Tag Archives: Christian book review

Tuck by Stephen Lawhead, a Review

tuck

Tuck by Stephen R. Lawhead
Book Three of the King Raven Trilogy
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2009, 443 pages
Genre: Historic legend, Christian, young adult (high action, no sexy stuff)

Is this a fantasy book? Not really. There is only one character who has attributes that are truly larger than life: the Banfaith seer, Angharad. She appears to be several hundred years old, a Celtic seer in the tradition of Merlin, but of course her age isn’t pinned down, so who knows?

Are Arthurian legends fantasy?  This book falls in the Arthurian vein, in that it is speculating about the possible history behind a legend.

Tuck is the final book of the King Raven trilogy, which is a long, wild yarn spun to answer the question, who might Robin Hood have been? Apparently the traditional location, Sherwood Forest, isn’t very conducive to a good semi-historical tale, at least as far as Lawhead is concerned.  Now Lawhead, who has spent much of his career exploring Celtic culture and myth, is entertaining us by bringing his broad knowledge of the Cymry (Welsh) to the Robin Hood legend.

What if Robin Hood and his longbowmen were really Welsh resistance fighters, seeking to counter the heavy hand of William the Conqueror’s son William Rufus?  Lawhead bases his three-volume tale on this supposition.

The first book, Hood, stands mostly in the point of view of Bran, the Robin Hood character. (Rhi Bran y Hud is what he is eventually called by his countrymen.) The second book, Scarlet, revolves around the point of view of Will Scarlet, who joins the outlaw band living in the ancient woods of the March, the eastern borderland of Wales. And the third, Tuck, contains much from the point of view of Father Aethelfrith, whom the legend calls Friar Tuck.

There are other familiar characters from the legend too: maid Marian becomes Merian, Bran’s headstrong beloved. Little John becomes Iwan. The evil sheriff of Nottingham becomes the ruthless Norman Sheriff de Glanville. And, like in the legend, the outlaw band members are adept at guerilla tactics, shooting the longbow, repeatedly besting their adversaries. Those adversaries come after them in far larger numbers as knights on horseback, carrying sword and spear. They nearly always lose. But the band of outlaws living in the woods suffers from hunger and privation, so they are not winning, either.

As the story progresses, Bran becomes more and more adept at fooling others–he is a trickster who masters the art of illusion. He’s using it to further his quest to gain his rightful throne as a petty Welsh king, and to aid his suffering countrymen where he can. Bran also leans heavily on his spiritual advisor, Angharad, and consistently makes decisions based on mercy rather than vengeance. It is Biblical thinking we hear from Angharad and Bran.

Meanwhile, William Rufus, Baron Neufmarche, and other Normans have been ruthlessly enforcing their domination and taxation on the poor citizens of Britain and parts of Wales.  Their characters in previous books seem uniformly villainous and bullying. Double-crossing is the way they operate.

Will the band of outlaws succeed in convincing the Norman king that he should live up to his previous agreement and install Bran as his vassal?  Will a daring excapade in the north of Wales convince Bran’s kinsmen to come to his aid? Read it to find out!

And what do I think?

It’s a great and riveting tale.  Not only did the fantasy lovers in my household want to read it, but the historical fiction lovers too. What a gas, to reimagine Robin Hood in this totally different way.

However, the way that the plot resolves doesn’t seem believable to me. In particular two characters, the impetuous Merian and the cold William Rufus, act in a manner that seems out of character.  Another character, Baron Neufmarche, also does some surprising things, but his change of heart is developed enough to be believable.

Also, Bran’s character in this book seems less real than in the previous books. He is just too successful at duping the enemy Normans, and too good at turning the other cheek. It’s as if he’s stepping into the realm of legend although he is still alive.

These reservations didn’t detract much, though.  I heartily enjoyed reading this trilogy. It’s so good and satisfying to me to read a great tale with a solid Biblical worldview as its foundation.  And who knows? Maybe Robin Hood really was a Welshman. Maybe Lawhead is onto something. But I guess we’ll never know.–Phyllis Wheeler

Take a look at what others on the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy blog tour are saying about this book in the next three days:

Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Keanan Brand
Rachel Briard
Grace Bridges
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Kait
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Terri Main
Margaret
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Epic Rat
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Stephen Lawhead’s Web site

I’m reading!

You haven’t heard from me because I’m pretty busy, and I do have several books to read. I’m very happy to have these in the hopper. Right now I’m reading Blaggard’s Moon, a fantasy pirate story. Or group of stories actually. Stay tuned!

Interview with Allan Miller: Blog Tour Day 3

This is the final day of the CSFF March Blog Tour, featuring Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by homeschool graduates Christopher and Allan Miller. These brothers live in the Seattle area. Both are married and have two young boys. Allan kindly granted me an email interview. Here it is!

Q: I saw a banner ad at homeschoolblogger.com that indicated you and your brother were homeschooled. Can you tell me about that? All the way through?

A: We were homeschooled for my 6th-11th (I graduated one year early) and Chris’ 8th-12th grades. Prior to that we attended a private school in Fairbanks, AK. The year we moved from AK to WA (my 2nd grade and Chris’ 5th grade) my mom had homeschooled us so we could be flexible during the move. We loved it! However, this was 1986-87 and homeschooling was not very “popular”. Not yet comfortable with the idea that she could successfully teach us at home, my mom enrolled us in private school the following year after we moved. However, neither us or our parents were settled with the decision.

After my brother completed his 7th grade year he asked mom if we could homeschool again… she had been feeling the same way. So, we bravely jumped back into it and we will forever be indebted to our parents for that gift. Homeschooling truly is a gift from parents for every kid who receives it. One of the greatest benefits of home-based learning is the opportunities it gives you to discover your strengths and invest time into those.

We found that our base subjects (math, english, science, etc) were able to be completed rather quickly, leaving us with time to explore interests like art, animation, or writing stories. Additionally, as our parents started seeing our passions forming, they encouraged us to incorporate them into all of our studies – leading to us writing/illustrate children’s books as our science projects – books that creatively taught the concept of physics or light/color through story. I believe this is a HUGE contributor to directing our future path towards becoming published author/illustrators.

The time homeschooling also allowed Chris and I to really grow in appreciation for each other as friends which eventually led to us attending the Art Institute of Seattle together in 95-97. The combination of our friendship and our strong foundation in faith, nurtured through homeschooling, helped us stand firm in our convictions even amidst a strongly secular college environment. So, in short, we would never wish we had our schooling any other way. It was fantastic!

Q: Who is older and by how much?

A: Chris is older by 2 1/2 years. Somehow that didn’t stop us from becoming great friends – sharing many of the same friends throughout our teens.

Q: Apparently you also worked in a Christian bookstore while homeschooling?

A:My parents and grandparents (mom’s side) ran a Christian bookstore up in Fairbanks, AK for a number of years. So, soon after entering the world both Chris and I were brought into a world of books – tucked behind the counter. Many of our earliest memories are of roaming the aisles after-hours and making little forts between the tent-shaped bookshelves where we’d peek out through holes of the peg-board backing to spy on customers (you never knew there were spies in the bookstores did you?)

After moving to WA our parents started a Christian School Book Club (think Scholastic) and after selling that began traveling as Representatives for a homeschool distributor. So, we never really could escape books. In fact, Chris and I recall thinking about how we would be glad to never have to haul another box of books after high school… oh the irony that we now haul our OWN books from and to events and schools!

Q: Did you find a lack of Christian fantasy works to read as you were growing up?

A: As a matter of fact, we did. The older we got, the thinner the selection of GREAT Christian books became. There were some wonderful books, to be sure, but not enough in our opinion. This is one of the driving factors in why we’ve chosen to write the Codebearers Series. In fact, you could say that we are writing these books for ourselves – the 10+ year-old versions of ourselves. These are the kind of stories we loved to read (and still do) These are the stories we believe we’ve been called to write and we hope our work answers that call well. There has been nothing more fulfilling than hearing from a reader or parent about how it connected with them and met that very need.

Q: Is the second book out now?

A: The second book, Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire, is written going through the editing and illustrating process right now. It is slated to be released 9/9/09. You can follow our progress through our website, Codebearers.com, and blog, http://themillerbrothers.blogspot.com

Q: How long are you planning the series to be?

A: We have a 3 book story arch for Hunter Brown that Warner Press has contracted us to complete. The 3rd book should come out summer/fall of 2010. However, we have some other storylines we’d like to explore that may extend the series into more books… possibly following another main character, but that’s all I can tell you now!

Q: Is there a videogame to go with the book? If so, is it similar to the book trailer?

A: There is an online game off of our Codebearers.com website, but it’s not animated in that sense. It plays more like a first-person mystery – where you get to solve visual puzzles and riddles to discover the message that Hunter eludes to at the end of book 1 – so it’s a continuation of the story between book 1 and 2. If you’ve ever played the popular PC games, Myst or Riven, then you’ll be familiar with this style of game. Ours is built with the widely distributed Flash plug-in, so it works on any browser (though dial-up is not recommended). We try to add a new level every month or so, but it’s tough when you are writing a book too!

My brother and I are professional website designers/programmers. That has been our “day job” for the past 11 years. So, much of what you see on Codebearers.com is a direct application of our skills. The website also offers a great community for kids to interact with each other. We also make appearances via a fun “3D Chatroom” every so often. I should also mention, the online game plays for points as does other things like writing a review of the book, recruiting a friend to Codebearers.com, etc. On December 15th we awarded a $400 gift card to Best Buy for the top points earner. It was a lot of fun and we will be starting up the next round of competition soon. (end of interview)

Be sure to check out what other bloggers are saying on this today on the CSFF Blog Tour:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow, a Review

secretoftheshadow_cover1

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow by Christopher and Allan Miller, a review
Book 1 of the Codebearers Series

Published by Warner Press, 2008, 366 pages.

Worldview: Christian

In this middle-grade Christian fantasy novel, Hunter Brown keeps making bad choices. Nevertheless, he finds redemption.

The book starts off with a prank that goes bad.  Soon Hunter finds himself visiting a mysterious bookshop with an odd little man as the proprietor. He is given a book. The book soon leads Hunter and his friend Stretch into another world, Solandria.

Solandria is connected to our world, which Solandrians call the Veil. Both worlds are ruled by the Shadow. In our world, the Veil, people aren’t aware that the Shadow rules. They are fooled by appearances.

However, the Book showed the truth about us, our dark and evil eyes, to Hunter and continues to guide him. In Solandria, it’s obvious who the evil folks are. In fact, Hunter seems to have some of their evil characteristics. He certainly makes some choices that reflect that. But friendly folk, the Codebearers, teach Hunter how to use a special force-sword, activated by speaking words from the Book. They send him to look for Aviad, the son of the Author–Author of life and of the Book.

After many trials, Hunter finds Aviad. It turns out that he is the bookseller, the odd-looking bookstore owner–a man with short legs and too many cats. Now Hunter must seek to undo the curse that has fallen on Solandria. Aviad has a role in lifting the curse as well.

This book has good characterization, with consistent, well-drawn characters. It has plenty of action, and keeps you turning the pages, that’s for sure. It does a good job of portraying the Christian walk. Clearly the swords used are the swords of the Spirit, activated by the Word of God. This book is an allegory in many ways, but it is also a page-turner.

Hunter learns to ask Aviad for help, after first going his own way and heading for disaster. When he finally calls for help, he receives it. Through most of the book, Hunter thinks he is OK, when he really is under the curse.  In the end, when he submits to the Author, the curse is lifted for him, and he becomes a Codebearer like his friends. And so it does describe the path to Christ pretty well.

I do have a minor reservation about this book. I am uncomfortable with the idea of portraying Jesus as an odd-looking man with short legs, wispy hair, and so on. This is no Aslan. But Isaiah did describe Jesus as unremarkable in appearance, so this Jesus could be more Biblical than Lewis’ Aslan.

In short, this is a great book for your middle-grade boys to read. They will like it, and they’ll learn something about the road to Jesus from it. –Phyllis Wheeler

Tomorrow: an interview with the authors!

If you want to buy this book, you can help defray expenses of operating this blog by ordering here:

Check out others on the blog tour and what they have to say:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Magma
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Wade Ogletree
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson

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.

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