Blog Tour—Kathryn Mackel

For May the Blog Alliance directed by TL Hines is featuring Kathryn Mackel and her newest release, The Hidden (WestBow, 2006).

    The Hidden

I will hopefully point you to other sites featuring Mackel later in the week. I do know that Cheryl Russel at Unseen Worlds is participating. I suspect others will jump in after the holiday.

When I first saw Mackel’s name on the list of blog tour stops, I was admittedly excited. I’d heard some real positives about her previous book Outriders: Book One in the Birthright Project, a unique cross between apocalyptic sci fi and fantasy literature that garnered some very nice comments from Publishers Weekly.

Unfortunately, The Hidden takes a left turn away from fantasy into what is arguably the horror genre, but for sensibilities’ sake is referred to as supernatural suspense.

I say “unfortunately” because I have never been a fan of this genre—not from secular writers, certainly, and nothing I’ve read from Christian writers has moved me to change my mind. That makes me a poor judge of this book because, clearly, I am not a part of the target audience.

Here’s what I can tell you. Mackel’s writing is inviting. I had no trouble entering into the story or getting to know the characters. I didn’t have to struggle to stay interested, and my mind did not wander as I turned the pages. The descriptions were vivid and were relayed to the reader as part of the action, so I felt as if I were part of the scene or on the edge at least, allowed to partake as an embedded witness.

I thought the backstory was artfully included. There was never an intrusion diverting us to the past until I wanted one to answer the questions the narrative had invited me to ask. The discussion of faith was certainly natural, but here’s where I would have to say my problems with the book began.

Remember, this is not my genre. Consequently I found the story very dark. The characters were all melancholy, the situation was dire, their lives were sad. It made perfect sense, then, when the main character stated at one point: “Your God let it happen. So He’s either very absent or very incompetent or—” Susan’s voice broke. “Very cruel.”

Jump cut to a new scene. In other words, that statement is left to lie there, unchallenged. I suppose someone could argue that the resolution to the story challenges it, but my point is, this is the mood of the story the whole way through.

If this is the kind of story a reader is looking for, then I’d recommend The Hidden. I would say, however, to read with particular discernment because there is some angel/demonic involvement that is cloudy at best.

Is this the kind of story where a reader is to suspend belief and say, That’s the way the author wants it to be, so that’s acceptable. Or is this the kind of story that a reader should say, That’s not the way the Bible shows it.

I don’t know. I’m just not familiar enough with the genre, but I do believe the reader should be aware of what the Bible says about angels and demons. While fiction might cause a reader to ask questions, even stir his heart to seek Truth, it is not the place to garner facts upon which to build a belief system.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. In the movie The Sixth Sense, the viewer starts out thinking this is a “regular” contemporary story. With the surprise ending, he realizes that he needs to accept fantastical elements as if they could actually happen. If he accepts them, the story is brilliant, a surprise that delights.

I could make that leap of acceptance because the author was not a Christian, so I didn’t expect Truth. I never once thought, Could that really happen? Do dead people really walk around the earth not realizing they’re dead?

Now when a Christian writes about the supernatural, what are we to expect? I don’t know. Is it OK to ask, Do angels really do that? Is that what spiritual warfare really looks like? Or should we just say, It’s fiction, a world the author created in her imagination and I accept it for this story.

My conclusion: If this is the kind of story you enjoy, you will find The Hidden a positive reading experience, but in the reading, use discernment.

Published in: on May 29, 2006 at 5:00 am  Comments (10)  
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