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Book Review: ‘Shards of Faith’ by Allison Reid

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I found myself, as I was reading, thinking, “I like this!” I still thought so by the time I’d finished it.

We know author Allison Reid as “Weavingword,” a friend of this blog, and Shards of Faith is a “companion book” to the three books of her Wind Rider Chronicles. Somewhere between a novella and a novel, with a length of some 45,000 words, Shards of Faith takes us back in time to events preceding the main story line. It’s sort of a side trip, focused on Broguean the Bard, who last appeared as a minor character in Book 3, Visions of Light and Shadow.

In Visions Broguean is middle-aged, an entertainer who makes the rounds of taverns, not someone whom most people would take seriously–except it becomes evident that he is hiding behind a carefully constructed facade, and has a secret. In Shards we find out what that secret is.

Broguean has revoked his monk’s vows and left the monastery–run by a corrupt and evil abbot, and a prior who goes on to become the chief villain in the trilogy so far–to become a bard and a heavy drinker. He has abandoned a heritage which seems too high for him: he believes himself to be unworthy of it.

But the leaders of the faithful clergy have not forgotten whom he really is, and wind up recruiting him as a secret agent in their battle against evil men aligned with dark supernatural forces; and the job turns out to be vastly more dangerous than any of them bargained for. In the course of his adventures, Broguean has to come to terms with the conflict between what he is and what he ought to be–and that’s what makes this book special.

Once upon a time an author would have included all this in the main body of the story, via flashbacks, dialogue, etc. That can get messy. The companion book is a way to impart this information without interrupting the flow of the main story. The only problem with it is that if you read it as a stand-alone book, you won’t be reading it in context.

Ms. Reid has come a long way in her mastery of characterization; meanwhile, as usual, her quasi-medieval setting is authentic and convincing. There’s still an awful lot we don’t know about the main story–like, for instance, why the bad guys are calling monsters into the world, what they hope to gain from its destruction–but we hope that will be remedied in the next installment or two.

I like stories in which ordinary, believable people–not superheroes!–are called upon to do extraordinary things: because they have to, there’s no getting out of it, and they make do with the resources that God provides for them, sustained by their faith in His Word. Need I mention that every heroic act in all of human history so far has been performed by a real person, not a superhero?

Even when you’ve got a hero on the scene, even when you’ve got King Arthur, he can’t accomplish much without the help of unnamed, unsung men and women who share his vision, fight for it, work for it, and sacrifice for it. There’s way too much fantasy whose authors don’t get this: but Allison Reid does.

 


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.


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