Tag Archives: review

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, a review

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, Book One of Merlin’s Immortals
Published 2012 by Waterbrook, 220 pages
Genre: Middle grade Christian historical fiction with Arthurian hints

It’s England, AD 1312. Thomas is a slave, an 18-year-old orphan raised by cruel, selfish monks. Thomas knows he has a destiny, some of it revealed to him at age 10 as his mother lay dying. He knows he’s destined to rule a kingdom that a usurper took from his family. And he’s determined to bring justice. But how can he do it by himself? He’s just an orphan with no family, no tribe, no helpers, and no faith.

He puzzles over the mysterious words his mother spoke: “My prayer was to watch you grow into a man and become one of us, one of the Immortals.” And then she died. What did she mean?

Thomas in his quest picks up some unreliable companions: a thief, a deaf-mute woman, and a former Knight Templar. Secrets abound. There are bad guys about, and good guys too. Whom can he trust? Anyone?

What do I think?

It’s a middle grade story, meaning it’s briefly told. I’d love more description and so on, but for the intended reader, it’s a good book, not too long. The characters are well sketched and consistent, and the settings are detailed enough to be visualized. There’s a good story arc , and there is a faith element in the book which I expect to get stronger in the sequels as Thomas learns more about God.  In short, it’s a very good book for middle grade readers. It even mentions Merlin and King Arthur, topics which I hope come to the fore in the next books.

As it happens, this book has a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions in it. One of them really nags at me though. Why does Thomas decide to rescue the knight who is about to be hanged near the beginning of the book? Did his mother predict the hanging and tell him to be there? And it’s odd that she’s an Immortal who died. Immortal seems like a funny name for a mortal, if you ask me.  I suppose these questions will eventually be answered later in the series, and so I’ll be happy to read more.

This post is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.  Check out what the others are saying, and come back tomorrow for a review of the sequel!

Author Website – http://www.sigmundbrouwer.com/
*Participants’ links
Gillian Adams
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Janey DeMeo
Theresa Dunlap
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Jeremy Harder
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Eve Nielsen
Nathan Reimer
James Somers
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler

A Storm in Tormay by Christopher Bunn, a review

A Storm in Tormay by Christopher Bunn, a compilation of the Tormay trilogy: The Hawk and His Boy, The Shadow at the Gate, and The Wicked Day.
Self-published in 2010, 738 pages
Genre: Fantasy, suitable for teens and up

A young apprentice thief is given the task of stealing an item from a house guarded, or warded, by magic. Jute has got a natural talent for detecting the “wards” that protect the house, and he manages to steal the item and give it to the man who ordered it. But not before he disobeys instruction and opens the box. He can’t help himself somehow. And so the beautiful dagger inside it draws blood from his finger.

As a result, a variety of people suddenly want him dead or captured. Can he stay ahead of them? How can he outwit the wizard and the various collection of bad guys? Will the new powers he’s developing help him or betray him?

What do I think?

This book is not in the genre I normally enjoy, Christian fantasy. There seems to be a deity who set the world in motion and created and assigned four guardians to protect it, but there’s no benevolent God in charge, and the forces of evil at times seem overwhelming.

What’s the rating? There are many violent scenes but no sex.

That said, I found the book to be well written. This is a sprawling, page-turner story with a huge cast of characters, each one well drawn. It reminds me a bit of Avatar, the Last Airbender–I wonder whether the author got some inspiration from that, as the boy Jute discovers he has become one of the four guardians, the one in charge of air (as opposed to earth, water, and fire), and slowly grows into his powers. I suspect that fans of secular fantasy will enjoy this book.

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.

Oxygen by Olson and Ingermanson, a review

Oxygen by John B. Olson and Randy Ingermanson

Originally published in 2001 by Bethany House, 368 pages; now available on Kindle

Genre: Christian near-future science thriller

Valkerie Jansen is a capable scientist who keeps her head in awful situations, so it’s no surprise that she’s drafted to join a mission to Mars. Problem is, she’s replacing the beloved commander of the group of four, and the other three have already been training for many months. Can she fit in?

After plenty of training, the new group of four takes off. But apparent sabotage causes an explosion that eats up much of their oxygen, and there isn’t enough for all four of them to make it to Mars. They don’t have the fuel to turn back. So… Who will live and who will die?

Because of the sabotage, the teammates can’t trust each other. Is this a nightmare? Or does it become a tale of ingenuity in the face of insurmountable odds?

What do I think? I really enjoyed this award-winning book. I learned a whole lot about how NASA works and what a mission to Mars, using current technology, would look like, what it would be like to be in space. And of course I was wonderfully entertained by this great story. I’m glad to hear there’s a sequel!

The Land of Darkness by C.S. Lakin, a review

The Land of Darkness by C.S. Lakin
Published  by AMG Publishers, 2011, 313 pages
Genre: Christian allegory, suitable for middle grade and up

C.S. Lakin is writing what she calls fairy tales, but which I would call well-developed allegory, like Pilgrim’s Progress with more description added. At the same time, there are some elements more common to traditional fairy tales, such as talking toads and a witch casting spells.

Callen, a woodworker’s apprentice, finds an amazingly intricate drawing of carvings on a mysterious wooden bridge. He decides to take a little trip to see if he can find out more about the bridge.

Meanwhile, the master of his woodworking shop has a niece who’s in serious trouble. Her father has married a beautiful woman who’s really, Jadiel suspects, a hag who has bewitched him. The evil stepmother and her two daughters make Jadiel’s life fully miserable. Finally the stepmother tries to kill Jadiel, but Jadiel has good advice from a talking toad. When murder fails, the stepmother sends Jadiel on a fool’s errand.

And so Jadiel, age 12, and Callen, age 31, meet up on the road, each on an impossible quest.  Where will their adventure lead them? What will they learn?

What did I think?

Lakin does a good job of setting the stage, crafting characters, writing believable scenes, and so on, all the tools of the writer’s craft. What I most enjoyed about this book was the central metaphor of a bridge, the bridge that Callen has gone looking for.  What it is and means becomes clear only at the climax of the book, and it’s a beautiful thing, very memorable.  I recommend this book.

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.

Firebird by Kathy Tyers, a review

Firebird (The Annotated Firebird) by Kathy Tyers
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, the first 353 pages of a combined volume
Originally published in 1987 by Bantam Spectra Books
Genre: Christian science fiction, adventure-romance

This book, a bestseller that kicked off the genre of Christian science fiction in 1987, has now been published three times, each about 10 years apart. The volume from Marcher Lord Press contains not only Firebird but two sequels.

Well, it’s always best to read a classic if you’ve never read it, so I picked up Firebird and found a heartstopping adventure-romance. It reminded me in some ways of Star Wars, but with a Christian worldview. I only read the first book in the series, but I’m planning to read more. Plainly the tale has an epic sweep to it, reaching down at least a generation as well as across worlds.

Lady Firebird Angelo was born the third daughter of the queen of her world. That sounds like she might have had an easy life. But the warped rules on her planet dictate that she must die as soon as she drops down to fifth in line to the throne. It’s not just those in the royal family; this happens to the heirs of all the major houses on her planet. She’s a “wastling,” born to be wasted. Her time comes, and Firebird, a pilot, is sent on a suicide mission along with other wastlings. But her enemy saves her life. What can she do now?

Her enemy, Brennan Caldwell, is a telepath. Humans have populated the galaxies, but one group took the liberty of altering the genetics of their children, and he’s one of the results. How can he hope to fit in? And what can he do with his attraction to the woman he rescued, who isn’t a telepath?

What do I think? I really enjoyed reading this book. The characters were unusual and compelling, the faith element strong and wonderful, and the plot unpredictable. You’ll like it too, and I expect you’ll dive into the sequels. Which is what I am about to do. Not only are two of the sequels contained in this volume, but Marcher Lord Press has published a third, Wind and Shadow.

But guess what, folks, there’s another book in the series, Daystar, never before published! And that’s just come out from Marcher Lord Press.

Book of Days by James L. Rubart, a Review

Book of Days by James L. Rubart
Published 2011 by B&H Publishing, 376 pages
Genre: Christian suspense with a speculative twist

Cameron Vaux has lost both his father and his wife, Jessie. Now, though he’s only 33, he fears he’s losing his mind, the same way his father’s mind went–one memory at a time. He latches onto something mentioned by both his father and Jessie: God’s book holding all memories, the one mentioned in Psalm 139: “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Problem is, he doesn’t believe in God.

Can he find this book? Could it restore his mind and his memories of Jessie?

Clues point him to the little town of Three Peaks, Oregon. He doesn’t want to go there alone. Who will help him? There’s only one person to ask: Jessie’s foster sister, Ann, who has hardly spoken to him for years.

Cameron’s not the only one who wants to find the Book of Days. There are others, and they will stop at nothing to get to the secret of the universe. Cameron soon finds himself a pawn in a vast chess game. Will he escape with his life?

What do I think?

I kept turning the pages. Vibrant characters leap right off the page, and an unpredictable story line held my attention to the end. Plus, it’s right up my alley–a story set in the real world with some supernatural elements, reminiscent of Indiana Jones tales. Highly recommended.

Dragons of Starlight by Bryan Davis, Books 1-3

Dragons of Starlight by Bryan Davis, made up of:

Starlighter, Book 1, Zondervan, 2010 (I reviewed it here)
Warrior, Book 2, Zondervan, 2011
Diviner, Book 3, Zondervan, 2011
Book 4: yet to be released

Genre: Christian fantasy/sci-fi, young adult, appealing also to adults

Bryan Davis’s four-book fantasy series Dragons of Starlight tells a tale of heroism across two planets, Starlight and Darksphere. Jason Masters, a teen from Darksphere, realizes that people from his planet have been enslaved on the other. He takes it as his mission to rescue them. After all, he’s a warrior. And he wants to find his brothers, who have gone to Starlight before him to free the slaves and haven’t returned.

Once there, he meets Koren, a human enslaved by dragons on Starlight. Koren’s got some unusual gifts–she’s a starlighter, or “magical” storyteller. Can she help save her people? Does she want to?

After all, she’s enslaved by the prophesied new king of the dragons, who has just hatched from a black egg. He needs her because he is blind, and through a telepathic link he can see through her eyes. Plus, he can torture her at will if she turns away.  But the Creator seems to be calling her in a different direction.

Jason’s childhood friend Elyssa accompanies him. She finds that she’s got some starlighter gifts too. Is she willing to risk everything to free these people whom she has never met?

And what about Arxad the dragon? Does his allegiance lie with his overpowering twin brother, or with the humans he knows need his help? Is he a friend or a foe of the slaves?

What do I think?

This is a well-told sprawling tale, with unforgettable characters and surprising plot turns. It’s pretty cool to have two races of sentient beings, one being dragons. With intervention from the Creator at several points, it’s a Christian book. I’m enjoying reading it.  I suspect you will too.

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs, a review

Corus the Champion by D. Barkley Briggs
Book 2 of the Legends of Karac Tor
Published 2011 by Living Ink Books (AMG Publishers), 411 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade and up

Corus the Champion starts right where the previous book, The Book of Names, left off. I had read The Book of Names last year, so I plowed into Corus the Champion. Big mistake. I soon got confused, not remembering details, and had to backtrack and re-read Book 1.  Book 2 does not stand by itself! But it does contain the story arc of an individual, Corus.

Corus had been mentioned in Book 1 several times as the missing champion, the person betrayed by one of the major characters, Sorge, a monk. But I get ahead of myself. In Book 1, four boys from Missouri get four invitations from four ravens. These invitations, dropped at the feet of the two older ones in the vicinity of a weird old stone arch, talk about coming to the Hidden Lands.

In Book 1, the older two boys, Hadyn and Ewan, crawl through the arch at dawn and find themselves in Karac Tor, the Hidden Lands. They help the faithful in the land defeat a sorceress. But she’s not the root of the evil–she’s human. The root is Kr’Nunos, a Satan-like figure. Then the two younger boys, twins Gabe and Garrett, crawl through the stone arch into the Hidden Lands, clutching their invitations, and the story gets vastly more complicated. This is the start of Book 2.

The humans landing in Karac Tor arrive with gifts that they didn’t have back on earth. Hadyn can control rope and metal, a useful skill if you’re tied up or locked up. Ewan can play hypnotic music on his flute. Gabe can speak to birds. And Garrett finds himself learning all kinds of new things from the person we know as Merlin, a “merling” or visionary from Karac Tor named Tal Yssen (Taliesin). They find themselves stepping into the sequel to the Arthurian legend. It’s the story that concerns what happened to the dying King Arthur, whisked away to Avalon. Soon Ewan is asked to give up his gift to save his friends. Will he do it?

And what of Corus? He’s the Champion of Karac Tor, betrayed by his best friend Sorge 20 years before over a woman (the defeated sorceress). He was held captive 13 years by the Fey, cold and calculating fairies, who then sold him to the devil Kr’Nunos. Since then he’s been in torment, wanting to die but held to life by the fact that he’s the Champion, and he has no heir. Sorge learns Corus is still alive and determines to rescue him, single-handedly if need be. But does Corus want to be rescued?

And how about Kr’Nunos’ plan to take over Karak Tor with zombie dirt monsters? It certainly looks like he’s going to win.

What do I think?

Pros: It’s a large, wild story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The four brothers have distinctly different personalities that come through to the reader. Sorge, another main character, also is refreshingly real, a sinner who has repented and is determined to right the wrong he did, whether it kills him or not.

There’s a strong Christian faith element woven in, and plenty of heroism and brave deeds. It’s got lots of battles in it, so it’s a book that should very much appeal to boys, but has touches that will appeal to girls too.

Cons: Being a large, wild story, it was occasionally confusing to me. This book has numerous points of view. Each of the four brothers from Earth (Hadyn, Ewan, Gabe and Garrett) has a story and point of view. Then there are occasional chapters with other points of view: Corus, Sorge, Kr’Nunos, Brodan, Reggie (for a total of nine) and also once in a while an omniscient point of view.

I think would be best to read this book when you don’t have to put it down very often. That’s my plan for the next book, which I very much want to read.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. To see what others are saying, follow these links:
Gillian Adams
Noah Arsenault
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Author’s Web site  – http://hiddenlands.net/index.php?Itemid=49&id=19&option=com_content&task=view