Two for One – Vanished, Day 3 and Sir Kendrick

Well, this is awkward. As you know, if you hang around A Christian Worldview of Fiction very much, I participate once a month (with few exceptions) in the CSFF Blog Tour, as I have been this week. Occasionally, I also tour books with CFBA. I am quite selective with those books, reading in my genre as often as possible. Imagine my pleasure when CFBA announced a tour for a YA book by an author I hadn’t heard of before. Then imagine my consternation when the tour date was moved to coincide with the CSFF tour. Precisely coincide. Which wouldn’t matter if I only posted one day, but with CSFF, I post all three days of the tour. What to do? Post late for CFBA? File two separate posts?

I settled on a Two for One post instead. You get double the value for your buck! 😀

On to Day Three of our tour of Kathryn Mackel‘s latest, Vanished.

If you’ve stopped by Kathryn’s blog, you undoubtedly read today’s post about the tour. In it she says “We know Vanished has suffered a blow at the hands of my publisher.” Most likely tour members and visitors here didn’t know Vanished had received a blow from her publisher. I searched Kathryn’s archives to see if I could unearth a post giving the details, but did not find one.

Nevertheless, it’s obvious this is public knowledge. Kathryn has very graciously mentioned that the sequel to Vanished will be put out by a different publisher. That is the blow. This hunt for a publisher for book 2 of the Christian Chiller series was not by author choice. However, I think in one of Kathryn’s interviews, she said she had hoped to announce during the tour which publisher had picked up the series. That would have been cool, and certainly appropriate because a number of you are now hooked by a story that will not resolve until the next book. But evidently the deal is not yet signed and sealed.

My suggestion for those of you eager to finish this compelling story is to sign up for Kathryn’s newsletter, which, by the way, also enters you in a contest for a free book. That way you’ll be sure to hear when the next book is coming out and where you can find it.

With that said, I want to encourage you to visit other blogs on the tour, as I will be as soon as I post this. There are some interesting interviews, a couple incisive reviews, a few topical discussions (one for writers on POV, a couple on “Christian horror” as a genre), a getting-to-know-Kathryn-Mackel quiz, and a news-breaking announcement. Lots to read, to think about, to comment on.

I’ll do what I can to update the list throughout the rest of the day, but here’s the latest for now:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
CSFF Blog Tour
* Gene Curtis
** D. G. D. Davidson (excellent discussion of horror developed in the comments)
** Jeff Draper (someone actually dared to discuss Christian horror!)
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Andrea Graham
Todd Michael Greene (short summaries of her other books)
Katie Hart
* Christopher Hopper (has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel!)
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
+ Magma (Note: new member; not on the list posted by other participants)
Terri Main
* Shannon McNear (check out the special news Shannon has released)
* Melissa Meeks (also has an excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel)
* John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
* Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
* Chawna Schroeder (Day 2 is another excellent interview with Kathryn Mackel, very different from the others)
Stuart Stockton
* Steve Trower
Speculative Faith (There’s a short quiz)
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

A “+” indicates a blogger left off the original list
Bold type indicates a site I know has posted.
An “*” indicates “must read” content.
“**” indicates “must read” content, an intriguing discussion you might want to join.

– – –

And part two, the CFBA tour for Chuck Black’s Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. And this, by the way, is a review.

The Story. The best way I can begin this discussion is by quoting from the last page in this small book, “Author Commentary”:

Unlike the Kigdom Series allegory, in which characters and events are based on people and events taken directly from Scripture, the Knights of Arrethtrae Series presents biblical principles allegorically. Each book teaches about virtues and vices conveyed through the truth of God’s Word. Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione teaches about loyalty, forgiveness, foolishness, and rebellion.

Coupled with the opening of the book, an introduction to the Knights of Arrethtrae and the prologue, which explains about the King and His Son the Prince and the rebellion of a third of the Silent Warriors, led by the Dark Knight Lucius, the book appeared to be tracing-paper-thin allegory. However, I was pleasantly surprised by an unpredictable knights-of-old fantasy story with more than one twist. It was fast paced and engaging.

Strengths. I liked a great deal in Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione. The characters were interesting from the start, and I quickly came to care what happened because I cared about them.

The “what happened” was a wonderful surprise. About the time I thought I saw the direction of the story, it took a turn. Not one that was improperly motivated, however. The parts combined to create an interesting tale.

The lessons were surprisingly well-woven into the lives and actions of the characters. I say “surprisingly” because I was pre-disposed to think otherwise by the intro, prologue, and commentary.

Weaknesses. I think the main weaknesses were the intro, prologue, and commentary. I thought of something I read in a writing book recently (I think the one by Jerry Jenkins), that writers really need to get out of the way and let the readers experience the story. Yes, indeed.

Also, it seems this book is aimed at homeschoolers because there is a complete study guide in the back—questions over each chapter of the very small book. I call this a weakness, though others might put it under strengths. I want to see a book be a book first and for most. If a writer wants to make questions available, this era of technology makes that so easy to do electronically. For me, seeing questions at the end, I immediately think this story has an ulterior motive for existing. It doesn’t make me inclined to lose myself in the world.

Another iffy weakness is the fact that most of this story is told, not shown. In the current writing climate, that is rare. The fact that it is such a short book (170 pages from Introduction to Epilogue), but covers a significant span of time, includes multiple points of view, and encompasses as much action and danger as it does, could only be true if the author chose to tell large portions of the story.

I’m listing this as a weakness because of the visual generation we live in. And because I know readers don’t enjoy quite as close a connection with the characters in stories like this. However, since I grew up with books that started out like, “Let me tell you the story about …” I found myself in familiar surroundings. Good story, good, good story, but what would it have been like if it showed more, explained less?

As allegory goes, there were some places I had a little difficulty. Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, was one issue. That God and Jesus were represented as King and Prince is another. Not that I’m opposed to allegory. It’s that I don’t understand why.

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the allegory served the purpose of enlightenment. Each stop, each bend in the road, each person Christian encountered along the road showed some aspect of the journey of life that was clearer, more easily understood because of the allegorical picture. I don’t know what aspects of God and Christ were clarified by referring to them as King and Prince.

As to Sir Kendrick’s part in the climax, I question it because of who he was pitted against. I don’t want to give anything away here, but I wondered, in a one-on-one allegorical correlation, just how accurate a representation the story turned out to be.

Recommendation. After my “Discernment” posts, I’m less inclined to give a recommendation. I will say, it’s not safe. 🙂

I enjoyed reading this story, much more than I expected to after reading the parts that explained the allegory ahead of time. I found it uplifting and even touching in places. If I was still teaching, I’d recommend this book to my students in a heartbeat. (And they’d love it because it’s short. 😀 But I suspect they’d also love it because it was an enjoyable story). I know I found it entertaining, but it also brought to the front some issues that are important and can, therefore, serve as a jumping off point for some serious and relevant discussion between parents and kids.

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