons from the east, and Merlin’s witch sister Ganieda (Morgana) and her wolf-men from the west. Merlin is inclined to fight in the North, but Arthur slips away south to aid Vortigern against the Saxons, not knowing Vortigern will probably recognize him and kill him. Can Merlin reach him in time?
And how can Merlin protect his family in the North, if he isn’t anywhere nearby? Can he convince Arthur that the most important enemy is Merlin’s sorcerer sister, who orchestrates the others? And how on earth could they defeat her and her savage wolf-men?
I found this book to be quite the page-turner with plenty of unexpected plot points. Merlin’s character goes through a learning curve, which I won’t spoil for you. I enjoyed the fresh take on Gwenivere and the idea of a novel use for Stonehenge. It’s a terrific book; put it on your reading list, and be sure to give it to the young people in your life, especially the guys. Note: I am astounded at the amount of research Treskillard has put into these books, detailed in the appendix.
This review is in conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. For more opinions, check out the other participants listed below. I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in conjunction with this tour.
The 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.
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.
Jupiter Winds by C.J. Darlington
Published 2014 by Mountainview Books, 288 pages
Genre: Christian dystopia/sci fi, YA and older
Grey, 17, and her 14-year-old sister are orphans under the loose care of a neighbor. They live in a post-nuclear-war desolate America that is ruled by a tyrannical middle eastern regime.
Grey and Rin live on the fringe, smuggling books and cigarettes across a border to eke out a bare living. It’s been five years since their parents failed to come home from a trip. Grey has had to comfort and encourage her small sister, while needing comfort and encouragement herself.
The government sends drones to capture her. Does she run for home and hideout and endanger her sister? Or does she allow herself to be captured?
You guessed it. She allows herself to be captured, setting off a race in space to the planet Jupiter where the tyrants use her as bait to trap her father, who is still alive. Can she escape?
I found this book to be quite a page-turner. It features strong, unique, and heroic characters and a well-developed faith element. Check it out!
I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Dreamtreaders by Wayne Thomas Batson, a review
Published 2014 by Thomas Nelson, 289 pages
Genre: Middle grade fantasy fiction
Archer Keaton, age 14, serves humanity as a Dreamtreader. In his dreams, what he imagines becomes “real.” So, in a battle, he can call amazing weapons into being (such as a bulldozer blade to mow down the opposition). But the bad guys can too, when they’re not trying to deceive him. It’s fun and kinda scary.
Archer seeks to make repairs in this lovely fantasy place, the world of dreams, where things are beginning to turn dark. It becomes apparent that even his life is at risk, and the lives of his loved ones in the real world.
Speaking of the real world, there are strange things going on there too. Can it be that the troubles in the dream world and the real world are connected? Can it be linked to his best friend who seems to have abandoned him? What about the new boy at school? Is he a friend–or not?
It’s a great story (first in a series) that should appeal to a variety of ages, but particularly to boys who are squeamish about reading. It’s full of action with a well-constructed plot, and characters we can all identify with. It has a reasonably subtle faith element, so nonChristians should enjoy it too, and maybe even find some food for thought. I’d be happy to share this book with others.
This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, and I received the book from the publisher free of charge. To see what others are saying, take a look at the following:
Failstate: Legends by John Otte, Book 2 of Failstate series
Published 2013 by Marcher Lord Press, 455 pages
Genre: Young adult superhero tale, suitable for middle grade and up
Failstate: Legends is the middle book of a three-book series, but it stands alone very well I think. No one who picks it up cold like I did will think this is an unfinished story, and unexplained details from the past just make it seem more realistic.
I found a teenage superhero who’s disarmingly bad at everything. Failstate, also known as Robin Laughlin, finds his super powers don’t obey him always, and almost no one takes him seriously. It might have to do with the fact that he has to cover his face when costumed, making him look more like a thief in a ragged hoodie than anything else. Or it might have to do with the fact that he got his superhero license through a reality TV show.
Zombies are coming out of nowhere. And Failstate is the only superhero on duty, so he has to stop them. Yes, real zombies. But they aren’t possible. So where are they coming from? Will other superheroes from other towns lend their help? Through this struggle, will he win respect, or continue to fail?
The book has a cartoonish cover, but it’s not a graphic novel. It has short, action-packed chapters and great story elements, including strong characters who learn and change over time and a plot that’s full of surprises. It has a strong faith element too. I recommend this book!
Numb by John Otte
Published 2013 by Marcher Lord Press, 395 pages
Genre: Christian science fiction, suitable for teen and up
Crusader, an assassin, feels neither emotions nor pain. His memory reaches back only a few years. He k nows this numbness is a gift from God, the vengeful god whose deacons use Crusader to kill heretics and heathens. Because of it, he’s a better killer.
His bosses send him after a young blonde woman, Isolda. It’s her turn to die. Or is it? For reasons he doesn’t understand, he can’t do it. His long-dead emotions boil up.
He’s made his choice. In refusing to kill her, he’s become a target himself. Crusader and Isolda flee together. Can this unlikely team find safety? Can they find answers? Or will the bounty hunters turn them in?
And what about the winsome faith that Isolda displays? Isn’t it heresy?
I found this book riveting, full of action and insight. The main character starts out a psychopath, but it’s not long before he starts on the path to change in a way that’s believable and speaks to the heart.
His bosses at the Ministrix spread twisted jihad Christianity, providing me great food for thought. In what ways do we try to make our faith a set of achievable objectives and bury our sins? How do I personally distort Jesus’ words?
This review is in conjunction with a number of bloggers at the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying:
A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr, Book 3 of The Staff and the Sword trilogy
Published 2014 by Bethany House, 457 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy, suitable for teen and up
Errol Stone, the everyman hero, has twice saved the ungrateful kingdom of Erinon. When he returns from his most recent mission, jailers await him and his friends. A usurper has grabbed the vacant throne. Who can now rescue them from the dungeon?
The last king has just died childless. Little-known prophetic words identify Errol and his military colleague Liam, both orphans from the same village, as candidates for the next king. Of the two, one will die to save the realm. And one will be king. Each believes he will be the one to die.
This complex tale follows story threads involving not only Errol, but Adora (the last princess) and Martin (a churchman) in their separate quests as they all seek to beat back hordes of invading enemies and the demon-animated giant predators that seem unconquerable.
A strong faith element infuses this story. Many well-drawn characters, plenty of action, and agonizing choices fill the rich story tapestry. An unexpected ending tops it all off. I highly recommend you read this epic work!
All the three brothers want to do is round up the people of their former village, Glenrock, and escape. While the previous book focused on Mason, this one centers around his brother Omar, the one who betrayed them to the Safe Landers. Now that Omar is repentant, his brothers have decided to trust him and let him join their rebel forces. Omar does his best, unless he’s distracted by the diseased pleasures offered by the Safe Lands.
In the first book, the medic Mason was able to free the Glenrock women who were being held in a prison-like harem. In this book, Mason and Levi desperately want to free the Glenrock children, held in a prison-like boarding school, so they can all go home. While he’s at it, Mason also desperately wants to find a cure for the thin plague, a sickness that dooms all the Safe Landers, including the woman Mason loves–and his brother Omar.
What I like most about Jill Williamson’s writing is her ability to write what a character is thinking and feeling. Her ability to do this is amazing. Of course, it’s got great characters and a twisty plot, so … read it!
Take a look at the nifty book trailer for Book 1:
This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please check out what others are saying about the book!