Tag Archives: Speculative fiction

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 Wednesday – Devil’s Pathway

Devil’s Pathway (DAWN: Warriors of Valor Book 1) by Vicki V. Lucas

Amazon Book Description:

I force myself to live by one rule: Don’t look at the demons. The two times I broke this rule still haunt me. Tonight I made another mistake. As a huge demon leered at us, I couldn’t fight the urge. I looked. And he saw me. Maybe it’s not a big deal. Nothing happened as my aunt sped beyond it in the car. Besides, I only have one year of high school left. I’ll be fine. But I know exactly what could occur. I’ve seen it too many times. Two men lurked with the demon I saw tonight. Evil clung to them, as if they had given their souls in exchange for something else. I shudder when I consider what they could be. But do vampires really exist? With everything I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Where are the good guys? If there’s darkness, shouldn’t there be light? How come the angels don’t battle the demons if that is the case? Or do they? Maybe there’s a war around me that I don’t see. I just want to be left alone, and after tonight, I don’t think that’s going to be a choice.

***

This young adult fantasy novel weaves angels, demons, and vampires into a thrilling adventure in which angels and humans wage war on demons and vampires. The action doesn’t stop as Nic, the main character, is forced into choosing which side of the fight he is on while both sides are desperately urging him to join their army. Devil’s Pathway is a Christian fantasy novel for teens who are ready to get serious about their faith. If you like Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” or novels by Ted Dekker, you’ll like Devil’s Pathway.

I haven’t really enjoyed the angel/demon subgenre of speculative fiction, too many conflicts with Scripture, but I accepted this book for review because the author made a compelling case and I had enjoyed reading one of her earlier books. Have to say, I am so glad that I took that chance.

Plot – Grade A

This book dug its claws into me and held on from the first page to the last. The plot puts an original spin on the typical angels vs. demons storyline. A spiritual war rages around Nic who is trying desperately to remain neutral instead of choosing one side or the other. Nic is an empathetic character who I related to quite easily. The angels and demons and, yes, even vampires have interesting roles but they don’t steal the spotlight away from Nic. The book ending is resolved without being truly resolved. There are still many questions that I expect Book Two will answer but this book can stand well on its own. The ending comes at a natural breather story-wise and was written in such a way that it left me eager for more without making me feel as though there was absolutely no resolution.

Content – Grade A

This a clean read but it also handles a number of sensitive topics, in particular a school shooting is referenced and later shown via flashback as well as the murder of a parent in front of the child. I applaud Lucas for handling these sensitive situations in a way that showed the horror and grief of such events without descending into morbid bloodbaths, especially in a first person POV. In keeping with having vampires, there are descriptions of a few initial attacks and the aftermath of those attacks; however, there aren’t any gratuitous descriptions of gore.

There are a few instances of mild language, one “damn” and two or three “craps”. Hell is also referenced many times in its proper spiritual context. There isn’t any true sensuality in this book although there are some references to an abandoned mining town having a whorehouse.

The topics of bullying in school and abusive relationships are also addressed and handled with appropriate care. This a spiritually active book as is expected in this subgenre. What I appreciated was not only that the presentation of demons and vampires wasn’t glamorized but the importance of prayer and having a strong spiritual walk was also underlined without descending into the realm of preachiness. The struggle for Nic was real and didn’t come across as flat or like he was merely a puppet. Even I wasn’t entirely sure whether Nic would make the choice I wanted him to make. There is also a tie between Christians’ prayers and the angels’ strength in spiritual battle, which I found very interesting since I don’t recall seeing such a tie before.

Technical – Grade A

This is a very well edited book. There were three or four minor typos in the middle but nothing jarring. The book switches between first-person present for Nic’s narration and third-person past for the sections featuring other narrators (primarily the second-in-command demon, the angel Eli, and Rob). There is one section near the finale where the angel leader’s pov is in third person present, which was only slightly confusing since only Nic had been in present tense. Now, I don’t usually care for present tense but Lucas’ writing was strong enough and compelling enough for me to still be hooked. The characters are fleshed out to the point I actually found myself rooting for them to do what I knew they needed to do if they would just cooperate and I cheered whenever there was a hard-won victory.

Final Grade – A or 5 stars

I devoured this book in about five hours because I could not put it down. Lucas created a spiritual battle that resonated with me and made me think. Devil’s Pathway handles sensitive topics without crossing into crassness or gratuity; however, I would recommend this book to older teens and for parents to be prepared to discuss the topics raised, especially in regards to school violence and abusive relationships. Lucas handles these matters in such a way that I believe it can help open the door for discussions between parents and teens. I eagerly await Book Two. I recommend this book for fans of spiritual thrillers, Frank Peretti’s Present Darkness series, and it’s also a good choice for Christians who, like me, aren’t really fans of Ted Dekker. Recommended for ages 15 and up.

*Please note I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid or asked to leave a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Devil’s Pathway is available via Kindle.

Next Week – Honor: Second Novel of Rhynan by Rachel Rossano

Called by God to Write

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

It’s funny how often I’ve read that verse and only applied it to the spiritual side of things – a call to a specific ministry within the church. But this time I sat down and thought about what that verse means when applied to all areas of my life. It means: I am called to be a writer. I am called by God to be a writer.

I was feeling a bit burned out when I read this verse due to being in the middle of my final editing round for Tiger’s Paw and prepping to get it ready for release. But this verse reminded me in the middle of my writer’s blues that my gift of creativity isn’t just happenstance. It was given to me by God and He is the one who has called me to be a writer. I write fantasy, which I and many of you know is not always considered a real call by well-meaning Christians, and God can and does use fantasy to reach people.  My stories don’t usually fixate on the salvation experience, right now I only have two planned stories where a character coming to God is written into the plot; instead, my stories focus more on the Christian journey. My characters are flawed but I don’t want to write them in a way that seems to glorify their flaws. I acknowledge the grittiness of a fallen world but I don’t dwell on it. I want to write stories about hope, about the light in the darkness, not the darkness around the light. But most of all I want to write the stories God has called me to write. For me that’s fantasy with a focus on epic and urban, right now urban fantasy is at the fore.

Every Christian is called to do something for God. Our natural talents and inclinations can point us in that direction. For writers, whether we write Christian or secular fantasy, we are called by God to write stories that glorify Him. That doesn’t mean we have to focus on the salvation experience or include the “come to Jesus” call or even have our beliefs up front and center in every single story. It means that we are called to write the stories we need to and those can range from allegory to the grittier side of writing. But ultimately our writing is for God because He is the one who called us to this craft.

Book Review Wednesday – Fallen Kings

Fallen Kings by Sarah Witenhafer

Amazon Book Description:

Christian Speculative Fiction set in ancient Babylon.

As her father’s only heir, Naamah has been taught how to succeed in a world ruled by men. Despite her ability, she’s powerless to choose her own husband. When the wrong man is chosen for her, Naamah calls on the goddess of love and war to intervene.

Lord Prince Raheil, Keeper of the Sixth Gate of Heaven, arrives with his army in a glorious show of terrifying power. He vies for Naamah’s hand, promising to make her father the earth’s first king and to raise their city to legendary heights. To Naamah, he offers immortality itself.

Only one man stands against the prince and his army – Keenan – the man Naamah’s father first chose to be her husband. He alone can understand the prince’s strange language, and knows Raheil was not sent from the heavens. Pledging all to save the woman he loves, Keenan vows to expose the secret plans of darkness and defeat a warrior sent from the gods.

*The Review Contains Some Minor Spoilers*

I originally picked this book up in July because the summary promised a fight between good and evil and I don’t see many books set in Ancient Mesopotamia especially with fantasy or speculative elements to them. I had intended to review the book in July but I ultimately DNF the first time around. So, I resolved this week to make myself read this book.

Plot – B

The promised plot was that of spiritual warfare and a struggle between good and evil. However, I was ultimately disappointed in how the plot was executed. While there was spiritual warfare, for most of the book, it feels as though it’s a spiritual blitz by evil with no real relief from that which is good. The bad guys are winning due to sheer numbers and the narrators chosen do not do well in establishing a relatable character for the reader to really root for and connect with during the story. In fact, I found myself wanting to backpedal from the narrators and especially the situations they are in.

This plot had great potential but an oppressive darkness overwhelms and smothers the good in this book. I wanted to see Keenan (whose name doesn’t mesh with anyone else’s for some reason) be a strong warrior for God and fulfill his vow as related in the summary. The way the plot turned and twisted didn’t truly fulfill this promise and potential. Naamah…ugh, Naamah is one of the WORST narrators I’ve encountered. She is shallow, selfish, belligerent, and too infatuated/in lust with Raheil to see the truth. Every time she catches glimpses of his true nature, she immediately flits to the frame of mind that he’s gorgeously beautiful and glorious and did I mention beautiful in addition to her later thoughts coming around to how can she make sure he’s not angry with her. Naamah’s brother is mentally handicapped with the mind of a five year old and at first Naamah is very protective of him, almost making her tolerable, but later her protectiveness is wrapped in an arrogance that makes her cruel in her interactions with him, which was unfortunate because her caring for her brother was pretty much her only saving grace. In the middle of the book, we abruptly jump from Naamah narrating in first person to Luralamar (her father) narrating in third person then to Serug a minor character who I could understand as being a narrator then to Keenan who I would have expected to be the secondary narrator and then to another minor character who I sincerely wish had been cut as narrator because he didn’t actually contribute anything to the plot in his scene.

The plot presented in this book didn’t feel as though it fulfilled the promises made in the summary. The ending could stand on its own in addition to leading into the next book with the epilogue. But it wasn’t very satisfying.

Content – F

Content is always the most subjective category for me. However, the content and the execution of said content is a key factor in my assessment. I was extremely disappointed in both areas with this book.

Violence is definitely present. People are injured, beaten, and killed. A woman has a clay tablet thrown at her head and it hits her but she’s able to walk away from it. The most gruesome deaths involve sexual violence toward women who are raped and then torn apart. However, these are described in the dialogue instead of being shown outright. There is a death involving stoning as well but that one was relatively bloodless and short.

The language and general vulgarity present in this book took me by surprise because not one review mentioned it. The first appearance comes from Naamah where she snaps at a panicking couple to “Crawl under the table and p*** on yourselves if you wish.” (Paperback, pg. 56). Considering she is supposed to be the leader in her father’s absence and she has purportedly been trained to interact on the level of diplomacy, I really struggled with how her crassness and belligerence is supposed to give her panicking people someone to look up to in a time of crisis. “Damn” is used several times, only once in a sense of spiritual damnation. Then we get to pages 184-185, which offers up the following: “What monkey’s p***er has dared to haul me from my bed and leave me waiting for two damn hours?” and “How it is the Commander just called his lural a monkey’s – what did you say, Zakar? – ‘a weewee?” Then from the next page is “Does that mean you’d watch my back or you favor your own a**?” I don’t know if the last two were meant to be humorous or not. But, for me personally, they weren’t funny. They were crude and really unnecessary. P***er also shows up again where one brother insults another brother. A** is used frequently after that and not in the context of Balaam’s ass/donkey. Keenan, the resident “good guy,” shouts “God, what has me?” (pg. 189) and “God, this thing hurts.” (pg. 190). Pig’s dung and rat dung are also used in name calling but that’s mild compared to the rest as is the part where one man says “Hang the bastard.” (Paperback, pg. 267). Did people in Ancient Sumer and post-Flood curse? Oh I’m sure they did. However, I am not in favor of writing out curses, especially when it feels anachronistic and too modern for the setting.

Under the same umbrella of vulgarity and language is the sexual content. There are constant references to whores. Naamah calls one woman a slut because she was Keenan’s former mistress (although he did repent of this and set her aside). There is a particularly disturbing scene told through the eyes of Garta (the unnecessary minor character narrator I mentioned before) involving a brothel. The language used is extremely vulgar such as when the eunuch asks him where he “wants to screw your whore in” (pg. 227) and discussing the smell of sex. I had absolutely no desire to read this muck but I waded through it because the impression was given that it would lead to something important and I didn’t know exactly when the important piece would be reached so I couldn’t just skip the next several pages. The important information that the secret tunnel between brothel and tavern was invaded by evil? THAT had already been made clear when Keenan talked to his former mistress after she begged him for help. There was NO justifiable reason for the brothel scene to be included. It was vulgar and gratuitous because it didn’t really contribute to the story. I wish that the author had stayed in Keenan’s POV and just entered the inn bypassing the thirteen pages involving Garta, his wife (who had been pressganged into prostitution), and the brothel.

Naamah is consumed with lust for Raheil. She’s obsessed with him and too many times the descriptions of these two making out toe the line of lewdness. Naamah wrapping a leg around Raheil’s hip and then a description of Raheil’s tongue in her mouth are just some of the examples. I could have lived without that. Concubines sliding their clothes off to enter a bath are handled with less detail. 😐 There is continual reference to bedding women and Raheil refers to Keenan’s prayer interrupting his “coupling” with Naamah. Naamah’s father is seduced by an evil spirit disguised as his wife while in his bath. As mentioned before, Raheil’s soldiers rape many women. Two of these incidents are related through dialogue. And there is a lot of sexual violence throughout. We also see the aftermath of a drunken orgy where Naamah describes one of the concubines as being pinned beneath the man who had used her and Naamah also taunts her. Between the language, general vulgarity, and the sexual content, I almost quit this book multiple times.

On the spiritual side, this is supposed to be a tale of spiritual warfare. But it’s very one-sided and dark and full of despair. Eber and his son Peleg, the ancestors of Abraham, have a brief appearance and appear to only escape death because they’re in the genealogy. There is an angel who saves Keenan twice and Keenan is able to stand up to Raheil as well as understanding the “heavenly” language. HOWEVER, when the demons overwhelm the story and the good guys are picked off like flies, I struggle to see the goodness of God in this book. Naamah prays to Inanna the goddess of war and love to send her a suitor other than Keenan, which is what basically opened Eridu to the coming of Raheil and his soldiers. Probably the biggest thorn for me is the fact that El (God) is set up as a liar in this book. He promised a character that he would marry the girl and have twins and a long line of descendants. The character believes El keeps his promises and is told by someone else that El keeps his promises. We get to the end of the book and this character is sentenced to death through Raheil’s machinations and the character tells the girl that even this other guy is going to be the father of the twins, it doesn’t matter because “In the end, somehow in a way I cannot see, the legacy El has promised to me will be fulfilled.” (Paperback, pg. 390). That was a “Huh?” moment for me and then this character compounds it by stating that if “his promises do not come true…I want you to know it is my failures which prevented them.” (pg. 392). But then El uses the girl to tell him that he is not a failure for focusing on keeping his gold. So the weird and very unfortunate impression I came away with is that El lied, He changed His mind, and His will is thwarted by His chosen people’s shortcomings. That’s not what happened with Abram when he failed to fully trust God regarding the prophesied son and being a father of nations. I just don’t understand how that character’s promise is truly justified in its detour? Rearrangement? I came away asking just who was in control here because it didn’t feel like it was El (God).  I also struggle with the attempt to link the character’s death to Christ’s death because the character didn’t really volunteer. He was boxed in and then forced into surrendering to the planned substitution. His death doesn’t really impact the remaining characters either. There’s some twinges of guilt but they’re easily shrugged off by the characters as Raheil gets them excited about building the Tower of Babel. One character in particular is more concerned about another character’s humiliation than the fact that this character is going to an undeserved death. There was no real point to the character’s death and the parallel to Christ’s death is tenuous at best. The long author’s note at the end wherein Witenhafer basically sets out the entire gospel message does not make up for the offensiveness of her content or the spiritual confusion stirred up regarding El’s promises.

Technical – D+

This book is plagued with typos and formatting errors. Much like the last book by Witenhafer I reviewed, Tamed, You’re is used several times when it should have been Your. Other noticeable swaps include “were” when it should have been “where” and “lighting” for “lightning” as well as “fowl mood” instead of “foul mood” and a horse letting out a great “whiney” instead of “whinny.” There is also a section where a family wants to send for “aide” (an assistant) when what they really wanted was aid/help. The most noticeable homonym error is “loose/lose” Every single time it should be “lose” for a wager or hand being lost “loose” was used. The sole time Raheil speaking unleashing or loosing someone like a bull from the stall  “lose” was used. It was VERY strange how that worked out. Consistent but strange. Sumer is misspelled once as “Sumeria.” There is also the fact that commas are used when they shouldn’t and not when they should. Several times there were quotation marks left off at either the beginning or the ending of a character speaking. Every time an opening single quote was used, the companion ending single quote was missing. There are ellipses missing the last period and once a period traveled down to the next line.

Several times Naamah resorts to telling, such as how she astonished the diplomats with her knowledge and hammered out a trade agreement. Why wasn’t this shown in place of the unnecessary scenes revolving around the brothel and various characters’ lust for each other and power? Anywhere from fifty to seventy-five pages could have been cut, which would have tightened up the plot and avoided the gratuitous vulgarity that plagued this book.

There are also several anachronistic word choices which didn’t mesh with the setting of Ancient Mesopotamia at all. “Manicured” is used to describe Raheil’s eyebrow and that particular synonym of “groomed” didn’t come into use until the 1890s. “Semantics” is also used and is also from the 1890s. Keenan’s former mistress describes herself as being “blacklisted” and while this word came into use around the 1600s, it feels too modern still and it probably would have been better to describe her as being banned or shunned. The most anachronistic word is used is “Transvestite,” which appears twice in regards to prostitutes, because that term didn’t surface until 1922. It has no business being in ancient post-flood Sumer. A good rule of thumb when writing stories set in any time frame before the Industrial Age is to check the word’s date of origin. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has an app that can be used for quick reference when a word doesn’t sound right for the setting. The author indicates in her acknowledgements that she used editors but this book has so many issues that it is difficult to consider this a finished and fully edited book. Due to the length of the book, 426 pages, I cannot help feeling that the book is being rushed to meet a specific deadline and the quality is suffering because of it.

Final Grade – D- or 1.5 Stars

I’ll be honest, I found this book to be abhorrent. There was potential here but the content and execution of the content dragged this book so far down that I will never read another book by this author. The author’s note in the back makes me think that the author intends for this book to be passed from Christians to their non-Christian friends. If this were a secular book, I would give it the same rating and I would not pass it on to my friends. Because it is a “Christian” book, I would never pass it on to my undecided friends because it is full of worldliness to the point that godly principles are either smothered or undetectable and the spiritual confusion around the diverted promise. The material covered in this book is of an adult nature and dwells more on the darkness and evil winning than anything else. I would strongly encourage this author to add an adult content warning to her book. I cannot recommend this book to anyone in good conscience.

Fallen Kings is available through both Kindle and Paperback.

 

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

Book Review Wednesday – The Third Heaven

The Third Heaven by Donovan Neal

Amazon Book Description:

The prequel to the Bible is here!

We have always thought Hell was created for man…we were so wrong.

The Third Heaven: The Rise of Fallen Stars is book one of a five part series that explores the fascinating story of the Fall of Lucifer.

Lucifer was God’s perfect creation. Yet he rose up to betray the Lord and bring Heaven itself to civil war.

Many tales have referenced this great angelic war but few have sought to explore the behind the scene relationships between God and the angelic hosts. Why did a third of Heaven seek to overthrow their creator?

See Lucifer and his actions in a light never before seen. Journey back to the beginning, and see the drama unfold before your eyes: as allegiances are broken; choices made, and why all of creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God!

˃˃˃ Man’s was NOT the first sin

See the back-story to mankind’s own story, in this powerful, gripping tale of angels at war.

I am always on the fence when it comes to angel-oriented speculative fiction. I decided to try this book because I had only read one other book that focused on the fall of Lucifer.

Plot – Grade A-

The main focus of this book is painting the backdrop of and the first war in heaven. It’s not solely focused on Lucifer, Michael is also one of the primary narrators. Michael and Lucifer, in particular, are referred to as brothers but as the book progress all of the angels refer to other angels as brothers. It is an interesting choice and helped to ‘humanize’ the otherworldly creatures. At times, Lucifer seems almost too sympathetic but then he turns around and acts like a spoiled child, a cunning and very dangerous spoiled child. There is a twist near the end of the book that made me raise my eyebrows on the theological front but other than that the plot had great potential in the plausibility of the musing on and exploration of how the events of Lucifer’s fall as recorded in Isaiah and Revelation COULD have played out.

Content – Grade B

This book is about a war in heaven and it involves fallen angels and HOW they became that way so violence is to be expected. However, the final battle is quite drawn out and there is a LOT of blood flying and spurting through the air. This combined with the graphic picture of hell in the prologue, the various gruesome deaths, and detailed torment made me feel that it was a bit gratuitous in places as far as violence. I know the author is attempting show the harsh reality and the brutality of the fallen angels but it was a step too far for me personally mainly due to the extensive battle.

I wouldn’t say there was sensuality in this book. However, the language at times seemed to be treading in an odd direction of graphic sensuality when describing Hell personified. Such as referring to Hell as behaving like a slut and then Charon who acts as Hell’s Watcher and the embodiment of the Wrath of God is described as screaming in response to a limb being cut off not in pain but in an “orgasmic and masochistic” manner. It was…uncomfortable for me. This is due in part to the fact that sin is just now emerging in the thoughts and hearts of angels and yet Michael is able to supply the above description, which doesn’t really fit into a pre-Fall equation from my personal standpoint.

From a mythology and folklore enthusiast’s point of view, I was intrigued by Neal choosing to name angels after familiar names from various mythological pantheons such as Lilith, Ashtoreth/Astarte, Zeus, Dagon, one fallen angel changes his name to Ares, Minos, Tiamat, Ra, etc. It made sense that angels would share the names and in some cases functions of mythological figures since man worshipped creation instead of the Creator. However, if you aren’t a mythology and folklore enthusiast and aren’t familiar with the mythological pantheon, it could be confusing. Such as with Ashtoreth who keeps being called Astarte and if you didn’t know they were two names for the same mythological figure, I think it would be very confusing.

Technical – Grade D

Unfortunately, the execution of this intriguing book was severely hampered by the technical mishaps. The comma usage is very distracting since there are commas where they shouldn’t be and no commas where they should be. There are also issues with periods, question marks, quotation marks, apostrophes, and even dashes either showing up where they shouldn’t or missing from their proper place. The language used can be very beautiful in some places and the word pictures are often skillfully painted. However, some of the descriptions are jarring and took me right out of the book. There are also a number of cases where typos or homonym errors occur or the phrasing just doesn’t quite work. There is also a very bizarre instance where a long and important section is suddenly in first person when everything else, even other narrative sections by the same character, is written in third person.  I would recommend that the author hire a professional copy editor to finish polishing this book so that the concept is portrayed to its best advantage and then release a revised edition.

Final Grade – C or 3 stars

Overall, I can see the potential in this book. The author has talent and an intriguing take on the possibilities revolving around fleshing out the story of Lucifer’s fall. However, I cannot help feeling this book needed to go through another round or two of editing before it was released and it is a shame that the potential of the book is almost overshadowed by technical difficulties. I’ll be honest that the angel-oriented subgenre of speculative fantasy doesn’t really appeal to me, it is always a hit or miss. This one is right on the line of hit and miss since I can see the potential but I’m not likely to feel compelled to pick up the next four books in this series. I would still recommend this book to mature believers who are fans of Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, and angelic speculative fiction/fantasy. Recommended for ages 18 and up.

The Third Heaven is available through Kindle and paperback.

*Please note I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not paid to provide a positive review. My opinions are my own.

Next Week – The Remedy: Book Two of the Eyes of E’veria by Serena Chase