Tag Archives: christian fantasy

Stand Up and Cheer for ‘Nicholas’

As promised, here’s my book review of Nicholas by Michael J. Scott.


This might be the most satisfying book I’ve read all year (not counting old favorites that I read again and again). It’s Christian and Biblical through and through, and would make a great Christmas present for someone you love–or even a present to yourself.

But what am I sitting here gassing about? Click the review!

‘A Brief Defense of C.S. Lewis (and Narnia)’ (2015)

Time to wade back into the muck of the nooze. But first a thought for C.S. Lewis, servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


Yes, we can use fantasy in His service!

‘Does It Matter if Christian Fiction is Badly Written?’ (2015)

There isn’t all that much “Christian fantasy” out there, so each badly-written book hurts the market that much more.

BTW, this wasn’t the first time I suggested turning Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son into a novel. Come to think of it, you could do that with any number of His parables. Only Jesus Our Lord, though, could pack so much meaning into so little space.


Book Review: ‘Into the Shadow Wood’ by Allison Reid

Product Details

This is Book 3 of the “Wind Rider Chronicles” by Allison Reid, also known here as our esteemed colleague, “Weavingword”–and it’s a corker.

When I reviewed Book 2, Ancient Voices, last winter, I predicted that these books, already quite good, would get better as the series went on–and how about that, I was right.

To get the most out of this book, you ought to read Book 1, Journey to Aviad. That’s because Into the Shadow Wood is sort of a mini-book, a little over 40,000 words long, written to tie up some loose ends left over from Book 1. But this little book is anything but an afterthought.

These are solidly Christian books, suitable for readers 12 and up, based on a fully Trinitarian theology, and increasingly well-written. More than that, they are important books.

Books like this have a mission. They are culture-savers; and if you can’t save the culture, you can’t save anything. When we read fiction, it’s a form of self-education. And it’s powerful: the fiction we consume does much to shape our outlook on life, our sense of right and wrong, and even our character. It’s no easy task to write books that can help carry out this mission, and we need a lot more of them. “The Wind Rider Chronicles” belong to that select category of books: books that are, as it were, special forces in the Culture War: Navy Seals, Green Berets, and Rangers charged with winning spiritual ground for Christ’s Kingdom in a fallen world. We as readers should support them.

As for the story: Einar is a young warrior who goes into the Shadow Wood–an extremely dangerous place polluted by an evil spirit–to carry out a seemingly hopeless mission against an evil force of overwhelming strength. And he is handicapped by his own doubts and lack of faith.

“No matter how hard we fought, or what we managed to accomplish despite the odds against us, Braeden always seemed to win. The bitter taste was a familiar one that had long tainted my belief in Aviad [God]. Time and time again, I had watched evil thrive at the expense of the faithful. I had never before understood how my commander and others like him had managed to continue believing that Aviad was real–that He was as powerful as they claimed–that He cared at all. At times they had seemed such fools to me, living in a dream to shield themselves from the harsh realities of life…”

So we follow Einar into his own shadow wood of spiritual darkness, and it turns into a journey that has much to tell us about the power of prayer, the power of faith, and the power of love: which is to say, the power of God.

I mustn’t say any more, for fear of spoilers, except that it’s a journey well worth making–and very well presented by the author. Her writing style has grown in expertise and power; and all I can say more is–read it!

All three books are available from amazon.com.

Do I Like Contemporary Christian Music?

Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant

My wife thinks my taste in music has changed. Can’t blame her–haven’t I always said, “If I see an electric guitar, I’m outta here”? My idea of a hymn was people in a church singing to a piano or an organ–period.

But since I’ve been posting hymns here every day, and taking readers’ requests, I’ve found to my surprise that some of the new stuff is really, really good! It moves me. It can stir my soul. And the lyrics–in the songs I like, at least–are soundly Biblical, and grounded in Christian tradition. After all, once upon a time, songs by Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby–well, they were “that new stuff,” once upon a time.

I think the contemporary song that broke the ice for me was Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant, by way of Psalm 114. And since then I’ve encountered many that are just as good.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. Aren’t I trying to do kind of the same thing? I’m writing fantasy novels intended to give glory to God, to make my readers (and myself) more receptive to God’s Word as given in the Bible, and to claim cultural ground for the Kingdom of Christ, as Lewis and Tolkien did. I mean, why concede the whole fantasy genre to secular writers? Why abandon young readers to the moral vagaries of Scholastic Books et al?

These singers and musicians, and their audiences, are claiming ground for Christ within the music world, and we should all applaud them for it. Who knows how many hearts they change? How many spirits they refresh?

It’s not that I don’t still love the old stuff. I do! But lately it seems I have a bit more love to go around–and I think it’s supposed to work that way.

A Five-Star Fantasy

Every now and then I get to read and review a book that makes my work a pleasure. S.D. Smith’s The Black Star of Kingston is such a book. It’s been a long time since I read a book that so deeply moved me.

Smith’s first book in what I hope will be a long series, The Green Ember, was very good–but this, a prequel, is even better. It’s a little book. You could read it in a sitting, but I stretched it out to two sittings because I didn’t want it to end.

It’s a simple story of rabbits–very human rabbits, with a government, industries, arts and crafts, etc.–trying to establish themselves in a new home, after being driven out of their old home by merciless enemies. Why rabbits instead of people? Well, why not? It’s a fantasy for children, and children like animal characters.

Smith is a good enough writer to make it look easy, a very good writer indeed. His suspense is masterful, and the action of the climax is intense. Maybe a little too intense for some young readers–but to write it off as a children’s book is to rob adult readers. This is, quite simply, the best book I’ve read in quite a while.

What’s it about? It’s about love, courage, and loyalty. Friendship and self-sacrifice. Hope and faith. Although it’s not overtly “Christian,” it certainly conforms to Christian values. Not that we have a monopoly on these: we don’t. But taken as a whole, I call it a thoroughly Christian book. And a visit to Mr. Smith’s website, http://www.sdsmith.net , will leave you in no doubt as to his religious sensibilities.

Don’t let this one slip past you. Read it!

I’m Out on a Limb and Behind the 8-Ball

And, as Edgar Rice Burroughs observed, to be out on a limb and behind the 8-ball at the same time is very bad business.

I’m facing a dilemma, and in order to tell you about it–who says readers can’t give you good advice?–I feel the need to disguise some of the particulars.

I am to read and review a series of novels by a certain author whom I have long respected and whose non-fiction writing I’ve enjoyed for years. As far as I know, these books are his first fiction. Let us call him, oh, Abner Doubleday.

I don’t know how to review this guy’s books. If I say what I really think, he ain’t gonna like it. But if I don’t, then why review them at all?

In his novels, Doubleday has re-imagined some of the most tantalizing bits of the Book of Genesis and, backed up by lots of solid research, tried to elucidate their meaning for us. His non-fiction essays on these subjects–exactly who or what, for instance, were those “giants in the earth”?–are compelling, very well argued, and endlessly thought-provoking. I have learned much by reading them.

But the novels are written in a prose style reminiscent of… well, a comic book. Or, even worse, one of those awful movies based on a comic book. I find it painful to read them. He stops just short of having angels call each other “dude” and writing “ya” for “you.”

Elsewhere, Mr. Doubleday has written most persuasively on the need for Christian art–be it novels or movies or music–not only to measure up to the world’s art in quality, but to be of even better quality. Why? Because we’re competing with the world, and we want to win ground for Christ’s Kingdom.

But this… Abner, Abner, what have you done? You have turned the Bible into a comic book! I keep expecting to turn the page and find ads for X-ray glasses and Sea Monkeys.

So how will I review these novels? The way I see it, I have three options: A) Chicken out, invent some excuse, and just not do it. B) Write a totally honest review and make a lot of people mad at me. They might even think I’m an idiot: these books have lots of 5-star reviews on amazon.com. C) Go with the flow, just join in with all these other reviewers in praising the gorgeous clothes of this naked emperor, and establish myself as a reviewer whose word can’t be trusted.

Maybe somehow I can do (B) gracefully. But it’ll be a mighty fine trick if I can pull it off.

Christian vs. Almost Christian Fantasy

Every now and then I blink my eyes and suddenly remember that a main purpose of this blog is to get readers interested in my writing and hopefully motivate them to try my books. Over the years, this has worked dozens of times.

Another purpose is to get readers and writers interested in fantasy fiction that serves the Kingdom of God. This is difficult because there is very little of such fiction.

And so turn we unto amazon.com and its convenient Top 100 list for Christian Fantasy.

Is this a reliable guide to selecting a book for particularly Christian relevance?


Case in point: Pax Daemonica by Julie Kenner, #7 in her series about the adventures of “a demon-hunting soccer mom.” It was No. 1 in amazon’s Christian Fantasy several weeks ago, and it was No. 1 yesterday. It must be selling quite well.

Thing is, the theology is off. It seems there’s this secret Vatican unit whose mission is to hunt down and destroy demons: otherwise demons will take over the world, and that’ll be curtains for the human race.

Huh? What? You mean the bad guys really can rub out the human race, after Jesus Christ, the Son of God, went to so much trouble to redeem us? And, like, forget the absolute sovereignty of God–we can only be saved by these Vatican Navy Seals’ mastery of really cool martial arts skills?

I daresay the difference between right Christian doctrine and almost-Christian belief is as wide as the gulf between life and death.

Life lesson: Just because somebody says it’s “Christian fantasy” doesn’t mean it is.

Good News for ‘Bell Mountain’ (and for Me)

On Thursday this blog went wild with 260 views–and that was good for my Bell Mountain.

For the first time ever, the Bell Mountain paperback made the amazon.com Top 100 list for Science Fiction and Fantasy. It was ranked #43 when I discovered it there, so it may have done even better earlier.

To order a copy of Bell Mountain for yourself, or any of its sequels, all you gotta do is click “Books” and then click either the amazon.com logo or the little shopping cart.

You could also browse the archives of this blog and read various reviews of my books; and I invite you to check out the amazon.com Customer Reviews. Honest, folks–people do enjoy these books! Give yourself a treat, why don’t you?

You will also be helping this blog live up to the purpose for its existence.

Book Review: ‘Journey to Aviad’ by Allison D. Reid

I’ve been looking high and low for fantasy fiction that’s suitable for Christians and their children–stories that edify, rather than wallow in the mire of a dying culture.

Well, how about that! I’ve found one.

Alison D. Reid’s Journey to Aviad first won me over with its near-total absence of fantasy cliches. No Invincible Female Warrior doing jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks. No know-it-all Elves. No little 11-year-old girls wiping up the floor with grown men.

Even better: no writing “ya” for “you,” and no insertion of annoying Americanisms like “you guys,” “okay,” and “yeah.”

You may counter that it’s a fantasy set in a medieval-type world, which is in itself a cliche. I grant the point. But given that one of the main purposes of any fantasy is to aid and abet the reader in a temporary escape from the world of here and now, it’s not surprising to see so much of it set in something like the Middle Ages.

But best of all, Allison Reid’s story honors God and seeks to serve Him. Here, His name is “Aviad”: but we can recognize Him as the God who reveals Himself to us in the Bible.

Indeed, Ms. Reid boldly goes so far as to identify the God of her imaginary world as a Holy Trinity. Who else has dared to tackle this concept? She discusses it coherently, too.

I’ll try to steer clear of spoilers, but I do want to mention a couple of highlights.

*The heart-cry of a brave young warrior, a servant of God, who is losing his faith: “The fingers of evil reach far, and deep. I can see their workings all too readily. The dark minions call out, and they are answered and aided. Every day they grow in number and strength. Those of us who can see through the darkness, those of us who are willing to stand against it–who answers when we call out in desperation? The most righteous people I have known… where are they now? What help has come to them?”

Which of us has not felt this very thing?

*An attack on a nearly defenseless little town by monstrous Trolls–very nicely done, and quite exciting.

*An interesting exploration of the concept of “the right kind of prayer.”

Because Journey to Aviad is so clearly the first book of a series, the ending of the story is not really an ending. It leaves you hanging. I wanted to keep on reading, but Ms. Reid has not yet finished writing the sequel.

The book has a few flaws, which I mention only in a spirit of constructive criticism. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with it that ordinary editing couldn’t fix. But Journey is self-published, which also means self-edited: and we are none of us the best editors of our own work.

So the pace could stand some picking-up, and characters ought not to waste time telling each other about things the reader already knows. (Don’t go into “Here’s what happened to me…” when the reader has already seen what happened.) And if the writer is trying to describe a complicated situation, there has to be a better way of doing it than allowing a princess to discourse about it to some common folk whom she’s only just met. Don’t turn any of your characters into talking heads.

But the flaws could all be fixed without major rewriting. And again, as a committed booster of plain English, I would not let my characters say “nay” when a simple “no” would do.

Journey to Aviad is available from amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle formats. I am glad I read it, and I look forward to the sequel.

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