Tag Archives: Christian fantasy

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck, a review

RestorerThe Restorer by Sharon Hinck, Book One of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 454 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy

Susan Mitchell spends her time caring for her children and wishing she could have a few moments to herself.

Somehow she finds herself pulled into someplace else where everything is different: the weather, the architecture, the issues. She stumbles around trying to make sense of it, and is puzzled to discover that some of the people in this place think she has a special destiny as a “restorer,” battling against enemies within and outside the tiny nation struggling for its existence.

She’s managed to bring two things through the portal with her: a plastic toy sword, now a real sword, and memorized Bible verses.

Just how deep is her commitment to the Lord? Will she use these weapons to step into the path that the One has laid out for her in this new world, though it is likely to cost her life?

This book is well written, with a gripping plot, well-drawn characters, great descriptions, and a dilemma that is the dilemma of every Christian: will I, can I be a hero? I really enjoyed reading it, and plan to pick up the sequel right away!

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, a review

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach, Book 1 of the Toch Island Chronicles
Published 2011 by Splashdown Books, 294 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview

Angel has no idea who her parents are or what her true name is.  She lives in Florida with a foster family who found her wandering in the woods without her memory at the age of six. Now she’s fourteen, and strange things are starting to happen.

She takes a shine to a young man, Gregor, a stranger to her. She realizes he has answers about who she is, and she decides to go with him back to his home. She finds this is her birthplace, Toch Island, a magical place near Ireland. She learns she has magical powers, like others from the island, and Gregor teaches her to use them.

Her parents are off searching for her in Germany, and they’re also searching for the man who tried to kill her when she was six in order to steal her magic powers.

This man is still trying to kill her, the reader learns amid bizarre happenings on and near Gregor’s farm. No one knows who the villain is, and he likes it that way.

Can Angel solve the riddle of a prophecy? Will she live to see her parents again? And will Angel learn who the would-be killer is?

This student-wizard tale is slow-moving in some spots, but provides a pleasing whodunit with some great plot twists and novel characters. I like the story world of the island, full of simple townsfolk, tame dog-like dragons, and dotty professors.

The faith element in this story lies in the deep background. Heckenbach, a Christian, writes for the secular market. In this tale, prophecy works. Things don’t happen randomly, though the bad guy would have us believe so.

Son of Truth by Morgan Busse, a review

Son of Truth by Morgan L. Busse, Book 2 of Follower of the Word series
Published 2013 by Marcher Lord Press, 442 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy

Caleb Tala, prince of Temanin, has lived in luxury all his life, but he’s no spoiled brat. He’s taken his job seriously. He’s an assassin for his cousin, the king, and he’s the best of the best.

Caleb has gone so far as to assassinate the ruler of the neighboring kingdom to the north, Ryland Plains, where the previous story in this series took place. But being at the top of his profession gives him no peace. His many victims invade his dreams. Guilt consumes him.

In the invasion of Ryland Plains, his Temanin army is mysteriously defeated by a barrage of light at the gates of the main city. Caleb meets  the Word, Savior of the world, who asks him a question. Does Caleb want forgiveness for his crimes? Does he want it so much that he will step into the guardian role abandoned by his mother, an Eldaran–a being with supernatural powers?

Caleb spends most of the rest of the book coping with his choice. Can he now be someone entirely different, a Son of Truth, or does he fall back into his previous self-centered habits? He struggles with his and others’ expectations.

The Word is equipping Caleb and Rowen, two Eldarans, to fight the two Shadonae, evil beings with supernatural powers, who have taken over the city of Thyra on the other side of the  mountains and will surely move eastward. Rowen’s story is told in the previous book (Daughter of Light) and continues in this one.

Will these flawed and fragile beings be able to save the world? Or will they succumb to temptations, snares, and opposition?

I couldn’t put this book down. It moved from crisis to crisis, putting these wonderful characters through all kinds of conflict. There’s a strong faith element, providing a very satisfying read. While Caleb goes through some substantial change in this book, the plot doesn’t resolve. But then, it’s not the last book in the series, is it? I can’t wait for the next one!

My review of Book 1, Daughter of Light

My review of Book 2, Son of Truth

My review of Book 3, Heir of Hope

Brad Roth, South American writer?

The Roth family in Peru

I was intrigued by the wonderful book I reviewed yesterday, Rumi and the Savage Mountain by Bradley Roth. Its protagonist is a boy who lives in a village in the Andes mountains, and it’s very convincingly told. In addition, it has plenty of what looks like magical realism to me, a genre invented by South American writers.  So how did such a book come to be written by a gringo with a name like Bradley Roth? So I asked him some questions:

1. Have you heard of magical realism? If so do you consider this book to be in this genre?

Yes, I have heard of magical realism.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende come to mind.  My experience with Marquez or Allende is that their magical realism uses the absurd to pique our moral imagination.  My writing is set in the mythical Andes, drawing from authentic Andean myths and legends, though modified a bit to fit in a few things, like the faith of Tayta Siwar or the story about Junior’s dad.  It’s a different way of looking at the world, but it’s not intentionally absurd as I see magical realism being.

2. Do you envision adults reading your book as well as kids?

Yes, but I’ve tried to gear my story toward the 8-12 set.

3. How were you able to get into the head of someone who lives such a different life from that of the average American?

Great question.  We recently returned from a year of missionary service with Eastern Mennonite Missions in the Cuzco, Peru.  We were based in the city, but as part of our work we travelled out to extremely rural villages.  We got a taste of what life was like in the mountains.  During our time in Cuzco, we also studied Quechua.  A few Quechua words pop up in the story.  And I’m interested in Andean culture, folk beliefs, and history.

If you’re interested, you can read more about our journey in Peru at www.Facebook.com/rothsinperu

I would also add that the voice of the characters is intentionally a bit anachronistic.  Rumi, Kiya, and Junior talk a little like kids in 21st century US.

4. Does Rumi live in Peru?

It could be Peru, or any place in the Andes.  It’s my imagining of life shortly after the Inca Empire was overthrown by the Spaniards–except that creatures out of myth are alive and well and walking about.  And there’s a bit of alternative history woven into the background: the Lamb was born into the Andes, and the faith centered in his life and way is embodied by the Taytas.

5. What literature do you like to read?

I like fantasy and sci-fi that takes questions of faith seriously. There’s scant little of it.  I read Narnia when I was a kid.  Ursula LeGuinn’s Earthsea series and Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow and Children of God books strike me.  I would like to find compelling fantasy that takes Christian  nonviolence seriously.  I’m working on that.

Rumi and the Savage Mountain by Bradley Roth, a review

Rumi and the Savage Mountain by Bradley Roth
Self-published 2012, 136 pages
Genre: Christian magical realism (fantasy/fairy tale) for middle grade and up

Rumi is an 11-year-old boy who lives in the Andes mountains. His main worries are dealing with the local bully and caring for his younger sisters while  his mother is at work in the fields. Suddenly a strange messenger appears and convinces him that Rumi’s beloved friend, the village holy man, will die unless Rumi brings some snow from the snowcap of the nearby mountain. The messenger from the Most High leaves him with a few odd items to help in the journey: a feather, a grain of quinoa,  a clay whistle, and a potato. Is this all a joke, or should he go?

Rumi’s faithful dog, Junior, can talk and advise, like a human friend.  What if the holy man dies? The two of them decide to go. And so begins an adventure filled with perils.

What do I think?

This story, intended for youngsters, is very readable for adults as well. It reminds me strongly of the magical realism work of South American authors.  Magical realism matter-of-factly describes events that are actually bizarre or impossible, but the characters accept them as if they are normal. This tale is full of instances of this, starting with the talking dog.

What makes this book so cool is that it is convincingly told from the point of view of Rumi, the boy.  This child leads a subsistence lifestyle very unlike that of the average American kid, and he’s facing all kinds of tangible supernatural forces. Yet his story is believable because he shows us his emotions in each situation. It doesn’t hurt that Roth uses rich metaphors as he weaves the story. While the book is self-published, it’s free of errors, making it a joy to read.

There’s a great faith lesson in this book when Rumi refuses to worship something that is not God, providing great fodder for a family discussion. In short, read this book. I expect you’ll love it too.

Read my interview with Brad Roth.

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, a review

Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Tales of Goldstone Wood #4
Published 2012 by Bethany House, 348 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for middle grade and up

Starflower is a mortal woman who flees a life of abuse and loses her way in a faerie wood, tortured by dreams of what she left behind. She had sought to save her sister’s life. Now that Starflower has escaped, is her sister dead?

An immortal faerie man who is also a cat (in a world where the immortals shape-change readily)  sets out on a quest to rescue his lady fair from the clutches of a dragon witch, bumbling into dangers he little can understand.  But since he’s a poet, he expects to make beautiful songs about the quest. And does he love his lady fair? Well, he certainly thinks he does.

Soon their paths cross. The cat-man doesn’t want to help Starflower, who is after all a mere mortal, but for some reason he it anyway.  Both the cat-man and Starflower soon find themselves called to the path drawn for them by a golden hound. This is a mysterious being who speaks to their hearts and calls them out of themselves as they each must deal with terrible evil.

How will each respond?

What do I think?

This book has a lot of great things going for it. The characters are unique and well drawn, and the story line is unforgettable, with characters faced with heartstopping dilemmas. One of the best things is the Hound of Heaven, whose guidance and presence ring true. The heroine is dark-skinned, a welcome change from most heroines in Christian fiction. Setting, dialogue, and description work well together to create a wonderful story. This story has two memorable faerie villains, a double helping.

However, I had some trouble getting into the book, and I think it’s for these reasons:

  1. The lengthy prologue was from the point of view of a villain, whom I couldn’t identify with. The prologue was full of many details about this story world that I didn’t latch onto.
  2. The two protagonists are in an emotionally broken state to begin with, making it hard for the reader  to identify with them. This is a common story problem, as any author must move the protagonist through a character arc. But it’s usual to create some kind of an early bonding moment for the reader, often known as the “pet the dog moment.” There such a moment for the minor protagonist (cat-man), but not for the main protagonist, Starflower.
  3. As we get to know Starflower, we readers are kept from knowing anything about her past for a very long time. In fact, she is asleep for a lot of the first part of the story.

So, my counsel for you readers is to pick up this book and stick with it a while until it grows on you. It will bless you mightily.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Check out what others are saying about this book during the next three days:

Gillian Adams
Beckie Burnham
Nikole Hahn
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Anne-Elisabeth-Stengl/120543861335559#ts&fref=ts

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.

Dawnsinger by Janalyn Voigt, a review

Dawnsinger by Janalyn Voigt
Published 2012 by Harbourlight Books, 316 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy fiction, suitable for teens and adults

Shae’s family loves her and protects her (especially her brother Kai), but it has never occurred to Shae to wonder why she doesn’t resemble them. She gets a strange summons to attend the dying queen of the realm, someone she has met on a few occasions, and she makes a journey to the royal castle with Kai that turns out to be full of dangers. Once there, she finds a court filled with intrigue and murderous plans. Not the least of the dangers is a mysterious court musician who exerts a magnetic pull on her.

There’s a prophecy, she learns, that only she can fulfill. As she sets off on a dangerous journey with Kai and other companions, she only knows that she will meet plenty of opposition. Will she be up to the task?

What do I think?

This book has a good plot, which brought Shae’s story to a good stopping point while leaving me wondering what will happen in the next book.  I enjoyed the characters as well. I’ll be interested to read the next book in the story when it comes out.

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!

Rooms by James L. Rubart, a review

Rooms by James L. Rubart
Published 2010 by B&H Publishing, 382 pages
Genre: contemporary supernatural

Micah Taylor’s a driven man, a young software multimillionaire. He’s got a great girlfriend, an 80-hour-a-week job, and opportunity to travel. But something is missing.

He finds out that his great-uncle Archie, who died years before, had set a plan in motion to build him a house, a large beautiful beach-front property–achingly close to the spot where his mother drowned when he was nine years old. The house is ready to go, and a letter arrives at his office telling him about it, including a key. The house is on the Oregon coast, a few hours’ drive from his life in Seattle.

It’s no ordinary house. Doorways and hallways appear, leading to rooms that contain feelings, experiences. These show him that some things have been missing from his life. Does he reach out for the missing things, or does he retreat to the comfort of Seattle? And what does he want the most? He has to figure that out. Who does he look to for guidance? And which woman does he want to spend his life with–the one from Seattle, or the one from Cannon Beach?

What do I think?

I enjoyed this book. The characters are fully rendered and believable. There’s a strong and reassuring faith element. The book skates from the normal into the supernatural and beyond, into parallel universes. But it doesn’t come across as a fantasy tale, because it seems so rooted in the here and now. It’s an inner journey full of consequence. Rubart did a great job.