Tag Archives: young adult

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, a review

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 311 pages
Genre: Young adult supernatural with romance elements, Christian

Brielle is crippled by her despair as she blames herself for her best friend’s death. To learn to cope, she returns to her dad and the small town she calls home from the big city where she had attended a performing arts high school. Old friends reach out to her, but she rebuffs them. Then an amazing new boy shows up and shakes her from her lethargy.

Jake shares a supernatural gift with her, and soon she’s aware of angels and demons. In fact, she can see what no one else can. And she learns that a demon wants to kidnap Jake, who’s becoming dearer and dearer to her. What can she do to protect him? After all, she’s just a girl with angel eyes.

What do I think?

I thought this book was terrific. The angels and demons fit the Biblical mold. Not only were there unforgettable characters and unpredictable situations, but Dittemore crafts words like a poet, with beauty and strength. You should read this book! I’ll be waiting for the next one in the trilogy, due out in a year or so.

Find out plenty more about this book by checking out what other bloggers are saying on the blog tour for it at
http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13501700/angeleyes

Blood of Kings: From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson, a review

From Darkness Won, Blood of Kings Book 3 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2011 by Marcher Lord Press, 661 pages

To Darkness Fled, Blood of Kings Book 2 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2010 by Marcher Lord Press, 680 pages

By Darkness Hid, Blood of Kings Book 1 of 3, by Jill Williamson
Published 2009 by Marcher Lord Press, 490 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, young adult and adult

The third and final book in the Blood of Kings series wraps up the many strands in this sprawling tale. The first book in the series, Christy Award winner By Darkness Hid, introduced us to the main characters, Achan and Vrell. Achan lives in a society that seriously mistreats its orphans, calling them “strays.” But Achan at age 16 isn’t just any stray. He discovers he has an amazing gift–bloodvoicing, the ability to speak to others using only his mind. His gift is so vast that others who have the gift are in awe.

Vrell is a young noblewoman fleeing a detested suitor dressed as a boy. She too has this bloodvoicing gift, which seems to run in some of the noble families only. She gets herself into all kinds of scrapes and eventually meets and helps Achan.

The powers controlling the realm of Er’Rets are evil sorcerers. The king was murdered a while back and his infant son lost. Pretenders are running most of the kingdom. But there’s a remnant of good guys who look for the return of the rightful king. And eventually they find him. He’s Achan, the lost son, switched at age 3 with another child.

Can they put him on the throne? The forces of evil seem too powerful. In fact, half the kingdom lies in total inky darkness, like the deepest night. And the darkness is spreading. Lord Nathak is clearly one of the bad guys, but he seems conflicted. He knowingly sheltered the rightful king as a child in his stronghold but allowed the boy to be severely mistreated.

Why is Nathak’s face half withered? And will Arman, the Lord of Hosts, rescue the kingdom from darkness and restore the rightful heir? What is Vrell’s role in all this? Achan, when he figures out she’s a girl, falls in love with her. Does she love him? And in the war, should she sit aside as a noblewoman, or take up her masquerade as a boy and fight?

The tale winds across three fat books, all of them a delight to read. Williamson draws the reader right into a character’s head and emotions in a very compelling way, and convincingly describes the world she has created. I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s my favorite, of all the tales I have read since starting the Christian Fantasy Review three years ago.

See my review of By Darkness Hid: http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/2010/05/17/by-darkness-hid-by-jill-williamson-a-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

Seed of Seerling by Amy Kennedy, a Review

seerling

Seed of Seerling, first of a series, VMI Publishers, 2008, 281 pages.

Worldview: Christian. The One True God is in charge.

This book is a love story which will appeal especially to girls, I am thinking. The protagonist is Astril, a daughter of the High Priestess in a matriarchal society that is slave to a religion of human sacrifice. They are called the Seerlings. The neighboring enemy kingdom is a patriarchal society, some members of which follow the One True God. They are called the Harkonians.

As a child, Astril is by herself in the woods for a few days, as called for by her religion, when she finds a boy from the neighboring Harkonian kingdom who has fallen off his horse and is injured. She tends him and heals him. This is Toren, the heir to the Harkonian throne.

The two are thrown together later when Astril is captured and enslaved by the Harkonians. Toren recognizes her and protects her. Eventually he falls in love with her. He sends her for safekeeping to a priest of the One True God. While at his remove enclave, she becomes a believer.

However, Astril’s priestess sister, Gallian, comes to return Astril to her mother. As a priestess, Gallian has some magical powers and manages to kidnap both Astril and Toren and bring them back to the grim land of the Seerlings, intending to sacrifice both of them. The story resolves with some intervention by the One True God. But the story is not completely told, and we are left waiting for the next book.

I enjoyed this page-turner. If you have a teenage daughter, this would be a great book for her to read, especially if she is a Twilight fan. You could discuss the similarities and differences. The similarities I see between Seed of Seerling and Twilight are that they are both fantasy love stories where the heroine keeps her purity before marriage. The differences involve the Christian foundation of the Seed of Seerling, resulting in self-controlled and self-effacing actions on the part of the heroine. In Twilight, the heroine is the opposite of self-controlled–she passively lets her feelings rule and decides to forget about what her head might be telling her.

This book does have a few rough edges in the editing, which won’t be obvious to most readers. The publisher, VMI Publishers, is not a traditional publisher, although it is able to distribute the book pretty widely. However it does not appear that VMI was able to get a review for the book in Library Journal or Publishers Weekly, and so most libraries won’t be taking this seriously. That’s a shame, in my opinion. It’s a great story with a solid foundation.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, please help me pay the expenses of this blog and buy it through this link:

Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce, a Review

Sandry’s Book, Book 1 of Circle of Magic “quartet”
by Tamora Pierce
Published by Scholastic, 1997, 252 pages

Worldview: Moral, secular. Teamwork and loyalty are primary values. There is no evil bad guy.

Three girls and a boy, all around the age of 12, are followed in separate stories that converge. They live in a different world, on that has very strong class and tribal boundaries. The four youngsters are from different classes and tribes that normally do not get along. They are gathered by a mage, Niko, who gets premonitions and goes looking for certain pupils for his school at Winding Temple. The four kids will become mages, or sorcerers. They are chosen by Niko because they have some innate magical abilities, which need training.

As the story unfolds, the four kids, including Sandry, the child from the noble class, learn to get along with each other and to begin to control their magic powers. The antagonists are mostly other children who behave in cruel ways. For the climax of the book, the antagonist is an earthquake. The four are trapped underground in a cave during this earthquake. They work together, weaving their magics and strengthening each other, and are able to protect and save themselves. There are three further books, each named for one of the other of the four kids.

This book is eleven years old now, and received a number of awards in its day. I am reviewing it because this series is something my son picked up at the library and likes to read and re-read.

My first reaction to reading this book was confusion. I had great difficulty keeping the four kids’ separate stories straight. I think having four completely developed points of view is just too many for the reader to develop a bond with them, at least for the first third of the book. I was very tempted to put the book down and not pick it up again.

This book has some similarities to the Harry Potter books. But this book was published before Harry Potter. The similarities are a school for kids with special magical abilities, a mage in charge of the school who seeks out prospective pupils, a close group of kids who work together using magic, and some bully behavior on the part of other kids. The differences have the antagonist at the root. Pierce’s antagonist is really circumstance or just human meanness manifested in various ways. Rowling’s antagonist is of course Voldemort, who is one of the baddest bad guys of all literature. In my opinion, Pearce’s flimsy antagonist creates a slight tale. Rowling’s towering antagonist creates a hefty tale.

As for my opinion as a Christian, I think this book belittles religion, because it describes some various tribal religious customs that are clearly envisioned as gestures just to make the individual feel good. Pierce, along with so many others, clearly has no idea that there really is a deity out there. However, this book promotes loyalty and teamwork, along with discouraging stealing, so it isn’t in actual conflict with my values. A worldview discussion would be in order with young readers of this book.–Phyllis Wheeler

Chosen by Ted Dekker, a Review

chosenChosen by Ted Dekker
Book 1 of The Lost Books
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2007, 260 pages.

Worldview: Christian. Good vs. evil with a benevolent God.

This story takes place in a world called “Other Earth” on the map supplied. As the story opens, the protagonist Johnis, age 16, joins the armed bands defending his people, the Forest People, from the more numerous Horde who live in the surrounding desert.

Thirteen years before, the earth had been covered with lush colored forests. But somehow Teeleh, a vile creature and enemy of Elyon (the Lord) has destroyed most of the forests, and evil rules the land. Evil is manifested in a scaly disease that overtakes skin and mind. Forest People will be overtaken by the disease if they fail to bathe in Elyon’s special waters every day. The Horde have already been overtaken by the disease.

As the story unfolds, Johnis discovers he has been chosen by Elyon–he bears a certain birthmark. In addition, he can suddenly see the good creatures, white bats, and the evil creatures, black vampire bats, that others in his tribe have lost the ability to see or hear. A white bat gives him a mission: retrieve six magic books. He must do this with three other teens. If he doesn’t, Teeleh will triumph.

Johnis prays for help in his journey and receives it, in the nick of time. He is able to accomplish part of his mission in this book, with the help of the other three teens. The rest is left for further books in the series.

There are hints of intrigue: who is the traitor to the Forest People who is keeping the Horde informed? And mystery: who is the leader of the Forest People, who seems to have come from our own world somehow?

I like this book a lot and will recommend it to my sons. It is a fantasy page-turner with a Christian worldview, just what I am looking for.–Phyllis Wheeler thumbsupthumbsup

Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton, a Review

Endymion Spring
by Matthew Skelton
Delacorte Press, 2006,392 pages

World view: Moral. The author seems to have the odd idea that children are morally pure.

Style: This is a slow-paced book about a book with plenty of description, some of it with beautiful metaphors. It is really three stories: two about two different boys interacting with a magical dragon-skin book, and the third about the modern boy’s family, which is having relationship problems.

This story is mostly set in the modern world in Oxford, England, where Blake, an American boy, and his sister and mother have come for a time. But it has a counterpart in the 1400s in Mainz, Germany, featuring another boy. This boy’s name is Endymion Spring. Endymion Spring is a mute apprentice to the famous inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg.

Johann Fust is Gutenberg’s investor. In this story he is a major villain; the author suggests that he was the person who became Dr. Faustus in legend, the fellow who sold his soul to the devil. Fust stole a dragon skin, which has transformed itself into pure and magical paper. Words and riddles appear on it. But Fust is unable to read them. He needs to find a child to read it for him. (The dragon skin reveals itself only to someone who is not trying to get it. This is always a boy.)

Fust tries to trick Endymion into reading the dragon skin paper for him. Fust wants the dragon skin because it contains “all the secrets of the universe,” and will make the reader”be like God,” Fust says.

The modern-day villain tries the same thing, tricking Blake into locating the book and putting its several pieces together. Then the villian tries to steal it.

This book is great reading for someone who appreciates a nice metaphor and doesn’t mind wading through a lot of description and slow-moving events that don’t advance the plot quickly, including dinner parties. The cover definitely attracted the librarian in our local library, who commented on it. I left it laying around my house, though, and none of my teenage sons picked it up.–Phyllis Wheeler

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, a Review

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
by Michael Scott, Delacorte Press, 2007, 369 pages.

Worldview: Darwinian atheism.

Style: A high-action, imaginative story with memorable characters that will draw your kids in.

Review: An Elder Race used to live on the earth, while humans were still hanging out in trees. These elders, who have magical powers, are divided into Dark Elders and others. The Dark Elders would like to return to power, enslaving or killing the human race. Their puppet is the human villain, Dr. John Dee.

This story has a strong hook: it mentions the Immortal Nicholas Flamel on the cover. Flamel is one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories, but he wasn’t invented by J.K. Rowling. Instead, Rowling took a legend and based a character on it. Scott has done the same. Scott’s cover also looks faintly like one of the symbols featured in the Potter books (the Deathly Hallows).

Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel are legendary French individuals, born in the 1300s, supposed to have found the secret of immortality. In Scott’s tale, Flamel becomes mentor to American teenage twins Josh and Sophie Newman as the result of a struggle described in the opening scene of the book. In the struggle, Dr. John Dee and his henchmen rob Flamel of his magic book, except for two critical pages.

As the story unfolds, Dee is pursuing Flamel and the twins. The twins find out they have powers and are the subjects of a prophecy about powerful twins. Flamel takes Sophie to an Elder One to have her powers awakened. Josh has to wait till the next book (when his powers are awakened by a Dark Elder).

The central characters are clearly the twins. They are motivated by loyalty to friends and to each other, a tribal sort of morality rather than a Biblical one. One of the main themes involves the question of Josh’s attraction to the dark side. We’ve heard this one before. The kids lie to their parents about where they are. The author excuses this by implying the parents wouldn’t believe them.

This book and its sequels will probably draw the attention of your teen at some point. My 16-year-old fantasy fan was drawn to them. Be sure to discuss the atheist viewpoint.–Phyllis Wheelerthumbsdown

Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale, a Review

pendragon1

Pendragon: the Merchant of Death (Book 1 of a series)
by D. J. MacHale

Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002, 374 pages

Worldview: A moral universe with no discernible higher power.

Style: High action.

Review: This tale describes a story taking place on another planet, Denduron. It is mostly told by the protagonist, Bobby Pendragon, a 14-year-old American boy who strangely enough takes the time to write to his best friend Mark and girl friend Courtney, who remain back home, whenever he has the opportunity. The reader reads the letters along with Mark and Courtney.

Bobby is taken to Denduron through a wormhole gateway by his Uncle Press, who embroils him in a conflict between two factions who live there. One of these factions has enslaved the other. Meddlers from other worlds, called Travelers, are both good guys and bad guys. One, the oddly named Saint Dane, is a hugely evil bad guy who is abetting the conflict. Others, including Press and Bobby Pendragon, are trying to stop Saint Dane. Bobby starts off as feeling himself to be very incompetent, and gradually picks up some courage and competence as the story unfolds. He and another young Traveler, Loor, work together to foil Saint Dane. Saint Dane excapes to another planet through a worm hole. We suspect that will be the setting of the next book, with a similar plot: foiling Saint Dane, this time in a different world.

The story has many imaginative aspects as well as interesting characters. However, it fails to move me on several counts. One is the breezy teen-speak that Bobby uses for most of the book. It’s just not that easy to read. Another is the improbability of the plot resolution. Once Saint Dane is removed, the warring factions simply stop their conflict and begin to help each other. This is a feud that’s been going on for longer than Saint Dane was present. So why would removing him completely solve it? It’s not clear to me.

Another irritation was that some plot elements are left dangling, to be resolved in future books I suppose. These are major plot elements having to do with who Bobby is. We are told near the end of the book that the family that raised him is not his real family, and that Uncle Press is not his uncle. Bobby’s family has vanished, so he can’t come back to “second earth” and live a normal life. He is stuck being a Traveler now.

Despite these irritations, I do recommend this book for young readers. The high action is sure to please, and the moral compass of the work is sound.–Phyllis Wheeler

If you would like to buy this book, please buy it here to help pay the expenses of this Web site.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, a Review

Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer, Hyperion Books for Children, 2001, 277 pages

Worldview: Amoral. The “good guy” is a criminal. This is bound to confuse younger readers.

Style: A young adult novel with plenty of action to keep readers turning pages.

Review: Artemis Fowl is the name of a 12-year-old genius who is also a criminal mastermind. As the high-action story unfolds, it becomes clear that Artemis is, in fact, the hero–we find ourselves cheering for his nefarious plots. This is a confusing position to put a child reader into!

We also cheer for his victims, who are morally upstanding members of the fairy police. Artemis eventually makes friends with these members of the fairy police, so that the book emphasizes tribal or friendship loyalty as a supreme virtue. It puts other moral no-nos, such as thievery and deception, on the “naughty but OK” list. There are two successful thieves in the book whom the author clearly likes: Artemis and a dwarf. Also, the word “damn” appears in the book. In addition, the author makes up a fairy swear word and has his fairy police using it all the time.

Your children will probably check the Fowl books out and read them, if they have library access. My kids all have. The reason is that, despite the amoral framework, this book is a good read. The characters are memorable, there is plenty of action, and the story has a zany science-fiction quality to it.

Artemis and his bodyguard Butler are seeking to kidnap a fairy and hold it for ransom, in order to enhance the depleted family fortune. Turns out the fairies have mostly left the surface of the earth to colonize the center of the earth, driven below-ground by human activity. Their advanced technology allows them to travel back and forth to the surface.

Artemis and Butler manage to kidnap a fairy police woman named Holly Short. Ransom is eventually paid, and partly stolen by the dwarf thief At the end, Holly is released, Artemis is rich, and so is the dwarf. On the way, Holly has saved Butler’s life and that of Butler’s sister. And she heals Artemis’ depressed mother. All’s well that ends well. Or is it?

This imaginative story will draw your teen in. Be sure to discuss the world view.–Phyllis Wheelerthumbsdown