Tag Archives: christian fantasy

Book Review: ‘Visions of Light and Shadow’ by Allison D. Reid

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(Copyright 2018 by Allison D. Reid)

This is the third book in The Wind Rider Chronicles by Allison D. Reid, best known to this blog as our friend “Weavingword.”

Two things make this series stand out from all the others. First, it has a fully Trinitarian theology: no one else I have read in fantasy has been bold enough to try this.

Second, although many–one might even say “most”–fantasy novels are set in an imaginary world similar to our world’s Middle Ages, this series boasts a unique feeling of authenticity. When it comes to the way life was lived by most people in the Middle Ages, Ms. Reid really knows her onions. Her wealth of authentic detail persuades the reader to believe in the story. Food and drink, technology, weapons, architecture, dress, the means of producing everyday goods and services–it’s all here.

And one other thing–tiresome fantasy cliches, like the Invincible Female Warrior, the Crusty But Benign Old Wizard, and Know-It-All Elves, are refreshingly absent from these books. I stand up and cheer for that!

These books are written as a continuous story, which means I had to go back and re-read the first two.

Elowyn and Morganne are two sisters who, having fled their increasingly disturbed home city and a mother who, for reasons we don’t yet know, hates them, have to find a place where they can live normal, peaceful lives. This is hard to do, because their world is under attack by supernatural forces. Morganne, the elder, is a weaver by trade and a scholar by avocation. Elowyn, the younger, has an affinity for the woodlands. These are engaging and believable protagonists.

At the root of their world’s problems is an evil wizard, Braeden, who controls their country’s weak and foolish king and is using necromancy to open, it seems, the gates of Hell and let out all sorts of evil and monstrous beings to prey upon the people. There is a Kinship of warriors who try to fight the evil, but are hard-pressed to keep it from devouring their towns and villages. They’re warriors, but they aren’t supermen. There’s a very real possibility that they won’t be able to hold the line.

There are still some important things that we, the readers, don’t know. Who, exactly, is Braeden, where did he come from, is he even fully human, and why is he doing this? Much of the answer, we expect, lies in the world’s ancient history, which must be painstakingly recovered if there is to be any hope of countering the evil. Why does the sisters’ mother hate her daughters, and who was their father? I strongly suspect the answer to that last question will come as a surprise, if not a shock.

Some readers will wish the story were carried forward at a faster pace–with more reminders, along the way, of what has gone before. But Ms. Reid is improving as a story-teller as she goes along, and I think we must be patient. Meanwhile, there is a well-crafted sense of growing menace that makes me eager for the next book in the series.

These are available both as e-books and paperbacks, and can be ordered through amazon.com.

“Weavingword” is weaving something good here, and I look forward to seeing how it all turns out.


‘A Defense of Fantasy’ (2015)

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I was hoping to watch some BBC Narnia today, but now I have to go pick up a prescription for my cat.

Anyway, as I try to rest between books, I thought it might be edifying to revisit the question of whether fantasy can be profitably used in God’s service.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/01/31/a-defense-of-fantasy/

I really can’t blame readers who think fantasy is at best idle nonsense, and at worst, some kind of dalliance with the occult. But that can be said about anything, can’t it? There’s music that glorifies God, and there’s music that debases man and everything around him. When was the last time you heard somebody zoom down the road with a hymn playing on his car’s sound system?

So of course we can use fantasy in the service of the Kingdom: and the more who decide to try to do it, the better.


A Wasted Opportunity

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“Thomas Locke” is Bunn’s pseudonymn.

So you’ve got an already-successful Christian author with a large fan base, writing in a popular genre with a wide readership, and a major publisher to produce and market the book–golden opportunity, right? An opportunity to win ground in the culture for Christ’s Kingdom.

Wrong. Instead, all these resources came together to make, well, a bunch of nothing.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/review-of-christian-novel-emissary

T. Davis Bunn had all this going for him when he set out to write his first fantasy novel, Emissary, three years ago. So he decided to write a “completely mainstream, totally secular” fantasy novel–that is, he cobbled together a thorough collection of fantasy cliches: and the big huge Christian publisher, Zondervan, published it.

Waste, waste, waste.

 


‘What Is “Christian Fantasy”?’ (2014)

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This blog wouldn’t exist if I weren’t writing fantasy novels steeped in a Biblical worldview–notice how cleverly I dodge the term, “Christian fantasy”–so it’s a subject that ought to be discussed here, from time to time.

https://leeduigon.com/2014/12/03/what-is-christian-fantasy/

You know I don’t want to just slap “Christian stuff” onto my stories like refrigerator magnets. The “Christian” in any Christian fiction should be the heart and soul of the story, without which there is no story.

A simple enough idea, but there seem to be a lot of writers who don’t get it.

To put it simply, and to make clear that this is my personal statement, “Christian fantasy” is any fantasy fiction firmly anchored in the Bible: cut the cable, and the story simply drifts away.


Stand Up and Cheer for ‘Nicholas’

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

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/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.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/11/21/a-brief-defense-of-c-s-lewis-and-narnia/

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.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/07/02/does-it-matter-if-christian-fiction-is-badly-written/


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

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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!


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