Day one of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead produced some good posts. I recommend, in particular, Keanan Brand‘s where you’ll find the reaction to The Realms Thereunder by Keanan’s teen niece who happens to be in this book’s target audience.
Another post not to miss is new member Rebekah Loper‘s thoughtful comments about the spiritual implications of a particular passage in Ross’s story. I love the way Rebekah made the spiritual connection and I love the way Ross resisted any urge he might have had to connect dots for his readers.
Interestingly, Thomas Clayton Booher, in his day two post, cites the exact same passage Rebekah did and elaborates on the Christian’s responsibility to share the gospel even with those who would rather not “have their bubble burst.”
The fact that both these readers had spiritual insights stemming from the same passage that was not overtly addressing spiritual issues, shows the power of implicit writing, I believe. Too often we writers feel the need to spell out what we want readers to see, but how much better to let the readers discover truth on their own.
Which brings me back to the particulars I wish to discuss about The Realms Thereunder. Ross Lawhead, as you may have guessed, is the son of highly accomplished novelist Stephen Lawhead, and therefore is familiar with the work of a novelist. Tim Hicks, who did some research about Ross for his day one post, points out that Ross c0-authored several books with his father and has had a number of other writing projects. This, however, is his first solo novel. And what an ambitious undertaking. I have to admire Ross simply for his effort.
First, he adopted an advanced story structure, which I mentioned in my day one post.
In addition, Ross does something few others have attempted — he closely weaves mythology (in this case, Anglo-Saxon mythology) into a present-day story. It’s sort of Once Upon A Time (the current ABC TV series) in reverse.
Third, he tells a story that mostly happens underground — not an easy thing to accomplish even for short sections of a story.
Fourth, he writes Christian fiction with a light hand, much the way J. R. R. Tolkien did. Any reader would feel comfortable reading this story, yet as I mentioned above, those alert to spiritual implications will find material with which to work.
Fifth, Ross is telling a story that is larger than just this one book. The Realms Thereunder is the first of The Ancient Earth Trilogy, so his scope is big. Epic, you might say.
Sixth, he is developing his characters backwards. Because of the story structure, he is showing character development in the adult characters that resulted from the portion of the story that happened to the younger versions of those characters.
It’s an interesting aspect of the story, and vital if this past/present back-and-forth was to work. How had the events that took place eight years earlier changed these people? It’s something we may not think about much when we read stories like Narnia.
Stephen Donaldson in his trilogy The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever touched on this aspect of character development, as I recall. And C. S. Lewis hinted at some repercussions of the other-world adventures in Narnia. But Ross is able to do more because he actually tells part of his story from these scarred and changed characters’ point of view.
All in all, I’m impressed that anyone would tackle so much in a debut novel. Tomorrow, if things go as planned, I’ll give you my reaction to the book and my recommendation. In the meantime, you might be interested in some of the other reviews:
- Jeff Chapman has an excellent plot summary.
- Chawna Schroeder questioned the characters’ goals and how that affected the story.
- Gillian Adams gave her reaction to the innovative story structure.
- Steve Trower gave the best reason I’ve heard for not having his review ready for the tour.
- Sarah Sawyer is holding a book-give-away contest.
- Nissa is cooking up some kind of special scavenger hunt-ish type of thing at her site. No details yet, but she’s “hiding” things along the tour route.
Lots more to come, so be sure to get in on the fun.