Tag Archives: book

Martyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

martyrsfireMartyr’s Fire by Sigmund Brouwer, Book Three of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2013 by Waterbrook Press, 216 pages
Genre: Young adult medieval saga with Arthurian and steampunk overtones

The year is AD 1313. In the previous books, Thomas managed to single-handedly conquer the English city of Magnus using his wits and some knowledge gleaned from the special secret technology library left him by his mother. Now he’s been lord of Magnus for several seasons, but he only has two friends—an old gardener and a pickpocket boy. He can trust no one else. Is he being paranoid? Who are his friends? Who are his enemies? He doesn’t know. And he wonders what happened to the mysterious individuals who helped him in an earlier pickle and then vanished.

Soon some strange monks enter the city. Using a weeping statue, they gain the trust and hearts of the people of Magnus, and soon they turn on Thomas and try to kill him. Thomas has waited too late to escape the walled city, surrounded by a lake. Or has he? Can a pickpocket and a gardener give him the information he needs? And can he dare to take the leap of faith to get away?

I’m enjoying this tale, with its marvelous twisty plot and strong characters stuck in delightfully tight situations. There’s a steampunk flavor, with techno explanations for apparent miracles that fool the gullible populace, alongside herbal potions and poisons that give the enemy druids their power. There’s a faith element and a touch of romance. In short, it’s a wonderful book for teens and adults too. And it’s not the final book in the series, so there’s more to anticipate!

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others are saying about this book:

Red Bissell
Beckie Burnham
Theresa Dunlap
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
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Nikole Hahn
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Carol Keen
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Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
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Deborah Wilson
Rachel Wyant

Author Websitehttp://www.coolreading.com/

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, a review

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Published 2012 by Random House, 451 pages
Genre: Secular fantasy, young adult

I’m taking a look at this secular book from a Christian point of view. If you or your son or daughter is a fantasy fan, they’ll be reading a lot of books published by secular publishers, because that’s where the marketing channels are. If you’re in a bookstore looking for a fantasy book for young adults written from a Christian worldview, I’d advise you to look for books on the secular shelf published by one of the major Christian houses (especially Thomas Nelson and Zondervan/Zonderkids, which are aiming for secular readers). These books won’t have an obvious faith message, but they’ll be consistent with a Christian worldview. Also check out books available online, of course!

So, back to this book. Seraphina is a peculiar young lady living in a world where the dragons and the humans live together in very uneasy peace. The dragons are able to fold themselves into human shape to live among the humans and pursue academic studies, to which they are well suited. The humans are suspicious and occasionally very nasty to the dragons, many of the humans wishing for the return of a time when the two groups were at war.

Seraphina has wonderful gifts of music and is working at the queen’s court. Her mentor is a dragon in human form, Orma. Unlike everyone else, she enjoys dragons and is fond of Orma. Soon palace intrigue engulfs Seraphina, and she must muddle through the very difficult question of who she is, while war between the two groups threatens.

What do I think? I think the characterization in this book is wonderfully strong, as is the premise about dragons being able to change shape to humans. But I found the plot to be somewhat weak. I am looking for a heroine who’s on fire to accomplish something, but Seraphina is more introspective than that.

As for religion, Seraphina and her countrymen pray to some saints who seem to not be real. Ah, me. Well, at least Seraphina has some moral sense, knows that lying is wrong, as is hanging out with someone else’s fiance (though she does both). I judge this book to be fairly enjoyable and not harmful to your average young adult, perhaps good fodder for discussion about right and wrong on those two questions.

The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes, a review

The Rock of Ivanore by Laurisa White Reyes, Book One of the Celestine Chronicles
Published 2012 by Tanglewood Press, 347 pages
Genre: Middle grade fantasy, not specifically Christian

Marcus Frye, 14-year-old orphan apprentice to the magician Master Zyll, has learned a bit of magic that sometimes works. Now his town is sending him and the other five boys his age on a quest as their coming-of-age rite. They’re to head off through the woods across the large island and find the Rock of Ivanore. Problem is, none of them knows what it is or where it is.

The stakes are high: those who come back with honor will live in honor, and those who come back in disgrace will have to work menial jobs the rest of their lives. Will Marcus find courage within himself, or cowardice? Will he work with the other boys, or against them? Once he makes a promise to an apparent enemy, will he keep his word? Will he have compassion? And how can he tell who his friends are?

What do I think?

Marcus moves through a moral minefield on his way to discover the Rock. This book, for kids aged 8 and up, is sure to provoke some family discussions about honesty and open-mindedness to people who look different. It would make a great read-aloud. While it doesn’t have an explicit faith component, it certainly does not contradict or undermine the Christian faith. It’s a great story with a surprise ending, carefully plotted with increasing suspense and some good characters. If you have boys who are reluctant readers, give them this book!

The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet, a review

The Ale Boy’s Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet
Book Four of The Auralia Thread
Published 2011 by Waterbrook, 375 pages
Genre: Fantasy with underlying Christian worldview

The Ale Boy’s Feast caps off a four-book series starting with Auralia’s Colors, a finalist for a Christy award. In the set of tales, residents of The Expanse struggle with a spreading curse of terror and evil. In this world, certain bloodlines confer special powers: sculpting stone, walking through fire, charming with music, communicating with animals. But only one person has the gift to weave colors to bring hope and healing to dark places. That person is Auralia, who seemed to die at the end of the first book, but who returns to life and the struggle in the third and fourth, not remembering at first who she is.

At the opening of The Ale Boy’s Feast, the king of House Abascar, Cal-Raven, is missing. The homeless people of House Abascar have been sheltered in House Bel Amica, another of the four houses of The Expanse. But Bel Amica has mighty struggles of its own, and it’s time to leave.

A group of Abascar people set out northward following Cal-Raven’s dream, seeking a mythic city on the other side of the Forbidding Wall that borders The Expanse. They don’t know whether they can find the city, whether they unlock its gates, or whether it would be a good city for them. But they have no place else to go.

Meanwhile, the Ale Boy, Auralia’s young friend, leads a band of survivors northward from the ruins of a third House along an underground river, away from the land of their slavery and pain.

And the missing king struggles with despondency. Will he return to his people? Will they make it on their terrifying journey through the deadly woods? And, most of all, can the curse be identified and stopped?

What do I think?

This series is amazingly rich in many ways. The characters are unforgettable, the plots intricately fashioned and woven together.

Overstreet’s style is a bit unusual. For example, he gives the native animals and plants odd names alongside sketchy descriptions. This technique puts the reader’s imagination into overdrive constructing possibilities. Meanwhile, most of what each viewpoint character is thinking comes out through dialog, not through reporting thoughts. The overall effect may be somewhat like reading a movie script, with the reader’s mind supplying visuals based on cues rather than full description. Some readers may not like this style, but I loved it.

Is it a Christian work? Yes and no. There isn’t any “Jesus” figure in it, but there is intelligence and mercy at the heart of the world Overstreet has made. The worldview will be familiar to Christians, yet not alien to nonChristians. This book can sit on the fantasy shelf at any bookstore and be enjoyed by anyone.

I emailed Overstreet and asked about what I thought seemed a dangling plot thread. Here is his response:

One of the recurring themes throughout this series has been: Are people open to mystery? Are we ready to live with uncertainty, and to hold our understandings loosely, ready to expand them when our vision is increased? Christ was fond of saying, “You have heard it said _________, but I say to you _________.” And so he makes all things new, constantly humbling us and revealing a bigger picture of the truth. Anybody who pursues the truth will experience this.

So I felt like it was appropriate to leave some things unknown, even as the author, so that people keep reading and rereading. They’ll find that some of the “loose threads” at the end are actually answered earlier in the series… the answers preceding the questions, and so fleetingly that they might never get noticed. Others remain open for us to think about. Many of my favorite stories and poems work that way.

Overstreet is a master fantasy writer. I highly recommend this series and this book. Don’t miss them!

He answered three questions from me in a video. Here’s the link.

My review of the first book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2010/04/26/auralias-colors-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

My review of the third book:

http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2010/04/27/ravens-ladder-by-jeffrey-overstreet-a-review/

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
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CSFF Blog Tour
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Dawn King
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Phyllis Wheeler

Author’s web site – http://lookingcloser.org/fiction/