Reviewing The CSA Final Five


Final Five

Curious about what other readers are saying about this year’s CSA final five? As part of the ongoing introduction of the finalists, today we offer additional excerpts from readers posting on their blogs or reviewing for online organizations.

* Liberator by Bryan Davis

I found myself highlighting great quotes throughout the book, as the characters struggled to free the slaves, cure disease, live up to their individual callings, determine who could be trusted, and ultimately, reconcile their worlds with the Creator who designed them. This is a complicated series with a lot happening on different levels, and this last book will keep you on your toes as you follow the exciting adventures.
Hammock Librarian

    The most compelling aspect of Liberator is the way in which Davis uses the tropes of high fantasy literature – crystals, swords, shape-shifting, and, yes, even those dragons – to deal with universal themes in a symbolic way. . . Though the language is advanced and the mythology complicated, it’s a sure bet that young readers with an appetite for these sorts of stories will hunger for more of Davis’ dragon tales.
    Crosswalk.com

Davis has written a fast-paced, action-packed novel with a pinch of romance that is sure to capture the interest of teens who love fantasy. Mythological characters such as dragons, Diviners, and starlighters fill the pages and pull the reader into the world of Starlight. Plot driven, this book reveals each character more through their actions than their inner thoughts. There is a clear theme of good versus evil as those who serve the Creator fight to free those enslaved by the evil dragon forces.
Christian Library Journal

* A Throne Of Bones by Vox Day

    I enjoyed it immensely. Vox Day isn’t the prose stylist George R. R. Martin is, but he’s not bad. On the plus side we have a complicated, complex story with interesting and sympathetic, fully rounded characters. There are few out-and-out villains – everybody is doing what they think right. And unlike Martin’s stories, the fact that someone is virtuous and noble does not guarantee them a painful and ignominious death. In terms of pure story, Vox Day’s book is much more rewarding. And Christianity is treated not only with respect, but as a true part of the cosmos.

But overall this is a very readable book that made me want to keep on reading. It is, in turn, humorous, shocking and exciting. There are beautiful moments, there is clever dialogue, there is deep mystery. It took some level of genius to write it. I recommend you read it.
The Responsible Puppet

    What makes this book both an entertaining and fascinating read is that Vox draws on his rather tremendous depth of knowledge and literary theory to create a world that is quite imaginative and “realistic,” which is in turn populated with characters that are interesting, sympathetic, and multi-dimensional.
    Allusions of Grandeur

* Mortal by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

The duo of Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee have pooled their talents once again to build a story world reminiscent of another Dekker hit, The Circle. Dekker’s zealous and sometimes nearing maniacal emphasis on the themes of darkness and light is evident in full force and Lee’s power of prose paints word pictures to be remembered (emphasis in the original).
t.e. George

    The world Dekker and Lee created when they wrote this series is compelling and symbolic in a number of ways. I found myself pondering the redemptive meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and the use of His blood for our atonement in a deeper way because of this book. I also saw in the story how deception hardens the heart and at the same time how intense and overwhelming our Savior’s love is for mankind despite our many flaws.
    Michelle’s book review blog

What I love about Dekker’s and Lee’s books is not that they are gripping and intense reading, although they are, nor is it the great writing. It’s the fact that I’ve grown in my understanding of myself, and my relationship to my Savior, and others when I finish them. Their books are the best fictional allegories to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the life of being a true follower of Christ that I have ever read.
Reading Reviews

* Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

    My Thoughts: This had to have been my favorite of the [Tales of Goldstone Wood] series so far. I absolutely loved it. The imagery is amazing, the setting so detailed, and the characters are a hilarious. I could barely put this book down for wanting to know what would happen next.
    Like a lot of fans, I absolutely love Sir Eanrin and was so glad to find out that he would be a main character in this story. Usually I don’t like cats, but he is an exception. 🙂
    Backing Books

Here are the things I did in fact enjoy about the book:
1. The world building was excellent, far better than I thought it would have been. I really got the sense of being there right along side of the characters.
2. The story itself. I really enjoyed the plot, mystery, and how the story unfolded with each PART within the book. The book was written in three parts, one in the present day, one the past (part 2), and then once again back to the present where there the story as a whole begins to make complete sense. The ending was beautiful and I dare say I cried a bit. *tissues may be needed*
3. Starflower. She was a real and believable character. I found her to be very kind, and self-sacrificing for the ones she loved. Her jounany [sic] and hardships made her stronger, not bitter.
Bittersweet Enchantment

    the story is not driven by action. Instead, it delves into character–not simply the beings, whether mortal or Faerie, but the very lands in which they dwell, as well. One could practically smell the lushness of the jungle-type atmosphere Starflower grows up in; the Merry Halls of Rudiobus become ingrained in one’s mind. And the fallen city of Etalpalli IS a character–a very wrathful, dangerous creature. The way Stengl wrote the scenes in which the very streets do not stay still…. it gave me shivers.
    And if you’re the type of reader who wants action in a novel, well, it’s definitely here. Whether it’s facing demonic wolves, running from a giant hound, or leaping off bridges, there is something there for everyone. But the action is not the sort that precedes and overwhelms the substance. Starflower is a novel to be savoured for the layers it weaves.
    The Other World

* Prophet by R. J. Larson

Its YA tone will likely make Prophet most engaging to teen readers, but all ages will be able to relate to the spiritual themes. As a historical fantasy, this has the potential to engage a wider range of readers, especially those with an interest in Biblical history. And if you’re looking for something unique in the Christian fantasy market, you may want to give this a try.
Sarah Sawyer

    Truly, the “Infinite” of Ela of Parne is the Lord I love and serve as well. I found some of the parallels and words of wisdom presented in a way that touched my spirit and really spoke to my heart.
    I thought this story was well thought out, believable and yet still held that fantasy element to it that drew me in. I can’t wait to pick up book two [of the Books of the Infinite series]!
    A Simply Enchanted Life

R. J. Larson brings the biblical stories to the present and makes it easy for a younger reader to relate to. The author has an excellent use of concise prose, and draws the reader in with her multifaceted characters. The cover is beautiful, and the story of a young girl who deals with her unworthiness of being called as a prophet is believable and not overdone. Personally, I loved this book and will be reading the rest of the series as they are released.
Readers’ Realm

Don’t forget, voting ends on Sunday at midnight (Pacific time).

Cross posted at CSA.

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Fantasy Friday – Bethany House Adds Another Fantasy Author


Bethany House is one of the more interesting Christian publishing houses when it comes to speculative fiction. First, they contracted Karen Hancock for her science fantasy Arena, which, by the way, they’ve just re-released with a new cover. That novel went on to win a Christy Award, as did Karen’s next three titles–the opening trilogy of her four-book The Guardian King series.

You’d think Bethany would be ecstatic as slowly fantasy fans learned of Karen and the availability of actual, well-written Christian fantasy. I have no way of knowing what their reaction was, but apparently ecstatic would be a stretch because they went the next ten years without another speculative author.

Karen continues to publish with them. After she completed The Guardian King series with Return of the Guardian King, she went on to publish another science fantasy entitled The Enclave and is currently working on a similar type of book. But other speculative authors? Apparently Bethany was happy to stand pat. They had the speculative genre covered.

At long last, however, the publishing house that first opened the door to Christian fantasy has brought in a handful of other authors. First was Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and she just happened to win back-to-back Christy Awards. Apparently Bethany has an eye for quality!

Now they have also included R. J. Larson, who writes what might be considered Biblical fantasy, and Patrick W. Carr, whose first novel, A Cast of Stones, begins The Staff & The Sword series–good old fashion, unadorned, regular Christian fantasy.

Larson’s debut novel Prophet released April 1 this year, and as it happens, Bethany House has a one-day promotional ebook give-away coming up on August 14. The second in the series, Judge, is due to release in November.

Carr’s A Cast of Stones is due out in February 2013. For Bethany House, this feels almost like an explosion of fantasy!

I’m happy about a couple things: first, the obvious–they are expanding the number of titles. But I’m also happy that they seem to be diversifying somewhat so that not every fantasy is like the others. Stengl’s books, beginning with Heartless (also part of the promotional package and available free as an ebook on August 24), and continuing with Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower, due to release in November also, are fairytale fantasy, which is quite different from Hancock, certainly, and from Larson’s Biblical fantasy or Carr’s epic fantasy. In addition, as I noted earlier, apparently Bethany is paying attention to quality–something I’ve felt is essential if fantasy is to grow as a genre in Christian publishing.

So, good on you, Bethany! I’m happy this publisher is joining Zondervan, WaterBrook/Multnomah, and Thomas Nelson as well as the smaller houses like AMG and Marcher Lord Press to put out more Christian fantasy.