It was eight years ago, but I think this is still the best interview I’ve had–largely due to the thoughtful questions asked by Chalcedon’s Andrea Schwartz. Here’s the audio for the whole thing, about 23 minutes long. I apologize, in advance, for my slow way of talking. As for my voice, it’s ideally suited for mime.
At the time, I had three Bell Mountain books in print, with No. 4, The Last Banquet, ready to go to press. Here in 2018, I’m waiting for No. 11, The Temptation, to come out, and writing No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever.
How many more to come?
As many as God gives me to write.
In 1605 there was a plot to blow up the English Parliament, with King James I, and replace the Protestant government with Catholics. The idea was to hide many barrels of gunpowder under the Parliament house and blow it sky-high. This has come to be known and memorialized as the Gunpowder Plot. One of the plotters, Guy Fawkes, was actually caught just before he could light the fuse.
Sounds like it’d made a great historical novel.
But Nadine Brandes has written it as a Young Adults fantasy novel, and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I just don’t get it.
We love to read, we want to pass that on to our children: there’s no limit to what the voracious reader can learn. But we don’t want to be reading a load of baloney, just so we can say we turned a lot of pages.
I think the reason this fantasy didn’t quite make it is because there was no reason to write it as a fantasy in the first place.
Too bad. We would like to understand how the conditions of religious life in England in those days, ostensibly Christian religion, could have led to the Gunpowder Plot. We would like to use its history as a guide to avoiding those mistakes!
But we’ll need other books for that.
After some headaches getting the ol’ computer into gear this morning, I happened to think of this book I’d read some years ago: Martin the Warrior, by Brian Jacques.
Sometimes I just don’t get it. Like, Mr. Jacques sold 30 million books–no, I don’t get it. His books were adapted as TV shows and even… an opera! I read a couple of them and really, there was nothing much there.
Not that the book was truly awful. But the only thing memorable about it was all those dinner scenes. I didn’t get that, either.
Every now and then, in my search for suitable reading matter for children, I turn up gold–like, for instance, The Green Ember, by S.D. Smith.
It’s a heroic fantasy featuring rabbits with swords, instead of people. And it’s about faith, hope, family, and self-sacrifice. This puts it miles apart from most of the Young Adult fiction that’s out there; and it’s written well enough for adults to enjoy it, too.
We do need more of this, much more. People of all ages consume huge amounts of “entertainment,” mostly without realizing that this is a passive but very effective form of self-education. We need to consume and digest more faith, more hope, more charity.
More Green Ember, less Spirit Animals.
Some of the stuff you find in Young Adults fiction, it’d make a jackal retch. But the business at hand is always to undermine the family.
And this isn’t even the really filthy stuff that wins award and gets endorsed by the American Library Assn.
I reviewed these books for Chalcedon two years ago, the first two “Dragonets of Destiny” novels by Tui T. Sutherland (https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/reviews-of-two-fantasy-novels-by-tui-t-sutherland).
I don’t know what’s worse: the sheer inanity of such novels, their routine Godlessness, or their toxic ideology. I mean, we’re talking about stories in which the characters sing bar songs–and there are no bars! And the young dragons have to kill their parents to get ahead. Yeesh.
What with public schooling, slop culture, social media obsession, and all the rest of it, who can be surprised by the mess we’re in? The wonder is, it isn’t worse.
We can do better than this. Really, we can. Even with Scholastic Books trying to block the way to excellence.
I wrote this book review for Chalcedon, but here it is on Newswithviews.
This is the kind of poison that bad people feed our children. It comes sugar-coated.
Will we ever be rid of the sophomoric notion that only what’s ugly, mean, base, stupid, cruel, or evil is “real”? I was so sure C.S. Lewis totally debunked that in The Screwtape Letters, but then along came The Maze Runner.
From the Fallen World With a Big Fat Curse on It Publishing Co.
You can always trust Scholastic Books to tempt young readers away from God. Just show a lot of kids in a fantasy world who have super-powers and fantastic martial arts skills, and are at the same time really “spiritual,” and you’re good to go.
I reviewed a couple of these “Spirit Animals” books in 2015. It would be a very good idea to find something else for your children and grandchildren to read.
This is culture rot, perpetrated by the publishers of Scholastic Books. And it’s not nice.
I’m currently reading a Young Adults novel so I can review it for Chalcedon. I’m about halfway through it, and it has begun to give me a kind of creepy feeling, sort of like the feeling you get when the Crawling Eye is stalking you. Because I’m not yet finished reading it, and Chalcedon has first dibs on the review, I will follow my custom of using pseudonyms for both the book and the author. For the time being, it shall be known as Deeply Neurotic People with Feminism Thrown In, by Hortense Portense.
I liked it at first: crisply written, cleverly arranged, with a first-person teenage girl protagonist whose narrative voice somehow reminded me of Karl Kolchak: if you can imagine Darren McGavin’s Night Stalker as a 17-year-old girl, which I hope doesn’t give you the heeby-jeebies.
I am sorry to say the story is turning toxic awfully fast. And it’s pitched to young readers, most of whom have not yet lived long enough to acquire sharp critical faculties and are thus in danger of having something not so nice slipped under their door. So my review will have to be a warning light to parents, a role that’s not quite my cup of tea. I would’ve truly hated it, to have my folks vet the books I was reading when I was 15: but in those days there wasn’t stuff like this for them to worry about. My mother liked to read some of my Edgar Rice Burroughs books when I was through with them; and I would read some of the historical novels she had.
There are books out there that aren’t good for us, and I’m afraid this is one of them.