Fantasy Friday – The Kingdom Review

As part of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, I received a review copy of The Kingdom by Bryan Litfin from the publisher, Crossway. This is the final book in the Chiveis Trilogy, following book 1, The Sword and book 2, The Gift.

The Story. Continuing where The Gift left off, The Kingdom tells the story of Anastasia and Teofil, two exiles from Chiveis living in a post-apocalyptic Europe.

For the most part Christianity had vanished because the Bible had been lost, but through Ana and Teo’s efforts, that changed, and in The Gift the entire Bible was recovered. Now, in The Kingdom their mission is to take the Holy Writings first to lands of the Beyond, but ultimately, back to their native country.

Evaluation. Writing an epic story is hard and bringing it to a satisfying conclusion, harder. There are only so many times that the hero can overcome the antagonist before these confrontations lose power. Without the stakes being raised, each new conflict seems predictable and redundant.

Unfortunately, The Kingdom falls prey to these lurking predators. At the same time, the characters are much the same as they were in the first volumes of the story–not actually a good thing since I found them to be “thin. Their motives are clear but not in the least complicated. The changes in their goals or moral fiber happen quickly, even easily, and often over night.”

Plot problems are solved in the same quick, easy way, which is why the stakes remain low–there is no sense that failure is actually a possibility.

There’s inconsistency in the intriguing setting, too. While the Bible had been lost for decades, once its found, there is no trouble translating it into various languages in a matter of weeks and of printing out multiple copies, though their world is without basic technology.

And while the Bible had been lost in the post-apocalyptic age, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Pope, and various abbeys survived. Yet apparently nowhere among these was there knowledge of Jesus, His death and resurrection, or promised return.

In many ways I feel a little heartbroken. I am still excited that another Evangelical Christian Publishing Association house chose to invest in a fantasy series. I’m also happy that they chose a post-apocalyptic story since this side of the genre has been popular in the general market. At the same time, the story had many elements that made it feel like familiar fantasy–a good thing for fantasy lovers like me.

However, the sharp edge of promise was dulled by mediocre execution. As much as I want to be a fan, as much as I have prayed for Mr. Litfin to do well and to succeed, I find myself more relieved to be finished than pleased I read the trilogy.

Mine is just one opinion, of course, and I know for a fact that others who read the book in conjunction with the CFBA tour had a much different take on it than I did. See for example Megan who reports that she loved the book.

You can also read the first chapter of the book and/or watch the impressive trailer Crossway put together to showcase the book:

8 Comments

  1. Rebecca, what a thoughtful review! I appreciate your honesty–it makes me want to find more of your reviews! I was wondering about this book, and you really summed up the writing style for me!

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  2. BTW–I just referred people on Mike Duran’s blog, DeCompose, to this very post–he’s discussing brown-nosing type reviews in Christian fiction. I think yours is a shining example of how to honestly review books for our brothers/sisters in Christ, without lying or being mean.

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    • I agree Heather. Rebecca does an excellent job with her reviews. I know I can trust them. And Mike’s post is very telling…pun intended:)

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    • Heather, this means a lot to me. Thank you! Last week I wrote a post over at Spec Faith about how to write reviews, and then wouldn’t you know it, I had to write the hardest one of the year so far. I didn’t know if I achieved what I hoped for, so your feedback is so helpful! And encouraging.

      I appreciate the referral, too! I read Mike’s post but haven’t had the time to look at comments yet.

      Becky

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  3. Very good review. But then, you’ve got the knack.
    I’d have to say I don’t find the trailer intriguing at all.

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  4. Mir, great to see you dipping your toe back into the writing community. Always value your opinion. Thank you.

    Becky

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  5. I liked your review. I read The Sword (first book in the series). My only warning about the book is that parents should read it first, before giving it to a teen. I know the author is trying to make his “bad characters” evil, but it gets a little to descriptive for me. One of the few Christian Fantasy books I would not let my daughter read.

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    • Thanks, Joel. It’s been a while since I read the first in the trilogy, and I guess I forgot about the level of violence. I’ve never thought of these books as for teens, though. I’m sure you’ve made a good choice for your daughter.

      Becky

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