Tag Archives: Christian book review

Heroes of Old by Jay L. Young, a Review

heroesofold
Heroes of Old by Jay L. Young, a Review

Book 1 of the Heroes Series

Self-published through i-Universe, 2007.  187 pages.

Worldview: Christian.  Good vs. evil with redemption themes.

Caution: Graphic violence described. Sexual misdeeds are mentioned (not described).

This king-sized tale has been described as “X-Men Meets the Bible.”

Here’s the gist of the story: Peleg, a few generations removed from Noah, is still alive in our era.  Across the millennia he has, over and over again, assembled a group of seven heroes with super powers, gifts from the Lord.  Their assignment is to oppose the Nephilim, or giants, which are briefly referred to in Genesis.  Young has answered the question, “Who are the Nephilim?”

Two parallel stories are told: one of the origins of the evil Nephilim, and the other of a modern Christian teenager named Noah, who discovers he has special powers (actually gifts).  Peleg recruits him for the Faction, which sounds very much like the X-Men.  Young Noah learns that he will have a key role to play in the struggle with the Nephilim–he is mentioned by name in an ancient prophecy.

Because of the self-publishing, this story has an unfinished quality to it–mainly some consistent spelling errors. It would benefit from editing. (I would suggest avoiding Peleg’s first person narration–it spoils the suspense.)

It is a lively, well-told, memorable story that will appeal to my 16-year-old boys, I am sure. In fact, I think it would work best in another medium–as a movie and/or a graphic novel. I can see it becoming quite popular. I hope Young pushes harder for a wider audience.

In fact this book is doing pretty well on Amazon (very well for a self-published book) and is getting favorable mentions by fans on the Internet. But it is only available on the Internet, and so would-be fans like my sons have been missing out.  —Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, consider buying it here to help pay the costs of this blog.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, a Review

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Book One, The Amulet of Samarkand, Hyperion Books for Children, 2003, 462 pages.

Worldview:  Dark.  In a world where moral behavior is nearly unknown, the protagonist and his genie  occasionally demonstrate moral behavior.  More often, they don’t.

This book is a well-written high-action story that appeals to boys. It is told from two points of view:  the Djinn (genie) Bartimaeus (apparently just a coincidence that this is a Biblical name) and the young magician’s apprentice Nathaniel.  This fantasy world contains a version of London that is vaguely familiar but still very different. It is ruled by powerful evil magicians, who take in apprentices rather than producing children of their own.  Everyone is jockeying for power, including non-magicians.

But in fact all the magicians’ powers depend on their ability to control demons. Using special glasses or contact lenses, they can see the demons. So the magicians don’t have special powers of their own. They just learn incantations while they are apprentices.

Into this mix comes Nathaniel, age 12, a boy genius who mouths off and is disciplined by his master’s magician acquaintance Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel conceives a plan for revenge. In fact, revenge appears to be Nathaniel’s primary motivator throughout the book.

As a result of Nathaniel’s theft of Lovelace’s amulet, Lovelace kills Nathaniel’s master and his wife. Then Lovelace sets out to kill all the magicians in the government.  Nathaniel and Bartimaeus foil him.  In the process Nathaniel does plenty of lying and stealing. Flashes of conscience, coming from who knows where, lead him to own up to stealing the amulet, but don’t keep him from seeking revenge.

Nathaniel’s character doesn’t seem to change as the plot develops.  In fact, at the end he is placed under the tutelage of another evil magician, and we wonder whether any flashes of conscience will redeem him in the future.  Bartimaeus is able to persuade Nathaniel to keep his word and release Bartimaeus from service, but only with great difficulty.

Bartimaeus’s character starts out as undeniably demonic, wishing evil on all the human race. He’s also got irreverent wit, a bit like the genie in the movie Aladdin.  Bartimaeus’parts of the book are told in the first person, so we can see his thoughts.  But eventually he softens up somewhat. At the end he even commends Nathaniel for having a conscience, and tells him to guard it.  Now, where this character change came from isn’t obvious.  The high-action tale doesn’t show why a demon would change in this manner.

This is another high-action fantasy tale without merit.–Phyllis Wheeler thumbsdown

Master of the genre: J.K. Rowling

The Masters: J.K. Rowling

The third and final fantasy master of our time I am naming as J.K. Rowling, for her Harry Potter series.  However, I hope you discuss worldview and witchcraft with your teens when you talk about these books.

When the Harry Potter books first started coming out, many Christians were concerned that these books would draw kids into the world of Wicca and ouija boards by making witchcraft appear desirable.  It wasn’t crystal clear then whether Harry, the young wizard, was really on the light side. Or was he learning the occult?

However, as the series matured, it became apparent that Rowling’s is another fantasy world, not related to the principalities and powers discussed in the Bible. Like other fantasy works, there is a deeply evil (and memorable) bad guy. There is also a young, fumbling protagonist who works for good and who eventually gets more adept at it. It is clear that Rowling’s worldview is a moral one.

Along the way, Harry Potter does use incantations and so on, which are bound to make us Christians nervous if we are aware of the Biblical ban on witchcraft in Leviticus 19:26 & 31. This would be a great thing to discuss with your teens: what exactly is it that God is forbidding in consulting mediums and necromancers? Where is the idolatry?

At the same time, Harry’s use of words as instruments of power is an echo of Biblical truth.  God creates using words.  Jesus is described as the Word made Flesh. There is something we can learn or re-learn here, and that is that our words, what we say, really do matter.

Another reason some Christians object to Harry Potter is because he attains some great powers. Is he becoming godlike?  Will this aspect lead our kids astray somehow?

Well, the Superman comics portray someone with godlike powers as well. I used to love reading Superman comics when I was a kid.  IT was fun to imagine being able to fly and so on.  But of course I knew it was fiction. So do Rowling’s readers.

Rowling’s genius is in her broad array of memorable characters.  There are Hagrid, the half-giant who loves strange monsters; Dumbledore, the wise schoolmaster; and many more.  Rowling’s world is the work of many years of imagining characters and details. In my opinion this puts her in a similar league to George Lucas. —Phyllis Wheeler