Fantasy Friday – New Books On The Horizon


It’s always fun to get a sneak peak at books that have just release or that will come out shortly. Here are the newest Christian speculative novels I know of.

a hero's throne cover

A Hero’s Throne by Ross Lawhead, Thomas Nelson (January 2013)
YA fantasy
Ancient Earth Trilogy, Book 2

Deep beneath the streets of England lies another realm . . . one few in our modern world know exists. Daniel and Freya, however, know it all too well. Eight years ago, these friends first journeyed through portals into the hidden land of Niðergeard—discovering a city filled with stones, secrets, and sleeping knights that serve to protect the world they call home.

But Niðergeard has fallen to dark forces, overrun by its enemies. Gates are being opened between the worlds that should have been kept closed. The battle lines for the war at the end of time have been drawn, and opposing forces are starting to gather.

Having served for centuries as the first and last outpost at the borders to other worlds, Niðergeard must be reclaimed and the mystery of its fall discovered. Daniel and Freya, along with an ancient knight and a Scottish police officer, must return to the legendary city, rally the surviving citizens, and awaken the sleeping knights—knights who are being killed, one by one, as they sleep.

But time is running out faster than they know.

the crystal scepter coverThe Crystal Scepter by C. S. Lakin, Living Ink Books/AMG (Jan 2013)
Fifth in the Gates of Heaven series
YA Fairytale

When Pythius, the wicked young king of Paladya, learns of the hidden realm of Elysiel and the crystal scepter that protects that northern land, he journeys to kill the Keeper and steal the scepter. But his defiant act unleashes a terrible curse, and the Seer foretells his death one day at the hand of his son, now a newborn babe. To thwart the prophecy, he attempts to murder his child, but the queen escapes and sends the babe off in a trunk across the sea, where he is found and raised by a humble fisherman.

Years later, Perthin, the cast-off babe now grown, hears his call of destiny, and is visited by a specter who tells him of the land of Elysiel and of the Gorgon—the evil creature fomenting war in the Northern Wastes. Perthin’s village of Tolpuddle is being ravaged by a monstrous sea beast sent by this enemy, and Perthin accepts the challenge to kill the creature by cutting off its head—although anyone who looks upon it turns to stone. Armed with magical shoes and a legendary sword, Perthin arrives in Elysiel, where the trolls lead him to the ice cavern where the sacred site made of crystal slabs awaits him to show him his future. Perthin feels a strange connection to this land, unaware that he is the heir to Elysiel’s throne.

With the help of heaven’s army, Perthin bests the enemy and returns to stop the sea monster as the beast is ravaging the kingdom of Paladya. He rescues the princess, who has been set out in the harbor as a sacrifice for the beast, and then stops the sea monster by exposing it to the Gorgon’s head, yet through his heroic efforts he unknowingly fulfills the prophecy foretold by the Seer. He returns to Tolpuddle a hero, where many surprising revelations await him as to his heritage and legacy, for he learns he is not truly a fisherman’s son but a king foretold.

the darker road coverThe Darker Road by L. B. Graham, Living Ink/AMG (February 2013)
Wandering Series
YA fantasy

The empire of Eirmon Omiir, king of Barra-Dohn, couldn’t be stronger. He rules all Aralyn with an iron hand. Meridium, the metal alloy that is both the source and currency of power throughout the world was discovered in Barra-Dohn and Barra-Dohn remains dominant because of it.

The family of Eirmon Omiir couldn’t be more fractured. Eirmon cares for little beyond the power of his throne and his own personal pleasure, and the sins of the father have had generational consequences. Eirmon’s son, Kaden, has reaped their bitter harvest. His marriage is in shambles, a deep divide separating him from both his wife and his son.

A series of mysterious visitors begin to converge on Barra-Dohn, each with their own secrets and motives. There is the elderly Devoted, with his impossible prophesy that the mighty Barra-Dohn will fall within 40 days, the pair of Amhuru, legendary wanderers, who have come to take back what was stolen, and the Jin Dara, who brings an army and an ancient thirst for vengeance.

The events that follow and the crisis that emerges offer both Eirmon and Kaden a chance at restoration, to rise above their past failures, even as the world around them falls apart. Kaden seizes this chance, a small mercy in the midst of a greater judgement. Eirmon does not, and his fate is sealed. And so is the fate of the world, for the end of Barra-Dohn is the beginning of The Wandering, and everything hangs in the balance.

broken-wings-coverBroken Wings by Shannon Dittemore, Thomas Nelson (February 2013)
YA supernatural
Book Two of the Angel Eyes Trilogy

Angels with wings of blade. Demons with renewed sight. And a girl who has never been more broken.

Brielle has begun to see the world as it really is, a place where angels intermingle with humans. But just when she thinks she’s got things under control, the life she’s pieced together begins to crumble.

Her boyfriend, Jake, is keeping something from her. Something important.
And her overprotective father has turned downright hostile toward Jake. Brielle fears she’ll have to choose between the man who’s always loved her and the one who’s captured her heart.
Then she unearths the truth about her mother’s death and the nightmare starts. Brielle begins seeing visions of mysterious and horrible things.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s been targeted. The Prince of Darkness himself has heard of the boy with healing in his hands and of the girl who saw through the Terrestrial veil. When he pulls the demon Damien from the fiery chasm and sends him back to Earth with new eyes, the stage is set for the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

Brielle has no choice. She must master the weapons she’s been given. She must fight.
But can she fly with broken wings?

A-Cast-of-StonesA Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr, Bethany House (February 2013)
Adult epic fantasy
The Staff and the Sword, Book 1

The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones

In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones.

the ravaged realm coverThe Ravaged Realm by D. Barkley Briggs, AMG/Living Ink (February 2013)
YA fantasy
The Legends of Karac Tor, Book 4

With the Nine Worlds facing a judgment of fire, Karac Tor stands on the brink of civil war and despair. A true prophet must be found, but he’s lost…somewhere in North America.

Determined to fight for the land, Arthur and Corus take their case all the way to the White Abbey, hoping to receive a blessing for their efforts. But time is of the essence, and Cassock, having delivered the deceptive gift of the Lost Oracle to the High Synod, has cleverly begun sowing the Devourer’s lies and confusion into the fabric of the Three Holy Orders. Has the sacred Book of Law really been expanded, or annulled? And if the Nine Gifts are to be abandoned, does the White Abbey finally reign supreme above all others?

Gabe, dramatically increasing his power to communicate with animals, ventures into the forbidding Highlands to find and rescue Flogg from the dreaded Stone Moot. Little does he understand the series of events this will unleash. Meanwhile, Arthur, refusing to play politics, discover that a small army has been secretly waiting for him to finally take charge. Setting out to make trouble for Kr’Nunos, Arthur and Corus finally confront the strange, beastly Ravers that are wreaking havoc across the land. Driven by enemies within and without, the Royal Kingdom of Karac Tor is swiftly unravelling, standing on the brink of civil war.

Meanwhile, back on earth, Reggie, Odessa and her children find themselves thrown across the Nine Worlds on a desperate quest to find and rescue the mysterious Lost Prophet, a great bird whose legendary power is woven into the history of our own world. Forced into hiding among the Native tribes of pre-Columbian America, Rianor is the last messenger and signal-bearer, whose final cry will usher in the War of Swords, and hopefully, summon Aion to return and save his people. But first they must find him and free him, before the Devourer brings ruin to all.

CaptivesSafeLandscoverCaptives by Jill Williamson, Zondervan (April 2013)
YA Dystopian Science fiction
The Safe Lands, Book 1

One choice could destroy them all. When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he’d find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed by enforcers, and many—including his fiancee, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Land, a walled city that seems anything but safe.

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away to Denver City, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land like nomads and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Land has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams. Meanwhile, Jem is locked in a cell, awaiting the Safe Landers’ plan to protect their future by seizing her own. Can Levi uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Land’s facade before it’s too late?

Fables and Fantasies – CSFF Blog Tour, The Wolf of Tebron, Day 3


I’d planned to do my typical review of this week’s CSFF feature, The Wolf of Tebron by C. S. Lakin, but some of the blog tour discussion connected to my two previous posts has persuaded me to explore the differences and similarities of two speculative genres—classic fantasy and fables.

As a reminder, back cover copy of The Wolf of Tebron invites a comparison (as did the author herself in her guest posts at Spec Faith) between C. S. (Susanne) Lakin’s work and C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. However, the genre of The Gates of Heaven series is fairy tale whereas Lewis was doing something quite different.

His work is best described as mythopoetic, or myth-making. Hence, he created a new place and populated it with mythical and make-believe characters, then asked the question, How would God show Himself in this world? The result was most naturally Aslan, king of the beasts.

This latter aspect of his story creation has been called “supposal.” Lewis differentiated this process from allegory, but clearly there are allegorical elements. Aslan’s Christ-like sacrifice is most notable.

One final point about the Narnia books: they don’t follow the broadest description of fairy tales as “narratives centered on magical tests, quests, and transformations … defined by their plots, which follow standard basic patterns.” In fact, the Narnia books all differ from one another considerably. Some may have a fairy tale motif (rescuing a prince—though most fairy tales use a princess—from enchantment, for example), but those points serve the greater Story—Aslan’s rule over what he created and his creatures’ corruption of it.

In contrast, The Wolf of Tebron does not create a tangible world but in true fairy tale fashion, takes place far, far away. In fact, the world is hard to pin down because allusions to real world nursery rhymes, music, literature, religion, and science pepper the story. But so does magic and transformation and the fantastic. So does the extreme North where the Moon lives, the East where the Sun lives, the South where the South Wind lives, and the West where the ocean is.

Without an established world, there is no creative “supposal” a la Lewis. The question, In this world how would God show Himself? is moot because the world doesn’t have a standard set of rules. The sacrificial character himself needs rescuing more than once; the sun, moon, and wind seem to be independent entities; and the mind-speaking magic seems without purpose. These kinds of unexplained elements (who is the Goose Woman; why did the Moon, who is the culprit of the story, send the protagonist to the Sun where he would find help) fit a folktale perfectly fine, but not the creation of a consistent world with a God figure such as we find in Narnia.

In reality, as I thought through the differences of the two works, I felt freed up to appreciate what The Wolf of Tebron accomplished. It took an existent fairy tale, fleshed it out, and turned it into a fable with symbolic Christian elements.

I’ve seen the word “allegory” or “allegorical” used in connection to the story, but I think those terms trip up some readers and cause them to have theological problems with the story. I’ll give an example from near the end.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In order to save the protagonist, the wolf, his faithful companion, mind-speaks that the “young human” needs to kill him—take his knife and stab him, then cut out his heart. This sacrificial act is notably different from Christ’s.

For one, the character in the book loves the wolf and doesn’t want to kill him. Christ’s killers (and yes, the picture is there that we sinners are Christ’s killers) hated Him and opposed Him and denied His authority and relationship. In addition, the wolf who then became a man, only gained a pure heart once he died. Christ, on the other hand, was sinless perfection and had a pure heart at birth, which was why He could be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.

You get the idea. There are significant differences that keep the wolf from being an allegorical representation of Christ. But he could certainly be a symbolic representation of Him.

If a reader expects to find allegory, the natural conclusion is that the theology of The Wolf of Tebron is skewed, at best. If, on the other hand, the reader expects to find a morality tale—a fable—then he will find a story about anger and forgiveness, despair and hope, fear and love.

From my perspective, how a reader approaches the book “[makes] all the difference.” 😀

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Fables, Fairy Tales, And Parables – CSFF Blog Tour, The Wolf Of Tebron, Day 2


Who knew fairy tales are controversial? The question, of course, arises because the CSFF Blog Tour feature this week is a book touted as a modern fairy tale. I’m referring to The Wolf of Tebron, first in the Gates of Heaven series by C. S. Lakin (Living Ink Books). Precisely, the back cover says “The Gates of Heaven series celebrates the reinvention of the fairy tale in the tradition of C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.”

That statement caught me off guard because I’ve never thought of Narnia as a fairy tale. So what exactly is a fairy tale?

Perhaps we should start with what it is not. First, it is not a parable. All reliable definitions (Oxford Dictionary, Columbia Encyclopedia, and others) agree that a parable is a story that illustrates a lesson or moral. However, these are stories that take the every day—setting, characters, action—and create from them a metaphor to illustrate some moral or supernatural truth.

At first glance, those who have already read The Wolf of Tebron may think this definition of parable fits the story. However, parables are unique because they do not employ magic; animals and inanimate objects are not characters in a parable.

Does this mean the book is indeed a fairy tale? Is Narnia a fairy tale?

Here’s where the controversy begins. Some scholars claim that fairy tales are stories written primarily for children while others describe the progression of stories written for adults who believed in fairies, to the for-children happily-ever-after tales we have today.

One component seems to be a constant in all the definitions: fairy tales must include some form of magic. A minority clings to the idea that the stories must involve fairies. Another group of scholars claim that “transformation” is a necessary element in fairy tales (think of Cinderella’s pumpkin changing into a coach or the queen/witch turning into an old woman to give Snow White an apple). A third view is that these stories must involve the fantastic. Oxford explains this type of literature in this way:

a mode of fiction in which the possible and the impossible are confounded so as to leave the reader (and often the narrator and/or central character) with no consistent explanation for the story’s strange events.
http://www.answers.com/topic/fantastic

Using these components, I conclude that Narnia is not a fairy tale.

While The Wolf of Tebron includes most of these elements (no fairies), I wonder if a more accurate categorization might not be the fable.

From the Oxford American Dictionaries:

fable – a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.
• a story, typically a supernatural one incorporating elements of myth and legend.

Then this from Wordiq

In its strict sense a fable is a short story or folk tale embodying a moral, which may be expressed explicitly at the end as a maxim.
http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Fable

Here’s a short example:

The Bear Who Let It Alone
“In the woods of the Far West there once lived a brown bear who could take it or let it alone. He would go into a bar where they sold mead, a fermented drink made of honey, and he would have just two drinks. Then he would put some money on the bar and say, ‘See what the bears in the back room will have,’ and he would go home. But finally he took to drinking by himself most of the day. He would reel home at night, kick over the umbrella stand, knock down the bridge lamps, and ram his elbows through the windows. Then he would collapse on the floor and lie there until he went to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

“At length the bear saw the error of his ways and began to reform. In the end he became a famous teetotaler and a persistent temperance lecturer. He would tell everybody that came to his house about the awful effects of drink, and he would boast about how strong and well he had become since he gave up touching the stuff. To demonstrate this, he would stand on his head and on his hands and he would turn cartwheels in the house, kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming his elbows through the windows. Then he would lie down on the floor, tired by his healthful exercise, and go to sleep. His wife was greatly distressed and his children were very frightened.

“Moral: You might as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.”

(James Thurber, “The Bear Who Let It Alone,” from Fables for Our Time)

Does The Wolf of Tebron end in such a statement of general truth? Not structurally, to be certain, but without giving away the ending, I’ll say, I think a good case can be made for the story being more fable than fairy tale.

Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm  Comments (8)  
Tags: , , , , ,

CSFF Blog Tour – The Wolf of Tebron, Day 1


Author C. S. (Susanne) Lakin penned this week’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Wolf of Tebron, first in The Gates of Heaven series (Living Ink Books).

Interestingly, Susanne provides Endnotes, something atypical for fiction. The first of these identifies “The Enchanted Pig” from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a source of inspiration for her novel. While I didn’t find the story in my edition of Grimm’s, I found what I believe to be the tale that inspired Susanne.

“The Enchanted Pig,” included in Andrew Lang’s The Red Fairy Book, is a Romanian fairy tale, collected in Rumanische Märchen. Happily, it is online here. Those who have already read The Wolf of Tebron will find it interesting to compare the two stories.

Fairytales grew out of the larger body of folklore—the traditions of a culture passed on through art, music, and of course, story. Some stories took on specific features and varying purposes, so tomorrow, I plan to take a little closer look at the difference between fables, fairytales, and parables.

Scholars have studied fairytales originating across the globe and have found common elements, or motifs. Each story, then, has been classified according to the central motif. Other scholars have studied the function of the various characters of fairytales, something akin to Joseph Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey.

Early fairytales were written primarily for adults but did not exclude children. A process began, however, of stripping some elements from the stories, particularly sexual aspects, and eventually children became the target audience. Today most fairytales are aimed first at children, but adults are not excluded.

Movie examples of this trend are the Shrek movies and the more recent Tangled, inspired by the Grimm’s fairytale, Rapunzel. Much of the humor is considerably more sophisticated and consequently more appreciated by adults.

Interestingly, The Wolf of Tebron is marketed to adults rather than to the young adult crowd, not because of humor, certainly, but I’ll touch upon that in my review later this week.

For now, check out what other bloggers writing about The Wolf of Tebron have to say:

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

Fantasy Friday – Christmas Recommendations


I know, I know. I hate how Christmas encroaches on Thanksgiving, too. But reality is, if I don’t post now about books that would make good Christmas presents, I could easily miss a lot of people.

So without further hullabaloo, fantasies you might consider for Christmas presents.

Recent Releases (books I haven’t read yet):

Picture Books (Young readers)


The Dragon and the Turtle by Donita Paul & Evangeline Denmark (WaterBrook)

Friends come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Sometimes they’re
even dragons.

Roger loves adventure. Today he’s playing pirate, sailing the high seas, dancing to the hornpipe, and catching fish. But the wind’s blown him off course and he’s . . . well . . . lost.

When Padraig, a kitten-sized, bug-eating dragon, encounters the lost turtle, he offers to help Roger find his way home. Roger’s directions take some time to follow—his house looks brown, sounds like singing, smells like baking, feels like sand, and tastes like strawberries—and along the way, Roger and Padraig become friends. And friendship always yields unexpected rewards. Like cookies.

Young Adult

The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers (WaterBrook)

As far back as he can remember, the orphan Grady has tramped from village to village in the company of a huckster named Floyd. With his adolescent accomplice, Floyd perpetrates a variety of hoaxes and flimflams on the good citizens of the Corenwald frontier, such as the Ugliest Boy in the World act.

It’s a hard way to make a living, made harder by the memory of fatter times when audiences thronged to see young Grady perform as “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp.” But what can they do? Nobody believes in feechies anymore.

When Floyd stages an elaborate plot to revive Corenwalders’ belief in the mythical swamp-dwellers known as the feechiefolk, he overshoots the mark. Floyd’s Great Feechie Scare becomes widespread panic. Eager audiences become angry mobs, and in the ensuing chaos, the Charlatan’s Boy discovers the truth that has evaded him all his life—and will change his path forever.

Dragons of the Valley, second in the Chiril Chronicles by Donita Paul (WaterBrook)

War threatens the peaceful land of Chiril… can one painter-turned-reluctant-swordsman really help?

With an invasion of her country imminent, Tipper Schope is drawn into a mission to keep three important statues from falling into the enemy’s clutches. Her friend, the artist Bealomondore, helps her execute the plan, and along the way he learns to brandish a sword rather than a paintbrush.

As odd disappearances and a rash of volatile behavior sweep Chiril, no one is safe. A terrible danger has made his vicious presence known: The Grawl, a hunter unlike any creature encountered before.

To restore their country, Tipper, Bealomondore, and their party must hide the statues in the Valley of the Dragons and find a way to defeat the invading army. When it falls to the artistic Bealomondore to wield his sword as powerfully and naturally as a paintbrush, will he answer Wulder’s call for a champion?

Adult

The Wolf of Tebron by C. S. Lakin (AMG)

A young blacksmith must undertake a perilous journey to the four ends of the world to rescue his wife, who is held captive by the Moon. Along the way, he befriends a powerful wolf who encourages, protects, and ultimately sacrifices his life to save his human friend. A stirring allegory of God’s love in classic fairy tale tradition.

To Darkness Fled, second in the Blood of Kings series by Christy Award winner Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press)

They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.

Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.

Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.

Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?

Enough for today. Another time I’ll mention some of the books I have read and some of the series you may wish to consider. In the meantime, happy browsing. 😀

%d bloggers like this: