Tag Archives: book review

The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

The Song of Unmaking by D. Barkley Briggs, Book 3 in the Legends of Karac Tor
Published 2011 by Living Ink Books
Genre: Christian fantasy, young adult and up

This, the third of five books in this Arthurian fantasy epic, focuses on one of the four brothers who have been transported from our world to another, Ewan.

Ewan’s song of power, gifted to him in the new world of Karac Tor, is gone. He traded it to the self-centered fey (fairy) queen to save the lives of his friends. How he’s depressed and defensive amid his gifted brothers.

But wait. Another gift, his ability to see the fey, hasn’t left. As the world of Karac Tor shudders under the evil destruction plan of the witch, will Ewan’s smaller gift make a difference? Or will he give up?

What do I think?  I am amazed at how this epic continues to expand with more and more subplots, all braided together in a wonderful way. One involves the hapless dad of the family, who has managed to get himself into the fantasy world too and keeps trying to drag his four kids back home.  Another subplot involves King Arthur, revived from a thousand years of sleep in this new place, forced to deal with the descendant of Lancelot living in Karac Tor under Arthur’s curse.

This is a terrific book with a strong faith element. You and your kids will love it.

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, a review

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, Book Two of the Angaleon Circle
Published 2012 by Waterbrook Multnomah, 233 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/supernatural, suitable for teens and up

Trevin’s a commoner who’s in love with a girl who turned out to be a princess. Now that she’s claimed her rightful place, the prince of the neighboring kingdom has arrived to seek her hand and an alliance. The king, wanting peace, is all ears. But instead of protecting his ladylove, Trevin must head out on a quest to find missing knights and missing magical harps. How can he stand to leave his beloved vulnerable to the advances of this jerk?

But leave her he must, or he’s no knight. The world has been cut off from heaven. Angels are stranded here, and souls of the dead are stuck here too–in the same kingdom of Dregmoor that the prince comes from. The earth sickens. If Trevin can find the harps and give them to Princess Melaia before the upcoming alignment of stars, she is supposed to be able to fix the stairway to heaven, according to prophecy.

The missing knights–do the Dregmoorians have something to do with that too? How will Trevin find them and release them?

What do I think?

Trevin is a hero with feet of clay, a past that comes back to haunt him again and again. It’s refreshing to see him working to overcome his own worst enemy, himself.  He figures out he’s half angel near the beginning of the book, but the people who raised him died when he was young, and he never got a chance to ask them any questions. Many surprising facts about his identity keep coming out as the book rolls forward. It’s refreshing to see a hero who struggles with guilt and temptation just as we struggle.

Any Christian element of the story is in the deep background. This book is clearly intended to appeal to nonChristians as well as to Christians. The author has a ringing statement of faith on her website, so it’s clear she is a Christian. And who better to sate the curiosity of nonChristians about angels than a Christian?

Starting with Book 2 in a series may seem foolish, but I did it, and it worked out okay. There was a compelling story at the beginning of the book, told without referring to the previous story. And the previous story was summarized in snippets throughout the book, providing the needed background without long boring passages.

So, read this book!

In conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.

Author’s Web sitehttp://www.karynhenleyfiction.com/Karyn_Henley_Fiction/welcome.html
Author Bloghttp://www.maybeso.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Karyn-Henley/140411189331787?v=wall

Please check out what others on the tour are saying about this book.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Nissa
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Oxygen by Olson and Ingermanson, a review

Oxygen by John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson

Originally published in 2001 by Bethany House, 368 pages; now available on Kindle

Genre: Christian near-future science thriller

Valkerie Jansen is a capable scientist who keeps her head in awful situations, so it’s no surprise that she’s drafted to join a mission to Mars. Problem is, she’s replacing the beloved commander of the group of four, and the other three have already been training for many months. Can she fit in?

After plenty of training, the new group of four takes off. But apparent sabotage causes an explosion that eats up much of their oxygen, and there isn’t enough for all four of them to make it to Mars. They don’t have the fuel to turn back. So… Who will live and who will die?

Because of the sabotage, the teammates can’t trust each other. Is this a nightmare? Or does it become a tale of ingenuity in the face of insurmountable odds?

What do I think? I really enjoyed this award-winning book. I learned a whole lot about how NASA works and what a mission to Mars, using current technology, would look like, what it would be like to be in space. And of course I was wonderfully entertained by this great story. I’m glad to hear there’s a sequel!

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, a review

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 311 pages
Genre: Young adult supernatural with romance elements, Christian

Brielle is crippled by her despair as she blames herself for her best friend’s death. To learn to cope, she returns to her dad and the small town she calls home from the big city where she had attended a performing arts high school.  Old friends reach out to her, but she rebuffs them. Then an amazing new boy shows up and shakes her from her lethargy.

Jake shares a supernatural gift with her, and soon she’s aware of angels and demons. In fact, she can see what no one else can. And she learns that a demon wants to kidnap Jake, who’s becoming dearer and dearer to her. What can she do to protect him? After all, she’s just a girl with angel eyes.

What do I think?

I thought this book was terrific. The angels and demons fit the Biblical mold. Not only were there unforgettable characters and unpredictable situations, but Dittemore crafts words like a poet, with beauty and strength. You should read this book! I’ll be waiting for the next one in the trilogy, due out in a year or so.

Find out plenty more about this book by checking out what other bloggers are saying on the blog tour for it at
http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13501700/angeleyes

Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse, a review

Daughter of Light by Morgan L. Busse
Published 2012 by Marcher Lord Press, 464 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/supernatural, suitable for teens and adults

Rowen Mar discovers a strange white mark on her hand and loses her soldier father on the same day. Her father was her only friend and protector in her village of suspicious folk, who can’t forget that Rowen is adopted–and that no one knows anything about her parentage. After a strange power in her flares up and terrifies both Rowen and a man who tries to attack her, she finds herself kicked out of the village. But somehow there’s a place for her to go: she gets a job offer to be bodyguard to the royal family in the capital city.

Soon those that work with her, including the captain of the guard, find she’s a healer. She realizes she’s an Eldaran, sort of an angelic race that had been thought to die out on the earth. And not just any Eldaran, but one with the power to reveal the darkness in the human heart. It’s a gift she doesn’t want.

The captain of the guard realizes he’s falling in love with her. But she’s not a follower of the Word, as he is. What will he do?

And how about Caleb, a lord of the southern kingdom intending to conquer the north where Rowen lives? Caleb’s got uncanny gifts in his chosen field: that of assassin. And he plans to strike close to Rowen.

What do I think?

This is a terrific book, one you just can’t put down. I loved the characters and the well-crafted plot. It’s Morgan Busse’s first novel, but don’t let that put you off–it contains a high level of sophistication and polish. I’m really looking forward to more.  I hope I don’t have to wait too long.

My review of Book 1, Daughter of Light

My review of Book 2, Son of Truth

My review of Book 3, Heir of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

What do I think?

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

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/

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

Dragons of the Watch by Donita K. Paul
Published 2011 by Waterbrook, 387 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for all ages

Set in the world of Amara and Chiril where Paul’s other books take place, this one focuses on a new character, Ellie.  Ellie belongs to the hobbit-sized tumanhofer race; she’s a farmer’s daughter who longs to go to the upcoming royal wedding.

Those of us who have read Paul’s two most recent books, Dragons of Chiril and Dragons of the Valley, will recognize the other main character, Bealomondore, a tumanhofer artist. In the previous books, he was a minor character, a unique and quirky war hero. In this book, he gets the romantic lead. (It’s not necessary to have read the previous two books, I am thinking. This one stands on its own very well.)

Ellie’s actually on her way to the royal wedding with her aunt and uncle when her beloved pet goat appears on a hillside where he shouldn’t be. She climbs out of the carriage to corral him and take him back home, but … he runs the other way! Chasing him, she finds herself falling through what looks like a glass wall. Now she’s trapped in a city built for giants, and inhabited by a rampaging horde of six-year-old giant children and a small troop of helpful kitten-sized dragons who mind-speak with humans.

But wait, there’s another adult present: a grumpy giant librarian. And one more: a tumanhofer, also trapped, Bealomondore. Soon Ellie and Bealomondore are working together to survive. Will the wild giant children kill and eat Ellie and Bealomondore, as they are threatening? And are the tumanhofers stuck in this city forever?

What do I think?

Ellie’s a great character, full of determination, big-sisterly instinct, and insecurities. Bealomondore’s your basic swashbuckling artist. The giant librarian is overwhelmed by his assignment, raising 60 six-year-olds.  I really enjoyed getting to know these unusual characters.  There’s a strong faith element, too. (But I thought the plot could have used some more tension in the middle.) It’s a gentle story, easy on the suspense and violence, and would make a good family read-aloud.

My reviews of the other two books in this series:

Dragons of Chiril (formerly called The Vanishing Sculptor)

Dragons of the Valley

The Aedyn Chronicles by Alister McGrath, a review

The Aedyn Chronicles, three books by Alister McGrath: Chosen Ones (2010), Flight of the Outcasts (2010), and Darkness Shall Fall (2011)
Published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan
Genre: Middle grade and up, fantasy/allegory

A well-known theologian who lives in Oxford, England, writes a series of fantasy books for kids with engaging plots and rock-solid underlying teaching. Sound familiar?

Alister McGrath’s tales do have some similarities to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales. But there are some delightful differences too. Let’s find out more.

The Aedyn Chronicles start with a young English schoolgirl, Julia, and her older brother Peter. They are drawn to a fountain in the mysterious ancient garden of the house in Oxford where they are guests. They step into the water and find themselves in another world, on a beach. This world is Aedyn, where the people have been conquered. The first book, Chosen Ones, traces Peter and Julia’s challenge to help the people of Aedyn, finding courage they didn’t now they had, as well as learning of the Lord of Hosts who brought them there to confront the minions of the shadow.

In the second book, Flight of the Outcasts, Peter and Julia return to Aedyn, this time accidentally followed by their bratty stepsister Louisa. They find Aedyn deserted, and soon make their way to the island to the north where the people of Aedyn have been transported and enslaved. Louisa soon displays some unusual qualities, becoming a healer in this awful place, at the foot of a volcano, where inhuman giants act as overseers.  Louisa remembers a rhyme her mother taught her; in this place, it’s a prophecy about a task. Can they lead a slave rebellion and do the task?

The third book, Darkness Shall Fall, continues the story in the second book. The slaves have successfully rebelled, but things are still terribly wrong. The power of the shadow is growing, not shrinking. The former slaves are in hiding, yearning to return to their island, Aedyn, but not knowing how to get there. Peter, Julia, and Louisa don’t know what to do.

A fair stranger, Peras, says he was sent by the Lord of Hosts and offers to lead them all to Aedyn, starting with 10 men. Peter is overjoyed. But soon he starts to wonder.  Should he be trusting this man?

Julia faces her fears and retrieves the item they need to face the shadow, according to the prophecy. And the story unfolds with grace and truth.

What do I think?

It’s natural to compare this set of books to the Narnia tales. It isn’t the Narnia tales, so we should just enjoy it for what it is. It has engaging young characters who risk their lives to help others, and who learn to trust the unseen Lord of Hosts to save and heal. Plenty of Biblical themes are touched on, good for discussion if reading aloud.

But what I most liked about this book was the vision of the author for healing of Peter, Julia, and Louisa’s blended dysfunctional family in our world. It would be so easy for an author to invent characters who have hangups of one kind or another because of something their parents did or didn’t do, and then not expect to heal the situation. But McGrath has a wonderful vision for complete healing.