CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3

Without a doubt, the CSFF tour for Book two of the Angeleon Circle, Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley, is one of the more controversial ones in some time. How are we to understand angels? Is the book Christian? These are big questions for fantasy readers and Christians. In so many ways the discussion touches at the heart of the Harry Potter debates–but with angels instead of wizards.

My Review

The Story. Trevin, an orphan who used to steal for a living and served an evil lord who tried to assassin the legitimate ruler, is a young man newly trusted by his king to shoulder the role of comain, or protector of the crown and country. The story of his transformation to one so favored apparently is told in the first book of the Angeleon Circle, Breath of Angel.

There are only a handful of comains, and in fact those are missing. The king wishes Trevin to find them, starting first by traveling to the Oracle to receive a sign or prophecy. He also wants Trevin to act as an ambassador to the country in the north, seeking to strengthen or renew their alliance.

The king’s daughter, newly discovered to be the princess (also part of the first book), wants Trevin to help her in a task she believes to be more important than anything the king has asked–a task her mother died trying to accomplish. She wants to find the three kyparis harps and reunite them. This alone will restore the Wisdom Tree and the ladder to heaven, making it possible for the angels trapped on earth to return and renew their work of leading souls of the dead to their destination.

Trevin sets out reluctantly. A prince of their rival kingdom is offering peace if he can but marry the princess–the girl who has vowed to marry no one else but Trevin. But with the good of her land at stake, and the possibility of finding one of the harps in the rival kingdom, how can she refuse?

Trevin determines to find the harps for her, acquire the alliance with the northern kingdom, and a sign from the Oracle, so his king won’t have need of a peace treaty with the rivals. But even if he’s successful, he may be too late. The royal house is preparing for a wedding.

Strengths. The thing that impressed me the most about Eye of the Sword was how interdependent it is upon book one and book three and yet how complete it felt as a story in its own right. Ms. Henley did a masterful job weaving in the details of the previous story–the cause of much of the internal conflict and some of the external conflict of this story.

The main character has clear goals from the beginning, and although he feels overwhelmed, pursues them in a logical, believable way. Unexpected events happen that keep him from achieving what he hoped, but each setback also leads him into further adventure. In other words, I had every reason to cheer him on.

In addition, he has secrets. His past haunts him and even though the girl he loves has forgiven him, he hasn’t told her everything. His struggles with guilt and self-recrimination are believable. They make this character someone I cared about.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but think, this guy needs a Redeemer. He needs his past washed clean. I have no way of knowing if the story will take this kind of direction, but some events mirror elements of a Christian’s new life, so I would certainly not be surprised if this came to the forefront in book three.

The story was fast paced and exciting; the writing was crisp and concise; the characters, flawed but noble.

Weakness. Unlike some of those participating on the tour, I wasn’t looking for overt Christianity in this story because I quickly identified the angels of the Angeleon Circle as not Biblical angels. Therefore, I wasn’t expecting a depiction of God. I wish there hadn’t been one. While there isn’t much, there is one reference to “the Most High” as the “father-mother of the universe.” That one cut too close to false teaching. It’s hard to think of “the Most High” as anyone but God making the description non-Biblical at best–which is pretty bad, to be honest. However, this was an “in passing” reference, and certainly the Most High is not a main player in the story. Consequently, while I cringed when I read that line, it did not become a constant thorn in my reading side.

Recommendations. I loved Eye of the Sword. It’s my kind of fantasy–I think. I do want Christian parallels in Christian fantasy, even though they may not be obvious. I see potential, so I want to give this one the benefit of the doubt because it was well written and exciting. It is, after all, the second third of the entire story, so I have reason to believe there may be more depth to the final installment. Highly recommend to readers who love high fantasy, angels not withstanding. 😉

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

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 3  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Eye Of The Sword, Day 1

Take a look at the cover of Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley. To me it shouts FANTASY! I mean, eye of the sword? Swords don’t have eyes. And look at that character. Long hair, decked out in armor, leather gauntlets–all quite old world or other world.

On the inside, just behind the title page is a MAP! At once, I decided I was in love. I mean, what’s a fantasy without a good map. And this is a good one. But there’s more. Behind the map is a cast of characters. That says “EPIC” to me. I mean, any story that has enough characters to necessitate a list of them to remind you who’s who, in case you might accidentally lose track, has to have a fairly broad scope.

At this point I’ll admit I checked my enthusiasm. The book isn’t thick, so I did a quick check of the page length. Two hundred thirty-three. I’ve read fantasies that are more than twice that size. Was this book being pretentious? I mean, would such a slender volume really necessitate a glossary?

I glanced at the cover again. At the top: “Angeleon Circle, Book Two.” So the cast of characters encompasses an earlier book. Pretentious concern alleviated. But … larger concern, confirmed by another glance at the cast of characters. This book is about angels.

Generally speaking, I don’t like stories that feature angels. They so rarely live up to the Biblical record or else they are flat and unrealistic. Except, I read a terrific angel story earlier this year.

Besides, if I tell concerned readers that wizards such as those in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are imaginative creatures, not the historical and very real beings the Bible warns against, shouldn’t I be willing to consider angels in the same vein? Must they be real in stories? Reluctantly, I set that concern aside and forged ahead.

How happy I am that I did so! A few pages in, and I was engrossed in this story. I’ll give my full review later in the tour, but for now, I wanted to elaborate a little on fantasy angels.

Granted, I haven’t talked to Ms. Henley about this. I should have taken up her offer to do an interview, but since I didn’t I’m left to surmise what she intended. (At her web site she has a page on Angelology which confirms my conclusions, however.) There is so much inventive material in this story, I have to believe the angels of the Angeleon Circle are equally inventive.

First, the map I mentioned shows readers a wholly other world made up of three kingdoms: Eldarra, The Dregmoors, and Camrithia. In this imaginative world, readers learn that a once-existent stairway to heaven has been closed, cutting off a group of angels from returning. Yes, there is a hint of Jacob’s dream of angels in that element, but in the Angeleon Circle, the stairway to heaven emanated from the Wisdom Tree which has been destroyed. This is not Biblical fiction! These angels–not fallen ones–live like men and intermarry with humans. They are trapped, after all, in the Three Kingdoms world.

At any rate, I treated the various types of angels in Eye of the Sword as purely pretend beings, not intended to show readers what real angels are like. As such, I enjoyed the story immensely and could focus on what was happening and what the theme was saying.

Mine is but one view. See what other participating members of the CSFF Blog Tour are saying. Note, the check marks below link to
articles that have been posted featuring Eye of the Sword.

Fantasy Friday – A Look At Daughter Of Light

Daughter of Light, a fantasy novel by Morgan Busse (Marcher Lord Press) has one of the most intriguing point of view characters I’ve read in some time. He isn’t the main character, and you can’t really think of him as the antagonist either. But he and his interests pit him directly against the true main character.

Mind you, I want to tell you about this character without giving too much away (down on spolers!), so if I’m somewhat vague, you’ll know why.

The character I’m talking about is Caleb Tala, second brother to Lord Corin, the power-hungry leader of Temanin. In some ways, Caleb is an uncomplicated person. He wants pleasure and ease, and is willing to pay a high price for both. Not in money but in loyalty and service.

At the same time he’s rather complex–driven by nightmares, haughty toward those who have significant power, kind to the most undeserving. He’s clever to the detriment of the main character, skilled in military strategy, understanding of human nature, but he can’t see his way out of his own political snarl.

In short, he’s a compelling character, someone I found myself cheering for–not that he would succeed, but that he would change. He’s not happy, and I want him to be. I want him to figure things out, to make better choices, to stop what he plans, renounce what he wins.

Ultimately, Morgan made me care for him. It’s a great accomplishment, I think.

Daughter of Light is high fantasy–the kind that feels like it’s set in medieval times. The only “magic” in the story is a big piece of the puzzle–the power that resides in a race of people thought to be extinct.

The premise is unique on its own, but when Caleb’s story and that of Nierne, the young scribe from Thyra, are woven together with the main character’s thread, “the plot thickens,” in a compelling way.

This storytelling is not straight bad guy against good or supernatural evil against supernatural good. There is complacency among the side of right and hope amid despair within the ranks of the defeated. And then there is Caleb.

Why is he, of all people, the focal point of the light coming from the daughter of light?

That question alone generates a great deal of interest in volume two of this fantasy series.

Fantasy Friday – A Success Story

I heard some great news this week. Long time CSFF Blog Tour member (he joined in 2007) Robert Treskillard has signed a publishing contract with Zondervan. His series The Merlin Spiral will begin releasing February 2013 with book one, Merlin’s Blade.

Robert has been on this path to publication for some time, starting with his love for all things Celtic and a decision sparked by his son to learn blacksmithing and sword making. What I love is that in the process of writing and seeking publication, Robert worked on behalf of others who were writing and promoting the kinds of books he wanted to see on bookshelves — Christian fantasy.

For example Robert’s participation in the CSFF Blog Tour has gone beyond joining the occasional tour. He designed the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award button and has made invaluable suggestions of books to tour. When he has participated in the tour, his posts are exemplary (witness the fact that he’s won the Top Tour Blogger Award four times!)

In addition, he was instrumental in the creation of the fan book trailers for Jill Williamson’s The Blood of King series — To Darkness Fled and From Darkness Won.

All last year Robert was “close.” He submitted to publishers, sought out an agent, went to a conference, and waited.

Meanwhile, he continued to support other writers — rejoicing, for example, with fellow Missourian L. B. Graham (The Binding of the Blade series) when he recently received a contract from AMG for a new series.

At long last the news came that his books will go into print. It’s a great individual story and a great story of success for Christian fantasy.

For those of you who, like me, are excited to learn that more Christian fantasy is on the way, take a moment and visit Robert’s Facebook page and friend him — you can tell him I sent you. 😉

Published in: on April 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm  Comments (4)  
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Fantasy Friday – The State Of The Genre

Author friend Mike Duran recently interviewed his agent Rachelle Gardner, discussing, of all things, Christian speculative fiction. I say “of all things” because Rachelle chooses not to represent fantasy or science fiction, though she will occasionally take a talent (like Mike) who writes supernatural suspense.

The odd thing to me about the interview is the “gloom and doom” tone regarding the future of speculative fiction in the market known as “CBA.” The abbreviation stands for Christian Booksellers Association, and does indicate who the heavy-weights calling the shots were some ten years ago.

But a couple things changed. One was “Left Behind.” With the huge sales of those Jerry Jenkins/Tim LaHaye books, suddenly big box stores wanted a piece of the Christian-fiction pie. Now books by Christians with Christian themes were finding their way into Walmart, Borders, and Target. CBA members no longer had an exclusive say on what books would get in front of the public.

Another thing that made a huge difference was the Internet. Now Amazon joined the party, and readers could voice their opinion about books and their quality in open, public forums.

Along with these two events was a cultural shift. Call it the Harry Potter factor. I tend to think the receptive nature of our society to a series about wizards fits with postmodern thinking and the awareness of the supernatural. In other words, Harry Potter didn’t “cause” it, but it came along when our culture was ready (as did the Lord of the Rings movies).

As far as Christian fiction is concerned, there wasn’t much interest in the speculative genre. The Christy Awards committee couldn’t even settle on a name for their award category that would encompass “those books.” (They finally settled on “Visionary”).

Winner of the first of four Christy Awards Hancock garnered

Karen Hancock came out of the starting blocks in 2002 with her first title, Arena (Bethany House), a science fantasy. She followed that the next year with The Light of Eidon, the first in her strictly fantasy Guardian-King series.

Since then, a good number of authors writing Christian fantasy have come and gone. Some have switched publishers, some are publishing independently, and some are continuing to publish with traditional houses.

Here are the ones I know:

      With AMG/Living Ink
      Scott Appleton
      Wayne Thomas Batson
      D. Barkley Briggs
      Bryan Davis
      C. S. Lakin

      With Bethany
      Karen Hancock

      With Crossway
      Bryan Litfin

      With Multnomah Books
      Chuck Black

      With Strang
      Eric Reinhold

      With Thomas Nelson
      Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

      With Warner Press
      Christopher and Allan Miller

      With WaterBrook
      David Gregory
      Jeffrey Overstreet
      Donita K. Paul
      Andrew Peterson
      Jonathan Rogers

Mind you, these are just fantasy, not supernatural suspense or horror (such as Ted Dekker, Robert Liparulo, Tom Pawlik, or even John Olson, Eric Wilson, Mike Dellosso, or Mike Duran) though Gregory and Litfin might best be called dystopian fantasy.

What’s the point?

If “fantasy doesn’t sell” why are so many fantasy writers still getting contracts from traditional Christian publishing houses? Why has the number increased so sharply in less than ten years?

Granted, some books evidently had disappointing sales because there are authors who are no longer under contract. But I know authors writing women’s fiction who are in the same situation. Are we to conclude then that women’s fiction doesn’t sell in the “CBA market”?

As far as I can see, these are the facts:

1. Our culture is still fantasy hungry, though dystopian and urban are dominating rather than epic or medieval.

2. Mormon speculative fiction is doing especially well (see Orson Scott Card, Stephenie Meyers, Shannon Hale, et. al.)

3. Traditional Christian publishing houses continue to increase their number of fantasy authors.

From these facts, I conclude that there is no reason to believe Christian fantasy will not continue to grow. Sadly, Christian fantasy writers don’t have the support from our faith community like Mormons obviously do (for a variety of reasons). But that doesn’t mean there is NO support or that it isn’t growing.

Till now I haven’t even mentioned small presses like Marcher Lord Press or Splashdown Books that are focused exclusively on Christian speculative fiction.

Clearly there is a desire from readers for more than what the traditional houses are producing, but that doesn’t mean the traditional houses are not buying fantasy at all. They are. Cautiously, perhaps, especially in the wild, Wild West of publishing and the slowly recovering economy.

One of the commenters to Mike Duran’s interview suggested we pray for the publishing professionals. What a great idea! If a genre like fantasy can tell powerful stories that can touch people’s lives and glorify God, why would He not be pleased to see more of those stories come to light?

If we can’t support speculative fiction with our dollars or with our word-of-mouth promotion, perhaps we can pray. That’s the best kind of support anyway.

Fantasy Friday – More Thoughts On Violence

Day two of the recent CSFF Blog Tour, I dived into a discussion of violence in Christian fantasy. I made the case for the appropriateness of violence against evil, and therefore the appropriateness of violence in fantasy, since these are stories of good versus evil.

The problem is, those who are evil can be redeemed. Can’t they? Can’t we? I mean, if we truly believe that Mankind’s nature is wicked, not good, yet here the Christian stands, reconciled to God, not by what we do, but by what He did, shouldn’t our evil characters also have the chance to be redeemed?

Yes. Or no. Maybe both.

I know, I know, that’s not helpful. But here’s what I’m thinking. God offers forgiveness through His Son and some accept His mercy by repenting and believing on His name. Can Christian fantasy depict such a response to evil? Forgiveness and mercy instead of violence?

But that’s not the whole picture because not every person bows the knee to God when presented with the claims of Christ on his life. That person who rejects Jesus will one day face judgment. Violent judgment. To whitewash this outcome seems to me to play into the hands of false teachers who strip God of His role as the righteous Judge who will Himself cast rebels into a place of darkness and of gnashing teeth, of torment and burning fire.

Then there is Satan himself and his forces of evil — who apparently are locked into their rebellion. I don’t know how this works, but God has already spoken judgment against them. They just haven’t experienced it yet. These are the ones Ephesians 6:12 tells us we are fighting:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

I tend to think we Christians don’t get that, at least in Western culture. We tend to fight people who have sinful life styles and our government for passing laws that allow it. But in so doing, are we actually fighting the spiritual forces of wickedness?

Our armor is composed of truth, righteousness, the gospel, and salvation. Our shield is faith, and our weapons are the Word of God and prayer.

And then we do battle.

In fantasy, how is this battle depicted? Might it not be through the extended metaphor of physical battle?

Consequently, I see a definite place for violence in Christian fantasy. It might serve as a judgment on evil people or as a battle against the supernatural forces of evil. But there is one more use of violence I think might be appropriate.

Evil employs violence without cause. A mugger pistol-whips a victim after stealing her purse. A demon-possessed boy throws himself into the fire.

Sometimes a writer may show evil by showing violence. In that instance it should be heinous, revolting, unjust. Those are not pretty scenes, but they might be necessary.

Or are they? What do you think?

CSFF Blog Tour – Dragons of the Valley, Day 3

What, you may ask, does “Dragon Bloggin’” have to do with the latest CSFF Tour feature, Dragons of the Valley? Besides the word “dragon,” both are creations of Donita Paul, the latter her latest novel and the former her fantasy blog. While I wanted to draw your attention to this fine blog where Donita posts her tour articles whenever she participates in CSFF (as she did this week), my intent today is to give you my review of Dragons of the Valley.

The Story. This second volume in the Chiril Chronicles begins a week after the events at the end of The Vanishing Sculptor. Same primary characters, same immediate threat, different opponent.

Strengths. The Characters. Donita has outdone herself in this one. First, she created a truly formidable foe for her cast of heroes to bring down. The Grawl was fearsome and believable. To be honest, he reminded me of a very evil Rigador (I think I have that name right), the meech dragon in the DragonKeeper books.

But true to form, Donita also brought some of the secondary characters front and center so that they nearly upstaged the primaries. Lady Peg played a critical, and hilarious role. Wizard Fenworth was at his best, and we met a delightful kimen named Hollee who made everything more fun.

Then there was a new minor dragon, Rayn. This little chameleon dragon was a jack of all trades and no slouch when it came to mastering them. He started out as such a needy little stray, my heart went out to him before I realized he would be the most talented of all the minors.

Themes. Donita’s stories are rich with spiritual truth. The Chiril Chronicles are actually evangelistic, mapping the way in which a people who forgot God learn to know Him. But there are other significant threads—the importance of following God even when it takes you out of your comfort zone, of accepting and loving those who are different than we, of rejoicing in the beauty of the world God has made. Donita even shows a little of her former teacher self and makes a point (humorously) about not ending sentences with prepositions. 😉

Writing style. This is where Donita puts her stamp on the book. She uses an abundance of light-hearted humor alongside an adventure quest. It is a story of good versus evil, with joy.

Fred Warren, one of our blog participants (and an author in his own right), came up with the perfect term to describe Donita’s stories—cozy fantasies. Nothing could be more apropos.

It seems Donita’s writing is a mirror of her, as you might expect. In a fun interview, another of our blog participants, Noah Arsenault, asked Donita to choose a song that would describe her books. Her answer? “Amazing Grace sung to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.”

What a classic answer. Front and center is Truth, God-honoring Truth, but it’s delivered with a healthy dose of humor.

Weakness. It hardly seems important, (and I know this sounds nuts) but the plot could be stronger. It hardly seems important because Donita’s stories are not the kind that induce one adrenaline rush after another. Going in, we can pretty much guarantee that the good guys—all of them—will win, with little blood shed.

This softening of fright and violence is a motif of the “cozy fantasy.” But at the same time, someone who wants an unpredictable story with a huge clash at the climax will probably be a little disappointed.

Yes, the victories are easy, the wounds healed quickly, a lot of the hitting and hacking told, not shown. But that’s part of what makes the stories perfect for all ages, as the front cover declares.

What could make the plot better? I think more direct confrontation with The Grawl, where he is creating roadblocks to keep Tipper and company from their goal of protecting the statues. But even so, there is plenty of plot to keep the pages turning

Recommendation. This is a fun book that families can read together. A must read for the fans of the cozy fantasy.

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

CSFF Blog Tour – Dragons of the Valley, Day 2

The tour for Donita Paul’s Dragons of the Valley continues. Before I get into the topic I want to discuss in conjunction with this book, I have some posts to recommend from other participants. First, Bruce Hennigan has the best article about the spiritual impact of the book. It falls into the “don’t miss” category.

Second, Sarah Sawyer follows her excellent first day post with a couple polls about the characters. Readers of the book should be sure to weigh in on these.

But best of all has to be Gillian Adams‘ radio interview with one of the tour participants’ favorite characters, Lady Peg. This is really hilarious, especially if you’ve read either The Vanishing Sculptor or Dragons of the Valley.

On to the topic of the day: violence in fantasy, in particular violence in Christian fantasy.

From time to time the question of violence comes up in connection with Christian fiction, but no one gives a good answer why we tolerate it.

When I first started writing The Lore of Efrathah, I came smack against the question of violence in my writing almost at once. I, who had been raised by pacifist parents, was now writing a story filled with physical conflicts. How could I justify such a thing?

Before I answer this question, let me connect my own experience to the book we are touring. All of Donita’s fantasies to this point — the DragonKeeper series and the two books in the Chiril Chronicles — have been “light fantasy.” One person on the tour called them epic fantasy, but I think it’s not quite that. The books are filled with humor and easy victories, some of them bloodless.

As the series have progressed, Donita, by her own admission and her son’s coaching, has worked on her fight scenes. And I thought those scenes were more realistic in Dragons of the Valley, which of course means, not as light and fun because people are injured and dying.

Still, Donita has a way of letting the reader know of the danger without dragging us through the blood. It’s one of the qualities, I think, that her fans may look for in her books. It’s what makes them appropriate for young readers as well as older fantasy fans.

And yet, violence happens. Not in the graphic way it does in The Lore of Efrathah, however.

Is it OK to depict graphic violence in Christian fantasy, or must all Christian writers (must I) take Donita’s approach?

Back to my own experience, I’ve come to believe that my dear aunt who gave me the encouragement to write early on, stopped reading my second book because of the violence. She even asked me once how I learned to write fight scenes.

I don’t know if I ever adequately explained this to her (she passed away last year), but here’s how I see the place of violence in Christian fantasy. As in all fantasy, the struggle between good and evil is the defining element. But for the Christian “good” and “evil” are often tropes for the spiritual struggle, the battle we wage in our hearts and the one being fought in the heavenlies.

In Donita’s stories, for example, The Grawl is not a real “person” but an imaginative creature Donita has invented — an evil creature to be sure. Is he “spiritual” or is he “human gone bad”? The author gets to decide.

I suggest that if he is “spiritual,” meaning that he is representative of the spiritual realm, killing him would be more than the right thing to do (not saying that’s what happened, mind you. No spoilers here, just hypothesizing).

Scripture uses a lot of “warfare” language for the Christian, so depicting warfare necessitates violence. But the Bible also says we don’t war against flesh and blood but against the spiritual.

I’m out of time but may say more about this later. For now, go read what others on the tour are saying. Enjoy.

CSFF Blog Tour – Venom And Song, Day 2

I may have mentioned that Venom and Song by Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper (Thomas Nelson) is a young adult fantasy, but apparently Amazon has it listed as a middle grade novel. Neither is quite accurate. A better description, though book stores don’t have a section labeled in this way, is a “tweener” book—not middle grade, not young adult.

Since I taught “tweeners” (ages twelve to fourteen) for years, I am somewhat familiar with that audience. In fact, when I first started writing, I wanted to create stories for this group that was, at the time, overlooked. Consequently, I’m happy that Wayne and Christopher, along with a handful of other Christian fantasy writers, have stepped up to meet the challenge.

Here are some reasons why I think the Berinfell Prophecies, of which Venom and Song is book 2, give tweeners what they’re looking for.

Tweener humor. This is slightly different than regular humor. A part of the requisite elements is bodily functions, and Venom and Song provides just the right touch with the little problem the gnome king has. 😳

A distant perspective. Tweeners are self-conscious and consequently not at the “getting in touch with yourself” stage. Above all, they want to feel normal (though most don’t) and fit in. The omniscient perspective in which Venom and Song is written allows for some distance—some non-threatening distance that I think the target audience may prefer.

Fast pace. In response to one reviewer, Wayne used the term “high energy” about his co-author. I think the term fits Venom and Song like a pair of Spandex biker shorts. 😆 From the first page, the story is action oriented. Danger, intrigue, and betrayal alternate with near-death experiences. Nothing slow or meandering about this one.

Tweener themes. The story has well-crafted themes that tweeners won’t miss but also won’t reject because of a strong-handed delivery. I suspect instead, many will see themselves in at least one of the characters—the unloved son, the bully who lashes out because of his anger, the pushed-to-perform daughter, the girl who doesn’t fit in, the nerd, the jock, the perfect student.

Each of these true-to-life personas was established in book 1 of the series, Curse of the Spider King. Now in book 2, the characters find the assumptions upon which they constructed their paradigm for living no longer hold true. In fact, maybe they never did.

Was Kat ever ugly because she was different? She thought so, but now she finds it isn’t true. Was it ever true? Was Kiri Lee’s worth only in the applause she received for her performance? Was Jimmy’s life ever worthless because he didn’t receive the love at home he so desperately craved? On and on the story takes the teens who will identify with these types of struggles and questions.

I suspect there are factors I’m leaving out, but I’m quite confident the elements I’ve named make this a very appealing book to tweeners.

Lots of buzz on the CSFF tour about the book. You won’t want to miss the excellent interview Amy Browning has with Wayne or John Otte‘s confession leading to an analysis of Christian fiction. Jason Joyner has some heartfelt words about reading the book aloud to his sons, and Jeff Chapman once again has some worthwhile analysis of the book.

These are just a few of the highlights. Any number of reviews are available, and it’s through the accumulation of comments, I think, that you can get a real feel for how readers are receiving this book.

Take time to check out the check marks in the list at the end of yesterday’s post. Each one is a link to a specific tour article.

Standing Up For Magic

Monday being my regular blog day at Speculative Faith, I posted an article yesterday about magic (a reworking of three articles I’d first posted here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction nearly four years ago). One of the commenters (and fellow Spec Faith poster) Stephen Burnett recounted a question that came up at the recent ACFW Conference. Seems one of the conferees was asking how a Christian fantasy writer is to handle magic since magic is intrinsically un-Christian.

Interesting. But here’s the first definition for magic in the Oxford American Dictionaries: “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.”

My question, then is, Do we Christians not consider God “supernatural”? But … but…but … God’s work is miraculous, not magic, someone may well say. And the Oxford American Dictionaries would agree that God’s work is miraculous: “occurring through divine or supernatural intervention, or manifesting such power.”

But isn’t miraculous simply a more narrowed term, specifically referencing the divine? Magic, on the other hand, does not exclude the divine.

However, I don’t want to get too caught up in semantics. Let’s agree that the Bible does warn against magic and witchcraft and other sorts of divination sought from powers other than God Himself.

In contrast, God’s powerful works are called miraculous and prophetic.

The point that is noteworthy for fantasy writers and readers, however, is this: the Bible makes it clear that both God and Satan have power. Not in equal measure. Satan is no more omnipotent than he is omnipresent, though I suspect he’d like Man to think he is both.

Make no mistake. God’s power trumps Satan’s, and it’s not even a fair comparison. Satan may not get this because it seems he keeps trying to go up against God, as if he can outmaneuver Wisdom or out-muscle Omnipotence.

Be that as it may, we can’t deny that he has power and it is supernatural—beyond Man’s abilities. Pharaoh had his magicians and so did Nebuchadnezzar, and seemingly they were used to these conjurers producing what normal folk could not. Their power was not from God, however.

Moses, with the rod of God, went head to head with Pharaoh’s magicians, if you recall, and God’s power dominated. Nebuchadnezzar’s sorcerers could not tell their king his dream, let alone the interpretation of it, but God’s man, Daniel, could.

But back to fantasy. If supernatural power—good and evil—is real, then why should Christian fantasy writers pretend that the evil forces in their stories don’t have real supernatural power? Why should we pretend that those siding with good have no supernatural power?

Fantasy, after all, gives a story-long metaphor for the real world. Why would we want to give Christians—young adults or adults—the idea that there isn’t actually supernatural power of any kind by doing away with magic in our stories?

It seems to me it’s important to address the source of power and the reality of power and the proper attitude toward power—all of which fantasy can address. Unless, of course, a Christian story must be scrubbed clean of supernatural power.

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm  Comments (7)  
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