CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 1

How fun to at last be back on track with CSFF. Our feature this week is R. J. Anderson‘s Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, a middle grade fantasy published by HarperCollins.

In my opinion, this book is Christian fantasy at its best. Christian fantasy? Published by a general market press?

Why not? Certainly all kinds of other worldviews are represented in books put out by general market publishers. A Christian worldview, therefore, should not be excluded.

My question, however, is this: why don’t houses affiliated with the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) produce more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter? To be fair, I think a few have moved in this direction—in particular WaterBrook. Kudos to them.

But why aren’t more ECPA houses on board? I have some ideas. One might be the existence (really, the lack thereof) of magic in this story. I recently read an interesting article on the topic of magic in Christian fantasy. Here’s the key portion I want to address:

There are really only two options when dealing with the issue of magic: either magic is a craft that can be learned and mastered by any person who applies themselves, much like any skill in the natural world, or it is something that must be innate within a being, something one is born with.

The author goes on to say that J. R. R. Tolkien used the latter. While I would add a third way of dealing with magic—creating make-believe power, dissimilar to real magic sourced in evil and to real supernatural power sourced in God—I believe Anderson has gone the Tolkien route. Her characters, for the most part, are faeries, who should have magic innately.

I’ll say more about them in particular when I do my review. For now, suffice it to say that I believe too many Christians are losing the power to discern between what is a real concern and what is superficial. In saying this, I recognize myself.

Years ago, I pulled aside a student of mine for a lecture about a novel she was reading that had the word “witch” in the title. Never mind that I had not read the book, didn’t have a clue if the story was in any way promoting anything evil or not. Some lessons are costly, and that one was to me, but also valuable.

It was reinforced some years later when I wanted to add a novel to the curriculum (in a different school) that used alchemy (unsuccessfully) as a key plot point—only to have the powers that be say no, such a book was unsuitable.

But back to the topic—why aren’t more books like Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter coming out of the ECPA? I’d suggest a second reason: the Christian worldview is not overt. Although someone unfamiliar with Christianity can’t miss the central themes, they won’t necessarily identify them as Christian.

In my opinion, the best fantasy coming out of ECPA houses takes this same approach. The stories are accessible by anyone and thoroughly enjoyable. There is no need to preach because the key action in the climax does the heavy lifting, much the way Aslan dying in Edmond’s place did in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think there is a place on bookshelves for stories that deal with Christianity in an overt way. But ones that stir our hearts because of love and self-sacrifice are important, too.

Take some time this week to see what others participating on the tour have to say:

A check mark links to a tour post. (Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book).

%d bloggers like this: