Friday, October 30, 2009
Book Review: Redemption: Throne Redeemed, by Prudence Elizabeth Brown
Some time ago, I was asked by a good friend of mine, Lizzy Brown of Tinker Girl's Blog to read her unpublished manuscript. I was delighted to do so, and soon I embarked upon my own journey through her work. Some time later, I finished, and just now I am writing the review.
The first in what we are told will be a five-part series called "Sagas of the Truth Seekers", the book is a form of fantasy, set in a fictional medieval world. We get castles, kings, swords, and knights. But why this isn't your usual fantasy, we can tell by what we don't get. No wizards or witches, no strange little creatures or magic objects. Perfectly realistic (to be sure, as the authoress herself created the genre "Christian Realistic Fiction" to describe her subject matter!). And what's more, the only spirituality we see is a positive Christian leaning, or a negative depiction of pagan practices. So much "fantasy" nowadays is such trash, I was both delighted and excited for such a breath of fresh air. This won instant points with me.
Even better than this, though, was the main thrust behind the book. So says the authoress in the Author's Note, "In truth, the plot and the characters that make up the plot are a “last hoorah” to honor, true loyalty, love and real Christianity." As I read the massive work (it is quite long, but in the end I usually think of that in terms of work put into it, therefore it is a positive thing), I was immovably convinced that this was indeed so. (And I had better stop before I quote the author again and again here. Sorry, I just got excited at such an introduction!)
So, before I begin my raptures I guess I should actually review it first, right? I found the book to be a very strong character story, very character-driven. Personally this is not entirely my thing but appears to be popular with fiction readers. (In the end I'm not the best person to review a piece of fiction, I might add.) I would have loved a battle but there wasn't one to be found--however, to be fair, this is book one. The near entirety of the pages practically are all setting up the characters and the events to come--a necessity. To my excitement, near the end of the book a war begins, but I was insanely upset when the book ended before the fighting actually got under way! (Primarily, the book deals with the Christian Caidnor kingdom and their enemies, the pagan Aclenor.)
The book is very well-written, and we get at least something of a feel of old-style language (since this is a work of fantasy we get some leeway here, but a little bit was still nice to see). I suppose it may just be me, but I thought I could tell a lady had written it. (Not a bad thing, again--you usually can tell. On a side note, it would appear that Miss Brown knows more about being a man than most men do, judging from her Author's Note. Told you I got excited at that part.) We get a variety of interesting and compelling characters. Our main man, Aidan, is young yet manly. He has much to learn and it was of interest to me to see him learn under his mentor, the amazing, stalwart Liam (who just may well be my favorite character from the book--why can't he be real?). The main lady of the book, Shanley, is also lovable--lady-like, sweet, and all of the above--also a very interesting character. I found the difficulties between Ashler and Aidan rather humorous by way of personal anecdotes (Ashler is something of a, shall we say, jerk?). And did I mention that the book opening from the point-of-view of a "bad" character was an excellent opening?
Even more important, however, was the warrior-woman, Brina McTearnan. Now, don't sigh, roll your eyes and think it's Xena all over again, because it's so much better than that. Throughout the book we watch as her story progresses. We see the issues of a woman in command, and a woman in combat, arise (separate issues, really). We see them dealt with by Brina and by the Christian believers around her. A fascinating study for our day, dealt with via a strong exegesis of scripture. Excellent!
Some of the middle of the book was rather slow, but very necessary at the same time. How can you write a story without explaining it? Besides, Spencer gets bored with even his favorite books in certain parts. I admit I did get a little confused in parts; having to learn a new history, new peoples, places and everything, is not easy, but is something fans of fiction and fantasy are already familiar with (i.e, not me!). It felt something like when I used to watch period Korean dramas, and even then I had some sort of historical framework to guess with. Not necessarily a downside, however--I also should say that during the time of reading I was very busy and often read just a page at a time. Not very helpful for this kind of thing.
Also depicted are the observance of feasts (what might be called Jewish observances) in a Christian light, and also spiritual visions. I am not entirely sold on Christians observing the feasts myself, but in the end am not directly opposed to it. If we are to answer these questions, they must be answered by deep studies in Scripture. Running away from them will not help anyone. (Also raised slightly is the idea of betrothal, although, as Miss Brown has confirmed, my feeling that this was a peculiar case and not the norm is indeed correct. Besides, it is a medieval thing, now isn't it?)
On the other hand, the authoress also raises issues such as having to fight women in combat (the Chameleons), women having to engage in a form of work to even survive (Enola the scribe), etc., and deals with them in what I believe to be the correct manner. Pack all of this in with a relentlessly Christian worldview all the way around, nonstop, a good story and some seriously fascinating intrigue to boot (No way, I'm not going to tell you!), and we have one compelling book.
We do have several instances of the d-word, surprisingly, but only used by a "bad" character. Understandable to me, and it also generates discussion. Always a good thing. No sex whatsoever (only a few kisses between married couples)--again excellent!
So, no real issues here. Issues raised? Yes, but all within the framework of a strong Christian worldview. Excellent, excellent, excellent. (Should I stop saying excellent?) I can personally attest to the character of she who wrote this great work, and after reading it I can see and understand the purpose of the book. There is plenty of "Christian fiction" out there today, but hardly any different from the world's works and hardly conducive to serious thought, at least in my limited experience. Reformed Christians such as myself have a real piece of fiction to go to now.
Prudence Elizabeth Brown has provided us with a good book, but not only that, this is the most spiritually-guided, biblically-grounded modern work of fiction I have read. Her book is not yet published, and I am excited to read the final work (and yes it should be noted that my review is not of the final draft and my endorsement refers only to what I have read). Something tells me that you will surely know when it is published, because I might just decide to offer it in my Amazon store.
If you want a book for the reformed, for the Christian, for us, we can look to this one. If you like fiction, if you like good books and also believe, you can go to this. In the end, this is something we should all get behind.