Tag Archives: christian fiction

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, a review

Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, Book Two of the Angaleon Circle
Published 2012 by Waterbrook Multnomah, 233 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy/supernatural, suitable for teens and up

Trevin’s a commoner who’s in love with a girl who turned out to be a princess. Now that she’s claimed her rightful place, the prince of the neighboring kingdom has arrived to seek her hand and an alliance. The king, wanting peace, is all ears. But instead of protecting his ladylove, Trevin must head out on a quest to find missing knights and missing magical harps. How can he stand to leave his beloved vulnerable to the advances of this jerk?

But leave her he must, or he’s no knight. The world has been cut off from heaven. Angels are stranded here, and souls of the dead are stuck here too–in the same kingdom of Dregmoor that the prince comes from. The earth sickens. If Trevin can find the harps and give them to Princess Melaia before the upcoming alignment of stars, she is supposed to be able to fix the stairway to heaven, according to prophecy.

The missing knights–do the Dregmoorians have something to do with that too? How will Trevin find them and release them?

What do I think?

Trevin is a hero with feet of clay, a past that comes back to haunt him again and again. It’s refreshing to see him working to overcome his own worst enemy, himself. He figures out he’s half angel near the beginning of the book, but the people who raised him died when he was young, and he never got a chance to ask them any questions. Many surprising facts about his identity keep coming out as the book rolls forward. It’s refreshing to see a hero who struggles with guilt and temptation just as we struggle.

Any Christian element of the story is in the deep background. This book is clearly intended to appeal to nonChristians as well as to Christians. The author has a ringing statement of faith on her website, so it’s clear she is a Christian. And who better to sate the curiosity of nonChristians about angels than a Christian?

Starting with Book 2 in a series may seem foolish, but I did it, and it worked out okay. There was a compelling story at the beginning of the book, told without referring to the previous story. And the previous story was summarized in snippets throughout the book, providing the needed background without long boring passages.

So, read this book!

In conjunction with the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.

Author’s Web sitehttp://www.karynhenleyfiction.com/Karyn_Henley_Fiction/welcome.html
Author Bloghttp://www.maybeso.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Karyn-Henley/140411189331787?v=wall

Please check out what others on the tour are saying about this book.

Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Jackie Castle
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
Cynthia Dyer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Janeen Ippolito
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Karen McSpadden
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Mirriam Neal
Faye Oygard
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

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!

Children of Angels – a tween fantasy take on angel genes

Today we are hearing from author Kathryn Dahlstrom.

Genesis 6: 4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them; they were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

For me, this intriguing and mysterious Bible verse set up a fantasy concept that I ran with: what if the genes of the Nephilim resurfaced in a kid of today? What if he suddenly developed angel powers? What if he saw angels and demons?

The concept led to my novel for readers aged ten and up—Children of Angels, book one of the New Nephilim series published by WinePress Publishing. Synopsis: a young teen, shocked to learn he’s half angel, must battle human and demonic forces out to destroy him for proving that God is real.

Mind you, I’m not saying that the ancient Nephilim had angel powers. Their name means “fallen ones” which is an apt description of them, I think. The Bible describes them as giant-sized in Numbers 13 and leaves it at that. My make-believe premise is this: what if their genetic material was concentrated enough to produce angel traits in a modern person? (How concentrated half-angel genes wind up in my characters is part of the story’s mystery. I hate spoilers so I’ll practice the Golden Rule by doing to blog readers as I would have them do to me.)

I’m out to give readers the truth of Jesus’ love and power within the fun of fantasy. My main character isn’t a kid with all things perfect from his parents to the SUV. Rather, his dad is in prison, his mom barely scrapes by, and he’s picked on in school. He thrills over his newfound angel powers—flying is the best—but winds up attacked by demons (the ultimate bullies) in his middle school hallways. When the Lord of Hosts calls him to be a Battle Leader of Angels, he balks. Can God really turn a loser into a warrior?

I’m writing Book Two of the series right now. Meanwhile, a faith-based film producer is considering Children of Angels for a future project! It has a long road to go from book to film, but his very thinking about it is enough of a miracle for now.

I’m also the author of a six-book fiction series called the Good News Club. As a screenwriter, I’ve had two screenplays optioned by film companies. Further, my producer friend has asked me to adapt his family fantasy script into a novel. The project will be filmed this summer.

So: do you think God can turn a loser into a warrior? Leave your comments here.

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.

The Aedyn Chronicles by Alister McGrath, a review

The Aedyn Chronicles, three books by Alister McGrath: Chosen Ones (2010), Flight of the Outcasts (2010), and Darkness Shall Fall (2011)
Published by Zonderkidz, a division of Zondervan
Genre: Middle grade and up, fantasy/allegory

A well-known theologian who lives in Oxford, England, writes a series of fantasy books for kids with engaging plots and rock-solid underlying teaching. Sound familiar?

Alister McGrath’s tales do have some similarities to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales. But there are some delightful differences too. Let’s find out more.

The Aedyn Chronicles start with a young English schoolgirl, Julia, and her older brother Peter. They are drawn to a fountain in the mysterious ancient garden of the house in Oxford where they are guests. They step into the water and find themselves in another world, on a beach. This world is Aedyn, where the people have been conquered. The first book, Chosen Ones, traces Peter and Julia’s challenge to help the people of Aedyn, finding courage they didn’t now they had, as well as learning of the Lord of Hosts who brought them there to confront the minions of the shadow.

In the second book, Flight of the Outcasts, Peter and Julia return to Aedyn, this time accidentally followed by their bratty stepsister Louisa. They find Aedyn deserted, and soon make their way to the island to the north where the people of Aedyn have been transported and enslaved. Louisa soon displays some unusual qualities, becoming a healer in this awful place, at the foot of a volcano, where inhuman giants act as overseers. Louisa remembers a rhyme her mother taught her; in this place, it’s a prophecy about a task. Can they lead a slave rebellion and do the task?

The third book, Darkness Shall Fall, continues the story in the second book. The slaves have successfully rebelled, but things are still terribly wrong. The power of the shadow is growing, not shrinking. The former slaves are in hiding, yearning to return to their island, Aedyn, but not knowing how to get there. Peter, Julia, and Louisa don’t know what to do.

A fair stranger, Peras, says he was sent by the Lord of Hosts and offers to lead them all to Aedyn, starting with 10 men. Peter is overjoyed. But soon he starts to wonder. Should he be trusting this man?

Julia faces her fears and retrieves the item they need to face the shadow, according to the prophecy. And the story unfolds with grace and truth.

What do I think?

It’s natural to compare this set of books to the Narnia tales. It isn’t the Narnia tales, so we should just enjoy it for what it is. It has engaging young characters who risk their lives to help others, and who learn to trust the unseen Lord of Hosts to save and heal. Plenty of Biblical themes are touched on, good for discussion if reading aloud.

But what I most liked about this book was the vision of the author for healing of Peter, Julia, and Louisa’s blended dysfunctional family in our world. It would be so easy for an author to invent characters who have hangups of one kind or another because of something their parents did or didn’t do, and then not expect to heal the situation. But McGrath has a wonderful vision for complete healing.

Treespeaker by Katie W. Stewart, a review

Treespeaker by Katie W. Stewart
Ebook published by Katie W. Stewart, 2011
Genre: Fantasy, suitable for 12 and up

Jakan has been a leader of his people, the Arrakeshi who live peacefully together in a forest. Specifically, he’s the treespeaker of his tribe–the one who communes with the benevolent spirit of the forest, Arrakesh, and tells the others what they need to do. It is Arrakesh who has set up the Veil protecting them from the Carlikans nearby who have cut down their own forests and engage in plenty of petty thievery, not to mention slavery.

Jakan has a terrible vision of disaster to come at the hands of a tall stranger. Nearly immediately the tall stranger shows up, having somehow passed through the Veil from Carlika. Soon Jakan’s wife is dead, and the powerful stranger has convinced the tribe to cast Jakan out.

Jakan starts on an impossible journey, because Arrakesh has commanded him to find Varyd, someone he knew 20 years ago. This person lives in Carlika, and not close by. Why does he need to find Varyd? He doesn’t know. Nor does he know how he will survive leaving the Veil, because treespeakers, bound to the forest, die when they leave. And finally, his treespeaker ability to commune with Arrakesh has left him. He’s just like everyone else now, asking Arrakesh for help and wondering whether he will receive it.

A way is found to keep him alive on the trip and he sets out, leaving his son Dovan to cope with the powerful stranger who is desecrating sacred sites in the village. Will Jakan find Varyd, or die first? Will Dovan, now secret treespeaker for the village, be able to protect the people and survive?

I liked this book. It’s got a good plot line, always thickening and leading the reader forward, and the characters are complex and conflicted. I found Arrakesh and Carlika to be believable places.

The author has tagged this book as Christian fiction. If it is Christian fiction, the one thing that bothered me is that the characters believe Arrakesh, the God-spirit, to be the God for the Arrakeshi people and not the Carlikans. Of course we know this is not true of the one true God. But I am thinking this belief on the part of the Arrakeshi people may change over the course of future books!

This book is a 99-cent ebook published by the author, who obviously had some editing done to her manuscript–I didn’t see any errors, and the plot works well. I wonder whether this will be the way of the future, opening up the market to many more readers. The author is an Australian, by the way.

Website: http://treespeaker.blogspot.com/

Not So Grimm by Becky Haigler, a review

Not So Grimm: Gentle Fables and Cautionary Tales by Becky Haigler
Published 2009 by Laughing Cactus Press (Silver Boomer Books), 132 pages
Genre: Magical realism tales

This collection of 12 tales by poet Becky Haigler is unexpected, refreshing, and fun to read. It’s in the style of magical realism, pioneered by 20th century South American writers, in which the story world is our real world, but it becomes apparent that something is weirdly different. That weird difference is totally taken in stride by the characters in the story. So fun! It’s also in the style of the fairy tale, with a lot of “telling” and little dialogue. I think it would make a good read-aloud.

The first story is “Mr. Merrill’s Extraordinary Driving Cap.” Mr. Merrill finds a hat in his store. It’s a nice leather hat, and he likes it, so he takes to wearing it. While wearing it he discovers that he … (I’m not going to tell you what!)

Next is “Chronological Order,” in which Carolina, a mall store manager, leaves her work in a blizzard and feels a soft bump on her bumper while pulling out of a slide. “She didn’t want to think about the dark figure she might have seen as she pulled away from the bank kiosk.” The time? Elevenish. She goes home. Her clocks start acting funny…

“Flight of the Wickerplane” is about a man whose neighbor tinkers with a half-size model biplane. To humor the neighbor, the man agrees to go for a ride in the biplane. And …

The characters in these stories are well developed, and the stories are well written. I highly recommend them for all ages!

The Resurrection by Mike Duran, a review

The Resurrection by Mike Duran
Published 2011 by Realms Press, 307 pages
Genre: Christian suspense with paranormal elements

There’s a struggle going on in the hearts of the citizens of Stonetree, a coastal California town. For decades, the devil has been winning as New Age businesses take over the downtown and church attendance dwindles. And there are rumors about a hanging 90 years before. A murder, resulting in a curse? Others in the town have gone missing recently.

Ruby Case, a hesitant housewife with a limp, hardly seems like a likely agent for change. First she gets a vision of a new, green leaf on the enormous dead tree that broods over the town from a clifftop. Then she prays for mercy for a dead boy at his funeral, and he comes back to life, astonishing her and the town.

Rev. Ian Clark is Ruby’s humble and confused new pastor at her moribund church, where there are only three who want to be in a prayer group, and where many–including Ruby’s husband–have sensed hypocrisy and left. In his church office, Clark gets regular and mystifying visits from what seems to be the ghost of a puzzled young man.

Clark’s ex-wife calls him and tells him she senses he is in danger. He is, it turns out, a marked man. And Ruby’s destiny may be defined by an old prophecy as well, one that seems to foretell her death. Are both of them doomed to die to appease the evil spirits poisoning their town?

This story has memorable characters. It’s well told. There are plenty of reasons to keep turning the pages. In short, it’s a good book.

Yet, when I had finished it, I wasn’t fully satisfied. I hadn’t gotten a real sense of the demons driving the story. Instead, the story focuses on their minions, the human bad guys. Also, the dead tree was too static a vision to be arresting to me, as it was to the character who experienced it. So for once, I, the thin-skinned reader, was looking for something a little scarier.

But I suppose if the story had focused on the demons, that would have knocked it into a different genre, horror, and I never would have picked it up because it would have been too scary.

I liked the author’s use of “the least of these”–a hesitant housewife and a cowardly pastor–as the Lord’s instruments for change. God does that, using the humble and weak for great ends. Read this book. I think you’ll like it.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog tour. I received a free copy of the book for this post. See what others on the tour are saying:

Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

Author’s website: Mike Duran at http://mikeduran.com/

Earthbow by Sherry Thompson, a review

Earthbow, The Second of the Narentan Tumults, by Sherry Thompson
Published 2010 by Gryphonwood Press, 2 volumes each about 250 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, suitable for young adult and adult

Sherry Thompson’s earlier work in this series, Seabird, set a very high standard. Earthbow continues the tradition and actually expands it.

This story takes place in another world called Narenta. An “outworlder” from Earth is brought there to spearhead deliverance from the evil lord who is taking over the state of Latimin. This outworlder, Xander, is the brother of the outworlder from Seabird, Cara. Like Cara, Xander starts out bewildered and self-centered.

This book features a highly complex plot with several subplots and and plenty of well-drawn and believable characters. Harone, a young wizard initiate (one of the good guys), brings Xander into Latimin from the neighboring country and then sets out on a strange mission: to convince at least one of the extremely evil powerful sorcerers, imprisoned for ages by Alphesis (Jesus), to turn to the light.

Another subplot revolves around a young knight, Coris, who starts out a man-at-arms. He works in the guard for Cenoc, one of the chiefs in Latimin. Coris realizes that Cenoc is torturing innocents, asking Coris to break his noble vows to aid weaker folks. So he flees Cenoc. Meanwhile, Cenoc is gathering evil power to himself and turning into the extremely awful chief bad guy of the book.

And of course Xander, with his strange weapon the Earthbow, which Alphesis has given him. How does it work? It’s a bow, the kind that shoots bows and arrows, and Xander learns to do a bit of shooting with it. It also sings to him. Part of Xander’s assignment is to get to know and love the trees, other plants, and animals of the forests of Latimin. How does that figure into all this?

Cenoc, gathering power like a hurricane, extorts cooperation from the Pannians who look like something with tentacles and eye stalks. The Pannians become Cenoc’s troops, and things look very bad for the good guys. These Pannians are sorcerers, so any normal good guy who doesn’t have a wizard with him for protection is dead.

What do I think?

I think this is a wonderful book. Sherry Thompson does a great job of pulling the reader into the character’s emotions, pulling the reader through a tale that’s massive in scope. The book is a wonderful Christian witness as well, with Alphesis (Jesus) exerting a commanding but loving presence even when unseen. I vote that Sherry Thompson get a regular publisher, rather than an idie publisher, (and a few minor edits) and become more widely known. She deserves to be famous.