Tag Archives: review

The Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr, a review

theheroslotThe Hero’s Lot by Patrick W. Carr, Book 2 of The Staff and The Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 427 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy, epic scope

Errol Stone, town drunkard turned sober warrior, wonders what his place is in the wider world. At the capital city, the king has made him an earl. The king’s gorgeous niece likes him. It looks like all will be well. Except for the fact that he has powerful enemies who wish him dead.

The old king has no heir. The first king’s death two thousand years ago bought the kingdom protection from the unseen realms of spiritual darkness, but it’s about to end. Nobles jockey for influence in the power vacuum soon to come, most not believing in spiritual matters at all. And there’s Errol, who doesn’t believe in spiritual matters either, having been tortured by an angry priest when he was a child.

A prophecy says Errol could either become the next king or he could die young. Soon he finds himself sent on a hopeless quest to an Godforsaken enemy kingdom. What good can come of it?

Compelling characters and plot twists make this a great read. Don’t miss it! I can’t wait for the next one in the series. Read my review of the first book in this series.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please check out what others are saying about this book:

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author Website http://patrickwcarr.com/

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, a review

acastofstonesA Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Book One of The Staff and the Sword
Published 2013 by Bethany House, 428 pages
Genre: Christian Fantasy (medieval, epic)

Errol Stone is a piteous drunk, nineteen years old, a village orphan with no past and no future. When a church messenger sends him on an errand, he discovers he’s a marked man. Assassins are shooting or hacking at him as he delivers the message to a hermit priest and then accompanies the priest and friends toward the capital city and the conclave that will soon choose a new king.

The priest and friends discover Errol has a rare talent. But they tell no one. So why do the assassins continue to hound him? And how do they know where he is, time and time again?

In a moment of sanctuary, Errol finds he has a choice: to continue as a drunk, or to take up the offer of a master with the quarter staff to teach him fighting skills. Will he or can he climb out of the pit he has dug for himself?

This book provides a great window into a new fantasy world. Well-drawn characters, a twisty plot, a  faith element, and plenty of danger make this a terrific story. I heartily recommend it.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog Tour. Please take a moment to check out what others on the tour are saying about this book and its sequel. Read my review of the sequel.

Julie Bihn
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author Websitehttp://patrickwcarr.com/

The Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck, a review

restorerssonThe Restorer’s Son by Sharon Hinck, Book Two of the Sword of Lyric series
Published 2012 by Marcher Lord Press, 470 pages
Genre: Christian medieval fantasy

Kieran is angry at everyone. It’s easier to be angry than to have other emotions. A trained warrior, he takes orders from nobody.

God, called the One in his world, is calling him to be the next Restorer. Like Gideon, Kieran is asked to demolish idolatrous temples. Like Jonah, Kieran is asked to speak the words of the One to a land full of ruthless enemies.

But Kieran doesn’t believe.

The book encompasses Kieran’s struggle as God turns him around to face his calling. Will he do it? Can he do it? Can he accept the cost?

This book aims at an amazing transformation in its main character, one you almost never see in fiction. Here’s why: starting the main character out in such a dark place risks losing readers at the beginning of the book. Here it works because this is the second book in a series, building on previous positive and negative information given about Kieran in Book One, where he was a secondary character.

I found this to be a gripping and effective tale, speaking volumes to anyone who has ever wrestled with God.

Men, you’ll like this book. While the (highly effective) protagonist of the first book in the series was a soccer mom, possibly not appealing to male readers, the protagonist of this one is a warrior. The protagonist of the third is also a male. So, dive in, men! If you don’t, you’re missing out!

Read my review of the first book in the series, The Restorer.

Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, a review

Exile_Exile by Rachel Starr Thomson, Book 1 of the Oneness Cycle
Published 2013 by Little Dozen Press, 223 pages
Genre: Christian supernatural fiction, YA flavor

Tyler and Chris are young men who’re making a living fishing. One day they find a live human being in their net.

It’s Reese, a spiritual warrior who’s been cast out from her clan, the Oneness. She’s an exile, and her life has lost all its meaning, so she jumped off a cliff–into the net.

The fact that she’s an exile doesn’t stop the demons from attacking her.  Tyler and Chris watch amazed, and they want to help this damsel in distress. But they know nothing about the Oneness.

How will Tyler and Chris respond to Reese’s predicament and the call of the Oneness?

I sped through this short, fast-paced novel, pleased by the well drawn characters and the surprising plot. Thomson has done a great job of portraying difficult emotional journeys. It’s a world that a Christian will recognize, and that a nonChristian might feel comfortable with. Read it!

Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown, a review

victoriaVictoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown
Published 2012 by 4RV Publishing, 208 pages
Genre: Young adult general fiction/paranormal

Victoria is 15, and she’s dealing with a lot. Her mom has snagged a rich new husband and has abandoned Victoria, her sister, and their dad. The girls and their dad have moved from Dallas to a farm in rural Texas, where learning to ride a horse is far more important than finding the latest fashion in the mall. But in the summertime, it’s hard to make friends. Only one girl her age lives within 15 miles, and she’s prickly. Victoria takes refuge in a beautiful, peaceful spot in a cemetery, all alone. Or is she?

I enjoyed this book, which seems to effectively get inside the head of a 15-year-old, with all her strong emotions. There’s enough happening to keep the plot rolling. With my interest in speculative fiction, I particularly like the ghost, who seems like a basically warm-hearted old chap. There’s a faith element that works, too, along with a touch of romance. Brown has done a good job.

Storm by Evan Angler, a review

stormStorm by Evan Angler, Book 3 in the Swipe series
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 265 pages
Genre:Middle grade dystopian/sci fi

In this version of the future, a totalitarian society provides school, food, and medical care to those who are “marked” with a scannable chip at the age of thirteen or so.  Those conscientious objectors who refuse the mark must scavenge.

A number of story threads continue from the previous two books in the series, following multiple groups of rebel markless or their helpers.

Logan Langly, leader of the markless, organized a prison break to rescue his sister Lily from the government’s clutches, but she refused to leave and in fact arranged for her brother’s capture (but he got away).

Now she works against the markless. Or does she? Is her new offer of help to Logan genuine, or has she been brainwashed?

What do I think?

Disclaimer: I did not read the previous books in the series. This book contains a summary at the beginning bringing us up to speed on the story so far.

I found this story hard to follow, told from the points of view of too many characters, at least six or seven. (Point of view characters tell the story through their eyes, saying what they are feeling and perceiving.)  This is against conventional editing wisdom, especially jumping from one point of view to another in the same paragraph. This happens several times in the story, and the publisher is highly respected, so I know it is deliberate. But I was repeatedly jarred out of the narrative and kept puzzling over who everyone was.

Another odd thing is that the author’s first book in the series appears in the narrative. Some of the characters in the story find it in a library and marvel at it, wondering how this “Evan Angler” fellow could have known what they were doing and thinking. This is probably supposed to be funny, but it also pulled me out of the narrative.

If I had read the first two books, I believe I would have been happier. At least it wouldn’t have seemed like a flood of unfamiliar characters.

I suspect that fans of dystopian fiction will like this book, because it is otherwise very well written and tells a fast-paced story. I recommend starting with the first book.

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

Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham
Keanan Brand
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
Sarah Faulkner
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder
Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Author’s website: http://www.evanangler.com/

 

Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard, a review

Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard, Book One of The Merlin Spiral
Published 2013 by Zondervan, 411 pages
Genre: Christian Arthurian tale

In Treskillard’s take on the Arthurian saga, Merlin begins as a bashful, gawky teenager, son of a blacksmith, nearly blind. Some unknown druids come to his tiny town in post-Roman Britain, bringing with them a mysterious, demonically mesmerizing stone.

The townspeople can’t help themselves–they worship the stone, abandoning the town’s Christian monks. Soon High King Uther’s battle chief Vortigern comes to town, bringing treachery with him, finding a friendly welcome from the wayward town.

How can young Merlin get the attention of the upper-class girl he loves? Can he deliver the town from its slavery to the stone? And what of the fate of the tiny prince Arthur in this time of upheaval?

I found this book to be intricately plotted, with plenty of interlocking subplots. Characters are finely drawn with  believable backgrounds, and it’s all laced together with suspense projected against a Christian worldview. I can’t wait for more!

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Take some time to check out what others are saying about this book:

Noah Arsenault
Beckie Burnham
Keanan Brand
Jeff Chapman
Laure Covert
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Jojo Sutis
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White

Author blog http://www.epictales.org/robertblog.php
Author’s websitehttp://www.kingarthur.org.uk/

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner, a review

Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner, Book 1 of The Keepers Trilogy
Published 2010 by Delacorte Press, 312 pages
Genre: Secular middle-grade fantasy

Goldie is protected, so much that she has never been in any kind of danger, never petted a dog, never seen a snake, and … never been off a leash. She lives in a city, Jewel, which is under the heavy “protection” of some super-controllers. It’s a dire situation — when she responds to an emergency and runs away, her parents are thrown into prison.

There’s a strange museum in this city that’s full of shifting rooms and staircases. It’s a terrifying place, hiding plague and murder, unless you’re one of its keepers. And Goldie finds that she is called to be one of its keepers, keeping the city of Jewel safe from the horrors.

Meanwhile, there’s a power-hungry man who wants control of Jewel so badly that he’s willing to do anything–including unleash the horrors.  Can Goldie and her friend Toadspit stop him?

This book is stuffed with imaginative constructions.  Although the museum of horrors might sound terrifying, it doesn’t come off that way because Goldie isn’t scared, at least most of the time, following her training by the other museum keepers. After all, she has some new skills, including sneaking around in plain sight without being seen. This book has no faith element that a Christian would grab onto, but it does have moral lessons, such as courage in the face of injustice, and the virtue of being bold. I do recommend this book. I enjoyed reading it.

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!