If you stopped by A Christian Worldview of Fiction expecting to find a blog tour stop discussing The Restorer, Sharon Hinck‘s first fantasy novel, you are in the right place. And, yes, that cover is different from others you’ve seen on the tour.
Since I’ve already posted a review of the book over at Speculative Faith back in March, I decided I’d give you a look ahead. Consequently, this is a review of the second book in the Sword of Lyric series, The Restorer’s Son, targeted to release in September.
The Story. For those of you who have read The Restorer, you know that the door opened to this new story, even as the first one came to a resolution. However, even the title has a surprise connected to it.
And because I do not believe in spoiling a story by telling too much about the plot, I can’t say a lot. The People of the Verses still need a Restorer. The Restorer does not volunteer for the job but is chosen by the One for a job that seems unlikely, even impossible. Throw in some personal stakes, some unexpected complications, some unanticipated appearances, and you have another fast-paced, gripping story.
The Characters. Hinck takes her readers back into the land of the People of the Verses to encounter many of the same characters introduced in The Restorer, but there are also some new allies and enemies to deal with, all believable, interesting, realistic.
I particularly like the fact that the characters struggle, that they make decisions they aren’t sure about, that even appear to be wrong. They doubt but continue to try. They hope and continue to try. They fear and continue to try. There’s a realness about their range of emotions that make them engaging, I think.
The Setting. The fantasy world continues to develop. In The Restorer, Hinck portrayed a believable place, in some ways more primitive and in other ways more advanced than this world—an interesting approach to fashioning a fantasy place. This setting is fleshed out even further in The Restorer’s Son. More details about the religious practices become key to the story events. Also, the larger world becomes critical to the plot, so we learn more about the neighboring peoples.
One thing I particularly like about Hinck’s writing is that she does not bog the reader down with unnecessary facts to demonstrate how neatly she has figured out her imagined world. Only as the specifics are necessary to the story do those surface in appropriate doses.
The Theme. The themes are strong, clear, powerful, but not in any way preachy. The characters come to realizations about their own situations, their own lives as a natural part of their development and of the resolution of conflict.
The reader is left alone to come to his own conclusions, to think about the truth of what the characters encountered.
Strengths. Once again, Hinck demonstrates what a quality craftsman she is. With an economy of words, she paints vivid pictures, understandable characters, dramatic action.
Without a doubt, The Restorer’s Son contains one of the best scenes I’ve read in Christian fiction. I’d explain more, but I’d be spoiling the story. Let me just say, it is memorable. The conflict is vibrant, the tension high, the emotional pay-off complete. Wonderful, wonderful scene.
In this story, Hinck also does something quite venturesome with point of view. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at first, but I think she—and the subtle clues at the beginning of chapters—made it workable. My hat’s off to her for even making the effort at something bordering on innovative (not that it’s never been done before, but it is far from common).
Weaknesses. As much as I love Hinck’s writing, fantasy world, premise, characters … all of it, really … I did stumble a time or two. First was an action fairly early into the story that happened off stage. I had a strong sense of being cheated. I didn’t want to whip past that event.
The bigger problem for me was a coincidence that drove the story. I don’t like coincidences. The thing is, I think this particular coincidence could have been given a proper motivation that would have made it believable. It was not.
Granted, like deus es machina, “coincidence” can actually be the hand of God working to order events. But for a novel, I think the coincidences need to be given human motivations with the understanding that God directed the humans to be so motivated. It’s not easy, not at all, to show God doing what He will do in a novel because it so often looks like the author doing what she will do instead.
I realize that a coincidence like this one in The Restorer’s Son will not be a distraction to most readers. I’ve seen far more egregious coincidences all throughout some novels that are highly successful, loved, and acclaimed. Keep in mind, I am in the minority with this issue.
Recommendation. Because of The Wonderful Scene alone, The Restorer’s Son is a Must Read. But besides The Wonderful Scene, this is a delightful story, well written. Christians should read it. Fantasy lovers should read it (and because it is about the Restorer’s son, male fantasy readers who didn’t find a soccer mom someone they could connect with, should have no problem becoming fully engaged). Those who love Sharon Hinck’s work should read it.
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There’s some lively discussion going on at some of the other blogs discussing The Restorer. Be sure to check out these tour participants’ posts:
Wayne Thomas Batson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Heather R. Hunt
Lost Genre Guild
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver