Monday, March 25, 2013

A Little Foggy on Fortress of Mist

Note:  If you intend to read The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer, read no further!

Fortress of Mist, the sequel to Sigmund Brouwer's The Orphan King, begins in the fortress of Magnus. Thomas has taken back the kingdom and has devoted himself to making Magnus a kingdom of justice and peace.  Not all is well in England, however.  At the brink of war with the Scots, the Earl of York comes to Magnus to ask Thomas for support.  He brings with him a Druid symbol that Thomas has grown to fear (those who wore the same symbol betrayed Thomas in Book One).  Thomas agrees to join the Earl in war against the Scots.  Not long after, some intrigues ensue.

There is a conspiracy by the Druids to take back Magnus.  Isabella, who was believed to be dead, returns and begs Thomas to pledge his allegiance to the Druid symbol.  Thomas refuses.  Throughout the rest of the novel, the Druids and their symbol are seen as a sign of evil things.

Katherine, one of Thomas's true friends and allies, returns, but as part of some kind of covert operation. I was not entirely sure who she was working for or what her purpose was.  Perhaps she was assigned to make sure Thomas did not join the Druids?

I had high hopes for the Fortress of Mist.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Orphan King, and waited patiently for the sequel, hoping that the trend would continue.  Book Two, however, came as a slight disappointment.  Expecting high action and adventure, the lack of battle scenes was a let down.  I also felt extremely in the dark, especially in the last half of the book.  Too many questions clouded my mind:  Who was Katherine working for and what do they want with Thomas?  Why do the Druids want Magnus so badly and why are they willing to do anything to get it?  How did Isabelle come back to life?  Just who are those doggone Druids anyways?

In addition to these questions, I felt no sense of finality, no resolution at the end of the book.  Perhaps this comes from attempting to contain too much story in less than 220 pages.

Perhaps my lack of insight comes as a result of the author's design.  Maybe he set it up to confuse the reader and prepare a reader for the next book.  Or, perhaps it comes from a failing on my part.  Was I not paying enough attention?  I honestly do not think that I was not paying enough attention, but I'll give Mr. Brouwer the benefit of the doubt.

All in all, Fortress of Mist is not a bad book.  It is a well-written teen read containing plenty of mystery and intrigue alongside elements of Christianity.  Again, I look forward to the next book in the series.  Maybe then, I'll get some answers.

Learn more about this book or purchase here.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided me with a copy of this book for an honest review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christy Miller is Great for Teen Girls

Volume I of the Christy Miller Collection contains three novels about a teen named Christy Miller, written by Robin Jones Gunn.

The starting point of the whole series is fourteen year old Christy's dream summer at her aunt and uncle's beach-front home in California.  Christy's  wealthy and fashionable Aunt Marti, who seems to be trying to make Christy into someone she is not, encourages Christy to try to make some friends.  However, Christy soon learns that things are not what they seem with the attractive and seemingly put-together teens she meets on the beach. That is not the case with Todd, who is a little bit different from the insecure and immature surfers at Newport Beach.

Todd begins to show Christy what it means to be a true Christian.  Not the type that just goes to church once a week, but the kind that daily lives for Christ.

Tough there are difficult times throughout the summer, Christy grows emotionally and spiritually, and returns to her home in Wisconsin almost a completely different person.

Each of the next two books builds on the Summer Promise of Christy's first trip to Newport Beach.

Though I would not classify the Christy Miller series as very deep or difficult reading, they are good, solid teen girl novels.  There is plenty of drama, and just a touch of romance, to keep a reader's attention very well.  I would also say that many girls would identify well with Christy.

As it contains Christian themes, and a compelling message, Volume I is quite encouraging and certainly would be to other teenage girls who read the Christy Miller series.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Orphan King: A Great Teen Fantasy Novel

The Orphan King is the story of a young man named Thomas, who, after the death of his mother, sets out for the conquest of Magnus.  Magnus is a fortress where evil reigns and thomas seeks to return the city to its former glory.  With the help of a knight named William, a young pickpocket named Tiny John, and a girl named Isabelle, Thomas begins his journey to Magnus.

As Sigmund Brouwer's attempt at a teen fantasy novel, The Orphan King is a definite home run.  I began reading with high expectations, and I was not disappointed.

There are elements of suspense and intrigue, a little bit of action (not nearly enough for my taste), and a few faint glimmerings of romance.  On top of that, it is fun to read and well-written.

As the first book in the Merlin's Immortals series, it is a successful beginning.  I believe it is related or, in some way, based upon some of Brouwer's previous novels (Magnus, and Wings of Dawn).  There is, however, nothing to indicate that anything is missing from the story because of this.

Character development is good and vocabulary has not been dumbed down to suit "younger" readers.

My one complaint about The Orphan King is that it is too short.  213 pages makes for quick reading.  I really wanted the story to go on for a good bit longer.  Future readers needn't fear though, because the sequel Fortress of Mist is due to release in February of 2013.  Be warned, however, of the first chapter of the next  book (at the end of book 1).  I have been on pins and needles since reading it, and will be so until I get my hands on the new book.

(Note:  I would have liked to learn a little bit more about the Druids, who were spoken of, but not really explained, as to who they are.  Hopefully they will be discussed more fully in future books.)

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Read more about this book here:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Unbroken: a Moving Story

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, is the true story of the life of Louis Zamperini, a famous athlete and World War II hero that I had never heard of prior to my reading.  Laura Hillenbrand made sure that Zamperini was a name that I would never forget.

The story began with little Louie, the town terror of Torrance, California, in the early '20s.  He wreaked havoc upon the town with ingenious pranks, theft, and some violence.  In an attempt to turn Louie's energy into a positive activity, Pete, Louie's brother, convinced their school principal to allow Louie to join a school sport.

Pete began training a reluctant Louie to run track.  Once he began to find success in running, Louie threw everything he had into it.  He began setting school records, and eventually, national high school records.  He soon became the town hero.

In 1936, Louie went to the Berlin Olympics, and though he did not win, he became a sensation.

War came, and Louie joined the military; he became a bomber.  On a mission in the Pacific, Louie's plane went down, and he and two other men found themselves stranded on two life rafts.  For forty six days, the men evaded sharks, Japanese gunners, and starvation.

They were picked up by Japanese sailors, and treated kindly for a few days, but were soon taken to a POW camp where they received the worst of treatment.

The story that follows deals with Louie's years in POW camps and his eventual return to civilian life, his seeming return to normalcy.

Unbroken is a brilliant work, and the most fascinating biography I have ever read.  It was gripping from the beginning.  It does, however, at times, deal with intense, graphic, and mature subject matter, especially in the events that occurred in the POW camps, but Hillenbrand writes in such a way that the reader understands these events without being traumatized or violated.

It is a moving story throughout, but especially poignant within the last three or so chapters.  Though not for the faint of heart, Unbroken is truly the "story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" that it claims to be on the front cover.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for free for this review.

Note:  This book deals with mature themes and material.  It is a book for adult readers.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Eye of the Sword: a Disappointment

Young Trevin, a newly appointed "Comain" in the kingdom of Camrithia, has been given two quests.  His duty assigned to him by the king is to seek out the other comains (knights) who have gone astray, in order that they may return to protect the kingdom.  The duty given by the princess, however, is to recover the two missing "kyparis" harps, so that the Wisdom Tree will be restored, and the angels that inhabit the kingdom may return to their heavenly abode.

Along his way, Trevin makes friends with the prince of a neighboring kingdom, becomes the enemy of another prince who thirsts for the throne of Camrithia, and finds himself a fugitive of the very kingdom he strives to serve.  Trevin also struggles with feelings of inadequacy and guilt as he changes from a thief and a spy to a man of justice and honor.

As a big fan of fantasy tales, I highly anticipated the arrival of this book, The Eye of the Sword by Karyn Henley .  But when I finally began to read, I was sorely let down.  There was nothing inherently wrong with the writing, apart from a few words the author seemed to like but did not appear terribly comfortable using ("daft," "dolt," "dun").  I just did not entirely like the style author Henley chose to  use.  (After reading Les Miserables, though, not much really impresses in the style area.)

If there was any allegorical meaning, which tends to accompany Christian fantasy novels, I did not pick up on it.  Nor did I feel any emotional attachment to any of the characters.

I suppose it was an okay book.  It was a quick read, was clean, and had some unusual characters (angels); a decent read for preteens and teenagers.  I would not read it again though.   

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

(Note:  This book is the second in a series called Angelaeon Circle.  Maybe reading the first one will make reading this one a more enjoyable time.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer

Twelve year old Jaimie Piper is a troubled foster child with an amazing ability:  she can sense when evil is near.  When she finds herself in a tight spot, there is only one person she thinks she can turn to:  her school teacher, Mr. G.

Crockett Grey is a teacher of troubled children, but is a troubled man himself, struck with the loss of a child and recent divorce.  One night, he hears a knock on his window and finds one of his students, Jaimie, on his doorstep, asking for his help.

Soon Crockett, Jaimie, and Jaimie's psychiatrist, Dr. Mackenzie, are thrown into a dark conspiracy involving demons and members of the Catholic church, including the Pope.

The Canary List was an unusual read for me.  Though I am a big fan of fiction involving spiritual warfare, this one seemed more sinister, and lacked the redeeming message of Jesus Christ.  While it was faintly reminiscent of Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness, The Canary List was far less suspenseful and gut-wrenching, and therefore less satisfying.  I literally had to force myself to read further than the first sixty pages, hoping that it was just a little bit slow starting off, but I was utterly disappointed in the lack of a climax and the abrupt ending.

The Canary List had the potential to be an excellent novel, especially if it were drawn out to its full length.  Please, do not misunderstand me:  it was still a decent book, if you like "speculative" Christian fiction, but it has not earned my recommendation.

Caution:  This book contains mature content.  There is frequent discussion of exorcisms, a child abuse lawsuit, and other mature topics.  Nothing is discussed in graphic detail, though.  It is only a book for adults and very, very mature teenagers.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Dragons of Chiril: A Fun Fantasy Read

In The Dragons of Chiril, a renowned sculptor named Verrin Schope has gone missing. When he does not return home, his daughter, Tipper takes charge of the household.  He has been gone for years, so to make ends meet, Tipper begins to sell her fathers statues to rich collectors.

Tipper soon learns that the reason for her fathers disappearance is that he stepped through a "gateway" (a portal to another place, in this case, another continent) that was falling apart.  To fix this gateway, and free Tipper's father, one must unite three of Verrin's statues that were cut from a special stone.  The problem is that those three sculptures have been sold by Tipper and could possibly be in the hands of evil.

Tipper, her friend Beccaroon, a wizard, a librarian, a young artist, a couple of dragons, and a prince make their way through the kingdom to try to find the statues and return Verrin Schope to the land of Chiril in one piece.  Along their way, they run into many adventures and Tipper learns to trust in Wulder (the God figure of this Christian fantasy novel).

The Dragons of Chiril by Donita K. Paul, author of the bestselling Dragonkeeper Chronicles, is a fun, fast paced story with a cast of wonderfully crafted characters.  Throughout my reading, the dialogue of Paul's quirky characters elicited many a snort, chuckle, and guffaw from me, especially the unusual manner and speech of Wizard Fenworth.  Many of the characters, including Fenworth, were so loveable, I wished I could meet them in real life.

This book teaches a valuable lesson about trusting in God's will and knowing that even the most difficult circumstances can work out to bring good. Since it is largely allegorical, it is a great read for older kids and teens, and even adults would enjoy it and the meaning behind it.  I personally enjoyed every minute of The Dragons of Chiril and am eagerly awaiting being able to read the sequel, Dragons of the Valley. 

 I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for an honest review.

(The Dragons of Chiril was released previously under the title The Vanishing Sculptor.)