Tag Archives: Family-friendly

Book Review Wednesday – Charming Academy

Charming Academy by Jessica L. Elliot

Amazon Book Description:

Growing up is a difficult process for anyone, but for a boy destined to be the Prince Charming of a fairy tale it’s an absolute nightmare. Not only must Lucian learn the things normal boys are taught at school, he must also learn the particulars of quests at Charming Academy for Boys. It’s not going to be easy! There are sarcastic dragons, vindictive witches, and to top it all off Lucian’s princess hates him. Will he survive school to become the Prince Charming his parents believe him to be?

I first picked up this book in October of last year. Since then, I have read it four or five more times but it’s taken until now for me to sit and write a review instead of just continuing on with devouring the rest of the series. I originally thought this would be a children’s book that might or might not hold my attention. However, this book absolutely surprised me in the best of ways.

Plot – A-

Charming Academy is the first of a fairytales retold series. However, this book is not like most retellings. This is the story of how Prince Charming is prepared to save his princess. While it does not get to the actual retellings, the book retains the fairytale atmosphere. Lucian is the primary character and is destined to be Sleeping Beauty’s prince; however, we also meet the princesses and the other princes, each destined for his own fairytale. I loved the way the princes’ journeys are fleshed out. Charming Academy covers the six years of the princes’ training at Charming Academy (a bit like the Harry Potter format for Hogwarts) but there are also numerous side plots especially as the princes get older and the seeds of their individual stories are planted. The book is 500 pages long yet the plot carries itself well and rarely, if ever, feels as though it’s plodding. In fact, it was a jolt when I reached the end of the book and suddenly we’re back with the babysitter telling the story to the boy. I was so caught up in the story that I had forgotten it was technically a story within a story.

Content – A

In the course of expanding the realm of fairytales and creating realistic characters, Elliot includes many of the same things we face in the real world. There is violence and death, which is to be expected for princes training to fight dragons among other perils, but this primarily occurs off-screen so we mainly see the aftermath. One exception that stands out is when a particularly brutish prince strikes his princess. However, this incident is skillfully used to demonstrate how unacceptable that sort of behavior is and can provide a talking point for parents about how boys and girls should treat each other. There are also two death scenes that have reduced me to tears each time I read this book. They aren’t graphic but they are heartbreakingly poignant (and I still haven’t forgiven her for these deaths).

The kiss of true love is important to most fairytales and Elliot incorporates that wonderfully into her book. As the princes and princesses are paired with each other from the beginning, they are intended to grow as friends and then in love. It takes a while for the hormones to kick in but there are times when Lucian is highly tempted to do more than kiss Moira’s hand. However, the first kiss is so important to breaking enchantments that he resists the temptation. It’s cute watching Lucian and Moira in particular grow from definitely not liking each other (though for Lucian it’s a bit more of “she’s a girl” little boy mentality) to being very definitely in love. Moira is a challenging princess to say the least and part of Lucian’s appeal is that he is determined to be kind to her and to love her even when she tries to reject his love and the idea of loving him in return. Other than the hand-kissing and some kissing between already married adults, this is a squeaky clean story on the romance side.

Because this is a fairytale world, there are fairies and witches. The witches are interesting because they are used for discipline (believe me, these are teenagers who definitely earn their punishments) so spells are cast for punishment and once for a blessing. It fits into the fairytale setting and there is no mention of a spiritual connotation for the fairies or witches. I mentioned the teen factor because you do have characters being rude and even bullies, but there are always consequences. In a story about boys growing into men and being groomed to be worthy of the title ‘Prince Charming’, I appreciated the constant reminder that choices have consequences. Elliot skillfully made this clear in three different situations in particular, but I shan’t say more for fear of spoilers.

Technical – B+

Charming Academy is an extremely engaging read. As I mentioned before, the prologue and epilogue are set in modern times where a babysitter is telling the story to a little boy but the main story itself is so engaging that I completely forgot about this so the epilogue was a bit of a jolt. The flow rarely slows down. In fact, there were a few times where I wished we had a bit more detail and less of the sweeping summary regarding the later school years but it never detracts from the story mood.

However, there is quite a bit of head hopping in this story even though Lucian is the primary narrator. It can be a little distracting at times when we slip so quickly into different heads, but I found that this bothered me less during subsequent readings since I knew to expect it. It’s more of an omniscient third person POV storytelling style in this respect.

There is a smattering of typos throughout the book (perhaps five or six in the whole book), but it’s nothing that detracts from the story. The language is also pretty modern for a story set in the medieval setting of the fairytale world, but it doesn’t grate like one might expect. I was drawn into the story enough that the more modern language barely registered. The one technical aspect that truly bugged me in this book is the formatting of letters. The letters bounce from being the same size as the rest of the text to a huge font to being smaller than main text. There are enough letters present that I wished a single format was used across the board for them. Out of everything, it bothered me the most and what I would call a true distraction especially when it jumps to the huge font.

Final Grade – A- or 4.7 Stars

If you’re looking for a fairytale retelling that breaks the typical mold, this book is for you. This is the story of Prince Charming more than the princess. It is perfect for anyone who has ever wanted the more detailed plots that will turn Prince Charming into more than the guy on the white horse. This charming read is meant for ages 10-18 but is well-written and engaging to the point that I highly recommend it for adults too. I recommend this book for fans of clean fairytale retellings and for parents seeking fun books that they can read with their children.

Next Week – Finding Prince Charming (Charming Academy Book 2) by Jessica L. Elliot

Book Review – Goandria: The Schism Part I

Goandria: The Schism Part I by R. Michael

Amazon Book Description:

In this prequel to an upcoming novel, Goandria lies under the cruel rule of worlox demons. Emerging from an unknown realm, they claim large swaths of the northern territories for their own. The wizards, blessed with power from Voshnore, continue their fight against them with little success. Pushed back to the south, generation to generation, year by year, they labor in vain. Until now.

Lorkai, general of the wizard army, returns home after years of fighting. He brings long awaited successes on the battlefield. Yet those successes come with prices of their own. Several of Lorkai’s men now anguish in worlox occupied areas. Following a warm welcome, Lorkai’s request for aid is refused. Lorkai and his best friend, Evera, take matters into their own hands. The wizards uncover secrets about the worlox, which leads the friends to fight for their lives, and their humanity.

This short story paints an interesting backdrop for an upcoming novel.

Plot – Grade A-

For a short story, there’s limitations in certain areas of the plot but in Goandria the plot fits well into the pages used and doesn’t come away with a choppy feeling. However, I did have some difficulty with the middle of the story on the chapters focusing on Lorkai and Evera since my attention wasn’t snared by them as much as it was by the subplot with the worlox demons. Lorkai was a difficult character for me to understand even though he is one of the focuses of the story. I had difficulty empathizing him even though I felt that was what was intended and there was a tad too much whining going on for a famed, battle-hardened general once we got about halfway through the story for my taste. That said, this prequel is meant to provide some important background information for Michael’s upcoming novel and it achieves its mission. There were some areas where I wish a little more information had been shared, especially Evera and Lorkai’s relationship, but overall this short story stands well on its own even as it opens the door to further adventures.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean novel. While it deals with warfare and the requisite violence, injuries, and death, there is nothing gratuitous in how this is handled. There are serious injuries and references to horrible conditions in prisons but nothing that I would consider inappropriate for the intended audience of teens and young adults.

There is no language and no sensuality is present in this book. While this is a dark fantasy that deals with demons, it was not completely without hope. Most of the spiritual content in this prequel comes up with the Worlox and their fear of being returned to their prison and their attempt to usurp the wizards and Voshnore. The wizards’ magic comes from Voshnore and the reason for limits on their power is discussed. However, I would hope that more time is spent on the spirituality of this world in general and Voshnore in particular in the upcoming novel of the series so readers can come away with a better understanding of how this fantasy world works.

Technical – Grade B-

I have to admit I was torn over this grade because on the one hand R. Michael writes very beautiful descriptive scenes. The opening scene was gorgeous and truly painted a picture and this happens almost every time Michael has a descriptive passage. On the other hand, there were enough technical issues that the grade had to come down. First, there a few homonym typos, such as “aide” when “aid” is what was meant based on context and “steeling” when it should be “stealing.” These didn’t happen often though.

Second, the characters’ thoughts were put in quotations and this just drove me nuts especially when Lorkai and Evera are in the same scene together and they had just been talking to each other but suddenly I see “talking” that is really thinking. This confusion on the reader’s part is one of the reasons that using quotes to delineate thoughts, even internal dialogue, is generally ruled a no-no in writing. Because it’s a short read, this wasn’t as much as a problem as it would be in a full-length novel but I do hope that in the future R. Michael swaps to italics when delineating thoughts.

Third, while Michael writes beautiful descriptions/narrative, the dialogue did not flow as well as it could have. This story is set in a medieval-esque fantasy world but there were far too many modern sayings and words being used and they do pull me out of the setting. “Yeah” and “okay” are constantly showing up and there were a number of small phrases that would fit more with a modern-day setting than the chosen medieval fantasy setting. The dialogue tags were perfunctory but occasionally awkward, which did clash with the beautiful narrative descriptions.

Final Grade – B or 4 Stars

Overall, I thought this story showed the great potential of this new author. For his first book, he creates a decent snapshot into the backstory of his series. There are some technical difficulties as far as anachronistic dialogue and the thoughts being delineated with quotes instead of italics. But, overall, I can see R. Michael’s potential to write some beautiful epic fantasy. His description and narrative is simply gorgeous and I feel confident that he can bring his dialogue up to that same level. I recommend this book for lovers of epic fantasy. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

*Please not I received a free copy of this book via a blog tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or required to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Goandria: The Schism Part I is available via Kindle

 

 

Book Review Wednesday – Captured

Captured: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 1) by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

He will lose everything if their secret is found out.

When Tarek’s family is taken prisoner by the conniving, self-proclaimed King of Racah, they make a pact to lay low and do whatever is necessary to survive until they can devise an escape plan.

Despite Tarek’s efforts to follow his parent’s orders, he has no choice but to save the Princess from making a life-threatening mistake. And despite his best efforts, he can’t help when he loses his heart to the enchanting and lonely Princess.

Unfortunately, Tarek is in danger of losing much more than just his heart.

Captured is the first of three novellas in the White Road Tales trilogy which also include Stolen and Ransom. All three are prequels to the White Road Chronicles series which include:
Illuminated: Book One
Luminosity: Book Two
Emanate: Book Three

Captured is the first in the prequel trilogy of novellas for Castle’s White Road Chronicles. I have enjoyed Castle’s novels thus far and picked this up when I saw it would give more of the missing backstory to two key characters

Plot – Grade A

Considering this prequel novella follows a completed trilogy, anyone who has read at least the first book, Illuminated, knows the ultimate ending to the novella and its sequels. However, do not let that deter you from checking out this story. Castle did an excellent job of sharing more about the background of Tarek  and his family as well as weaving in Princess’ life before the first novel. The story develops the world of Racah, the dark kingdom beyond what we see through Princess’ eyes in Illuminated and stands up well on its own. The plot is short and woven together with just a few strings left to be picked up in the next novella. Certain throwaway elements in this novella will jump at readers familiar with Castle’s work and trigger an “Oh! I know what that means!!” reaction. I enjoy Easter eggs so it was fun for me. The plot whets one’s appetite for more without giving away noticeable spoilers for the novels if readers haven’t read them yet while also breathing fresh life into the world for those who are already familiar with it.

Content – Grade A

This is a clean read. Language takes place offstage with only the inoffensive “Trollsbreath” being used plainly. There are references to sensuality but they are very discreet even when a girl propositions Tarek and he sees his father with a mistress. There is violence. Several people are killed and blood is described as pooling and staining witnesses’ clothing. However, this did not teeter into being gratuitous since again the focus is more on the characters’ reactions than anything else.

There is a very sweet romance brewing between Tarek and Princess. I liked how he respects her and how he draws her out of her shell. I also liked the way Tarek works to take care of his family even with his father being an absolute boor.

The spiritual side of things is extremely light in this first novella, especially compared to the allegorical nature of the original trilogy. There are mentions of the white trees and the true king. Nothing too overwhelming or in your face about it, which definitely suits this short novella and the characters’ current frame of mind spiritually.

Technical – Grade A-

This was very well edited. There were a few typos and one instance where you’re was used instead of your but nothing too grating. There a few places where the language used was a tad modern for the medieval-esque setting but nothing that truly jerked me out of the setting. The pacing was quick without being rushed. You get a clear picture of characters, especially Tarek and his family, without being overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Secondary and tertiary characters stand out when they need to and are not made of cardboard. The story is able to stand on its own while inviting you to dive further into the world of The White Road Chronicles.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

Overall, I really enjoyed this prequel. I love it when authors reveal the backstories to novels/characters and further explore the world they’ve created. I’m looking forward to reading more about the lead up to Illuminated. I recommend this book to both fans of Castle’s White Road Chronicles and those looking to dip their toe into a fantasy romance that is family-friendly and leads into a strong Christian allegorical fantasy.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Next – Stolen: A Fantasy Romance (White Road Tale Novella Book 2) by Jackie Castle

Favorite Books and Authors in 2014

Well, it’s almost 2015. I’ve enjoyed discovering new books and new authors over the last year. And while not every book was published in 2014, I would like to share my top favorites in books and authors.

Favorite Books of 2014 (in no particular order)

The Secrets of Gwenla by Laurie Penner

Secrets of Gwenla cover

I LOVED this book. I was immersed in the characters and the story, which is an allegory but it definitely doesn’t suffer from heavy-handedness or preachiness, and I’m dying to find out what happens next in this series. You can read my original review here.

Duty: a novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Duty Cover

This is one of my favorite arranged marriage stories of all time. I love how it goes beyond “Will They or Won’t They?” This is a medieval-esque fantasy and it definitely has the feel of a clean medieval romance, which is also a favorite genre of mine. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series when it comes out. You can read my original review here.

The Ryn: Book One of the Eyes of E’veria by Serena Chase

The Ryn Cover

This is an excellent offering for the New Adult category. I loved the twist on the Grimm fairytale of Snow White and Rose Red and how familiar elements from that tale were woven into this original story. I’ve read and reviewed every book in the series so far but this first book is the one that completely won me over. I eagerly await the fourth book in the series due in 2015. You can read my original review here.

The Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)

Wren (The Romany Epistles) by Rachel Rossano

Wren Cover

Another offering by Rachel Rossano and it is part of a nine-author series, which I did not realize when I first read it. However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this one because it is a story that stands on its own. I love this story because it takes the idea of the female bounty hunter and prevents the clichés from taking over and the romance is very sweet. You can read my original review here.

Illuminated: Book One of The White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle

Illuminated Cover

I truly enjoy this series, book two is even better than the first and I can’t wait to read the third book. This is an allegory that provides a nice visual of the Christian walk and the characters are relatable even the centaurs. Of course, bonus points for going beyond dragons to include centaurs and other fantasy creatures as well as making them three-dimensional. You can read my original review here.

The Land of Flames (The Karini and Lamek Chronicles Book 1) by Cynthia P. Willow

The Land of Flames Cover

This is a very sweet, funny, and family-friendly fairy tale. I loved the characters, especially Lamek who is adorably hilarious. I think this is one of those books that deserves to be placed next to The Chronicles of Narnia for young readers. You can read my original review here.

The Up-and-Comers of 2014

Resistance by Jaye L. Knight

Resistance Cover

This is another good entry for the New Adult category. I enjoyed the heavy world-building and I see a lot of potential in Knight’s work. Definitely an author to watch, especially with Book Two coming out in 2015. Read my original review here.

Dragon’s Touch by A.R. Johnson

Dragon's Touch Cover

I was literally blown away when I learned that this author is just sixteen years old because the sheer potential and talent I saw in this book was amazing. I think this young author will go far as she continues with her writing career and I look forward to reading Johnson’s next offering. You can read my original review here.

Favorite Discovered Fantasy Authors and Bonus Favorite Non-Fantasy Author/Series for the Year

I read a number of new authors this year. In fact, most of them are also Indie, which I consider great news because that is where I am finding some of the best Christian Fantasy. Limiting myself to the top four favorite authors, whom I enjoy for a number of reasons, they are:

(In alphabetical order)

Jackie Castle

Serena Chase

Laurie Penner

and Rachel Rossano

I love these authors. They all have differences in styles but they share the excellent world-building that breathes life into each story and allowing their faith to show through the story without drifting into sermonizing.

As promised, my bonus favorite author and series. Obviously I don’t read just fantasy. I also enjoy reading other genres; however, I’m limiting myself to just one author and her series.

I love a good cozy mystery, especially ones where I don’t know for sure how it will all end. I definitely got that with Julianna Deering and her Drew Farthering Mystery series. This series appeals to me so much because there’s mystery, romance, humor, and Drew goes on a journey of faith and grows as a character in each book, which also happen to be set in 1930s England. I have read all three, love them all, and I am eagerly waiting for more from this author.

Rules of Murder (A Drew Farthering Mystery)

Rules of Murder Cover

Death by the Book (A Drew Farthering Mystery)

Death by the Book Cover

Murder at the Mikado (A Drew Farthering Mystery)

Murder at the Mikado Cover

And those are my picks for favorite books and authors that I have read in 2014. I’m looking forward to discovering new favorites in 2015.

*Covers taken from each book’s amazon page. All rights to their proper owners.

Book Review Wednesday – The Land of Flames

The Land of Flames (The Karini and Lamek Chronicles Book 1) by Cynthia P. Willow

Amazon Book Description:

Enter a world of fairies, dragons, dwarves, and elves in The Land of Flames, a magical world where possibilities are endless and truth makes a difference.

Ocamar, the villainous dragon king, and his dragon clan, have overtaken The Land of Serenity and everyone in the land is in jeopardy. The only hope seems to be with Rumbleflin, the oldest and wisest of the elves, who plans to lead an army rebellion.

To add to the conflict, Ocamar and Rumbleflin have been harboring secrets from one another for years, and what happens when those secrets are revealed will have a major impact on everyone.

Can an army of fairy-tale creatures defeat a clan of dragons and restore their Land of Serenity?

I was a little surprised when I finally got to read this book, but it wasn’t an unpleasant one.

Plot – Grade A-

The plot was relatively straightforward and the unexpected twists were a bit easy to predict, at least for me. However, this did not detract from the simple enjoyment of the story. The characterizations of each character were well-done and helped breathe life into the plot. And while I could guess at some things, I must admit that the cliffhanger presented by the preview of Book Two DID catch me by surprise. While this is a trilogy, the plot can stand on its own and is a complete story in and of itself while leaving a few plot threads hanging loose to carry over to the next book.

Content – Grade A

This book is meant to be family-friendly and it lives up to that label with the absence of language and sensuality. There is some violence but it is bloodless and while there are deaths, some of which are revenge-motivated, these take place off-screen and, in two cases, are related by another character. Definitely G-rated.

There is some romance, mainly rising from Lamek and his amusingly charming infatuation with Karini. It’s amusing and sweet and I rather hope that Lamek gets the girl in the end.

Now this is a fairytale complete with witches and wizards. It’s written so there IS magic and there are brooms, wands, and spells used by the witches and wizards. For myself, none of it is written in a way that causes me to hesitate. The source of their magic is not discussed even it is required for the magic-users to have a wand in order to work their spells. Spiritually, the book is a bit on the lighter end of the spectrum, I think the most straightforward acknowledgement  was a character uttering a “Thank God!”

Technical – Grade A-

This book has a rather simplistic tone to it, which suits the feel of a children’s fairytale, and half of the time it meant that I was reminded of the classic The Chronicles of Narnia. While the age range on the book’s amazon page is 6-18, the narrative’s style is definitely aimed more at the younger readers. The book is superbly edited and I didn’t see any obvious errors or typos. My only quibble, which is an extremely minor one, is that ‘beautiful’ felt a bit overused.

Final Grade – A- or 4.7 Stars

Overall, this book was a pleasant read. It didn’t quite attain the same feel of The Chronicles of Narnia, which I personally love, but it was a near miss. I would recommend this book for families looking for a family-friendly fairytale to add to their reading list. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

The Land of Flames is available through Kindle, paperback, and Audible.

Next  – Taerith by Rachel Starr Thompson

 

Book Review Wednesday – Dragon’s Touch

Dragon’s Touch by A.R. Johnson

Amazon Book Description:

“Dragons, mages, and estranged siblings collide in a struggle to control the Kingdom of Rioch.”

The Guild of Mages is determined to destroy the dragon race at all costs. Queen Christine, keeper of the peace and leader of the dragon riders, strives to maintain stability in Rioch. Amidst this struggle, Zharah is torn between the anti-dragon teachings of her childhood and her unwitting bonding with the dragon hatchling Elihan. She must cross the kingdom in search of her long lost brother and the answers to her future as a Dragon-Touched human. She finds both friends and enemies along the road, but above all she finds herself.

I came across this book when it was being promoted on Facebook in a Christian Indie Authors group I’m in and I decided that it certainly couldn’t hurt to try out a debut Christian fantasy. I wasn’t disappointed with my pick.

Plot – Grade A-

I have read a lot of fantasy books and I know it is difficult to come up with a completely unique plot, often authors must depend on HOW the plot is carried out in order to achieve that which is different from the other fantasy offerings with similar plots. This particular book does have a few elements that are similar to Dragonspell, the first book of Donita K. Paul’s Dragon Keeper Chronicles, mainly the orphan girl who finds the dragon egg and accidentally hatches it. However, the format and details about the bond between dragon and dragon rider presented in this book is very different as are the circumstances surrounding how Zharah finds the egg so I didn’t feel like I was reading a re-write of a book I have loved for years. It was a bit predictable regarding certain elements, but that didn’t bother me too much. There were a few places where I felt the plot was TOO tight since there were several potential subplots that could have been explored as well but received more of a brush than anything, perhaps they will be explored in the next book. The plot was neatly tied up at the end of the book but the next adventure was also hinted at and partially set up, which I enjoyed.

Content – Grade A-

This is a very clean fantasy, especially in regards to language. There isn’t a true romance this time around. It’s more of a crush’s first blush. My only personal quibble was that this has been set up  to introduce the (much-dreaded on my part) love triangle between Zharah and the two guys she meets in her quest to find her brother. I admit I am not a fan of the love triangle, so I ended up hoping love potential #2 would die. No such luck. However, I am hopeful that maybe this won’t turn into a full-out love triangle since there is a very good reason for Zharah to choose love potential #1. I’ll keep reading just to see if my hopes or my fears are right. 😉

There is violence present in this book. The bad guys are evil, especially their leader, and people are referred to as being maimed or killed. However, it is all very bloodless except for some minor injuries. There is also magic in this book and I was intrigued by the difference having a relationship with the Creator makes for the magic users. Those who do not have a relationship might kill themselves if they use more than their personal reserve of magic. On the other hand, those who do have a relationship with the Creator don’t have to worry about burnout and re-charging their magic reserve. I thought that was a great way to integrate magic without it becoming “god” in that world.

Spiritually, this book was rather subtle in its use. Partially because Zharah does not have a relationship with the Creator and she’s not even really seeking Him (yet). I would have enjoyed learning more about how the religion works when we interacted with the knights. I also would have enjoyed a bit more curiosity or asking questions about the Creator on Zharah’s part. I did have some reservations about how she still doesn’t seem to have established a relationship with the Creator at the end of the book, considering what happened for her personal (potential) relationship. However, I can accept this if Zharah’s personal relationship with the Creator, or lack thereof, is addressed in the next book.

Technical – B+

In general, this book was very well-edited. I only spotted a few awkward moments where the wrong synonym is used for the context of the sentence. The most prominent was when the evil leader waves healers forward to take his lackey (most recent victim of his wrath) to the healing wing “to treat to” his wounds. Here it should have been “to treat his wounds” or “to tend to his wounds.” I already touched on the missed opportunities for the plot to be further rounded out, so I won’t say much more other than I would have liked to see a bit more world development so I could have been able to further immerse myself in the world. I also would have liked more character development but that is something that can be addressed in succeeding novels.

There were also some places where the writing was a bit too formal and the explanation was too thorough when I would have cut words to tighten things up and help keep the flow steady had I been editing. However, for a writer who is not only  working on her debut novel but is also just sixteen, the raw skill is magnificent. The technical aspects just needs a bit more polish to help Johnson shine at her full potential. I was impressed that the language didn’t feel too modern to fit a medieval-esque fantasy world.

Final Grade – B+ or 4.5 stars

Overall, I liked this book a lot and I can see that A.R. Johnson has a ton of potential as an up-and-coming author. It wasn’t a perfect offering even when I take into consideration the fact that this particular book straddles children’s and YA fantasy. However, Johnson is going on my authors to watch list because I can see so much potential in this first book that I am certain she will be one of the greats for Christian fantasy as she matures as a writer. I look forward to reading her next book. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for a quick, clean Christian fantasy to read or are looking for a family-friendly fantasy book to help interest their younger readers in fiction. Recommended for ages 9 and up.

Dragon’s Touch is available through Kindle.

Next Week – Double Book Review – The Pinocchio Factor and Black Crow’s Blessing by Sophronia Belle Lyon

 

Book Review Wednesday – Illuminated

Illuminated: Book One of The White Road Chronicles by Jackie Castle

Amazon Book Description:

Welcome to the kingdom of Alburnium
If the Wizard of Oz swept you away and Narnia enchanted you, then follow the White Road Chronicles for a new kind of adventure.

Illuminated: Book One- begins with a girl in search of the truth.
Alyra, mockingly known as Princess, was captured at an early age by the evil ruler, Darnel, and brought up in the dark land of Racah. Now, at the age of seventeen, she considers herself nothing special. She has no recollection of who she is or where she came from. Her hope of ever finding freedom dims.
Until the messenger arrives. Until he brings to light the meaning behind the medallion she’s kept hidden. Until she accepts the blinding truth.

Now she flees for her life.

Alyra’s journey leads her down a narrow road with strange traveling companions. Together, they encounter a kingdom where nothing is what it first seems.

I stumbled on this trilogy when I found the third book, which immediately caught my attention for two reasons. First, it was a true Christian fantasy complete with fantastic creatures and even magical abilities. Second, it came with centaurs. I was impressed to find a Christian author who dared to go beyond the current Christian fantasy standard of dragons (who may or may not be evil) and use more mythological elements. And then the description for the first book intrigued me even further.

Plot – Grade A

The book is built on the premise of a girl with no name and no memory known for the first third of the book as ‘Princess’ but who also rebels subtly against the tyrant Darnel despite his claims of being her father. When Alyra finally escapes, she continues to struggle with and question the lies Darnel had spoon-fed to her and others for all her known life. The quest to follow the narrow white road to meet the true King is one that mirrors the Christian walk. However, the story line is not bogged down in an attempt to make sure everyone knows this is an allegory.

Content – Grade A

This is an allegory so the spiritual side is quite obvious with the narrow path, the words of wisdom from the “The King’s Book of Letters” being almost word for word quotes from various Scripture passages and various other elements such as Issah and especially the throne room scene with King Shaydon. However, it does not slow the story down nor seem out of place with the rest of the events. There is also a lack of feeling as though you are being bludgeoned with Scripture and “you must repent” monologues. This is a Christian fantasy that has struck just the right balance between The Chronicles of Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress. This is a journey of faith and you met a number of characters at various points in their travel along the white road who are all at different places in their personal journeys. Some take longer than others and some must leave behind family, home, and trade in order to follow the White Road. Alyra and her companions are relatable in some way.

There are what most people would refer to as “magical” abilities present in this book. Darnel warps his prisoners and followers using dark rituals and there is a brief scene where he summons a demon in order to collect ingredients for his secret ingredient slipped into the food and water of his land. The people of the lands also have differing abilities that would be considered magical but it is clear that these are genetic, inherited abilities that were woven into them from the moment of their creation. There are also dragons, brownies, dwarves, trolls and other creatures to go along with the centaurs. This is part of a subplot point of tension between Humans and Creatures and whether the Creatures can really belong to King Shaydon.

There is no real romance in this story. Alyra does have a bit of a crush on a boy she left behind (although it takes her a while to see it) and one of her traveling companions has a crush on the warrior maiden Carah of whom I suspect we shall see more of in the rest of the trilogy. I did like the break from we’re barely adults and are traveling with our “true love” route. However, I believe based on the ending and how the summaries for the next two books read, there will be more of a romantic subplot in the next two novels.

There is violence present in this story, including references to prisoners being eaten by dragons and the terrible wounds achieved in battle. One secondary character almost dies. Another one does die. There is also one character who is beaten by an authority figure for choosing to ignore his orders and not only help Alyra but also follow the White Road. This is not shown but the character is bruised and hurting when he next comes on the scene. However, none of the violence is gratuitously graphic. There is no language in this book. Although, there are derogatory insults, e.g., “mule,” exchanged between a human character and a centaur as well as when that character refers to other Creatures.

Technical – Grade B-

While the story flows well, there are some technical and grammatical errors. For example, “Your” is constantly switched out with “You’re” at the beginning of sentences even though when “your” is used in the middle of the sentences it does not experience this problem. The same difficulty occurs with “Were” being switched out for “We’re” at the beginning of sentences. There are also a few misspelled words and once a proper name lost its possessive apostrophe so “Lotari’s” was written as “Lotaris.”

There was also a lot of modern language being used such as “Duh.” That was a surprise and I felt it could have flowed more smoothly if the dialogue didn’t feel quite so jarringly modern at times since the world has the high fantasy medieval-esque feel to it.

Final Grade – a B or 4 stars

Overall, I enjoyed this story. The plot is interesting and can stand on its own while also connecting with the sequel. The main detractions could be resolved with a tighter round of technical editing and some changes to certain dialogue choices. I recommend this book to people who enjoy the same sort of allegorical fantasy found in The Chronicles of Narnia. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Illuminated is available through Kindle and paperback.

Next – Wren (The Romany Epistles) by Rachel Rossano