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CSFF Blog Tour, Day 3 – Is God in “The Realms Thereunder”?

February 24, 2012 10 comments

(As part of the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of the book from the publisher).

(There be major spoilers below–beware, you who have not read the book and wish to remain unspoiled!)

Day 3 of the Blog Tour was yesterday, but teaching commitments called, so here’s the quick and dirty assessment of the faith-based aspect of the book.

There isn’t one.

There is no direct mention of a Creator, nor even a strongly allegorical turn of phrase that suggests a higher being.   The closest thing the book comes to a God/Satan dynamic is in the struggled between the old, crotchety wiseman Ealdstan and the tricky, rebellious wiseman Gad.  However, Ealdstan is far too fractious and cynical to embody any sort of Godlike or Christlike figure–if anything, he reads like a war-torn angel who’s been in the battle so long he’s partly forgotten why he’s there.  And, as I mentioned in the previous review, Gad is far too tame and small-time to come close to a Prince of Darkness–if anything he’s more like a disenchanted demon who’s gone off seeking his own glory.  Of course, in both cases the comparisons are immaterial, because I do not believe Ross Lawhead is trying to make them.

Rather than deal with faith-based storylines, the author seems content to spin a basic tale of good vs. evil, using the existing morals and evils embedded within Old English mythology.  This works out well enough within the context of a young adult/adult novel.  I’m certainly not an advocate of forcing preachy themes into a fantasy story.  However, a part of me would have liked higher stakes.  Since the main representatives of good and evil are so weak and petty, I found it hard to buy into any sense of life-and-death urgency.

That being said, Lawhead does include this bit of prose that seems to point towards a belief in the impossible – ie, faith:

“Just because something cannot be proven true doesn’t mean it isn’t true — even if its claim to truth is unlikely.  In fact, it’s more likely an improbable truth would be recorded than a probable one.” (pg 19)

In the scene Freya is arguing with a lecturer at Oxford that Old English mythology is in fact real.  She is bolstered by her first-hand experience as a child with mythological creatures .  Her logic shows interesting parallels to Lucy’s experience in Narnia from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Lucy also faces unbelief from her siblings Peter and Susan, but their seemingly-rational doubt is countered by the logic of the Professor:

 “For instance–if you will excuse me for asking the question–does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?”

“That’s just the funny thing about it, sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.”

“And what do you think, my dear?” said the Professor turning to Susan.

“Well,” said Susan, “in general, I’d say the same as Peter, but this couldn’t be true–all this about the wood and the Faun…”

…“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

In both of these instances, the improbable truth is doubted by the rational mind–for it seems foolishness to believe in a magical land of cursed by eternal winter, or of a forgotten underground realm peopled by brownies, yfelgopes, and sleeping knights of old.  However, within the context of the books, both of these lands are real.

Just as to many, the truth of Jesus Christ is foolishness, for the purely rational mind cannot comprehend true wisdom without Godly intervention:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

   “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; 
   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

  Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 NIV).

May we all be blessed to turn from the world’s “wisdom” and receive the light of God’s holy “foolishness!”

Thank you for joining me on this blog tour.  Stay tuned – exciting things are in store!

Read the Extraordinary.  Responsibly.

(Actually, after reviewing the text, there is another religious presence — Reverend Maccanish, who is trying to preserve his parish from an evil presence that is disturbing their waking and sleeping hours.  Alex Simpson goes to investigate the area, and finds the priest holding a 24-hours prayer vigil in the church.  Alex acknowledges that prayer was the best thing to do, and that the evil from the Realms Thereunder is a spiritual one.  Furthermore, Reverend Maccanish is the one who deals the death blow to a dragon!  A pretty strong showing for a man of faith.  However, in the end it is Alex and Ecbryt who are ultimately the ones Freya and Daniel team up with).

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Other bloggers of insight on the tour:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Marzabeth
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Joan Nienhuis
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1 – Travel to “The Realms Thereunder”

February 20, 2012 7 comments

(In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher).

They say, like father like son. In this case, it is both true and false.

A few months ago, I reviewed “The Bone House“, the second in the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead.  Now I’m reviewing “The Realms Thereunder“, the first in the Ancient Earth trilogy by Stephen Lawhead’s son, Ross Lawhead.

Like the work of his father., Ross Lawhead’s book is speculative fiction.  Both books feature young adult characters thrust into fantastic, unfamiliar worlds. In addition, both books showcase a contrast between honorable and dishonorable characters, and have underlying themes of courage, self-sacrifice, and redemption.

However, that is where the similarities end, for while the Bright Empires series explores the outer stretches of reality and time through multidimensional “ley jumping”, the Ancient Earth trilogy reaches back into British mythology to give an fresh twist on goblins, dragons, elves, and many other legendary creations.

I rarely write my own summaries for book reviews, because someone else with more free time has already done the job well.  In this case, the summary comes from the back of the book itself.

Ancient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days.

The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they’ve seen so far prepares them for what awaits . . . in The Realms Thereunder.

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Whetted your reading appetite so far?  Mine certainly was!  Young Adult/Adult fantasy novels that reboot mythologies are a dime a dozen these days, but few have dared to dive into the past of Merry Old Britain, and even fewer have done so with such skill and gusto as Ross Lawhead.  He skillfully weaves together elements of Old English, knightly lore, fairy tales, and academic lingo into an exciting story with two engaging leads.  However, all is not well within the text–there are a few hiccups that mildly detract from this otherwise fantastical read.

Tomorrow is Part 2: delve deeper into “The Realms Thereunder” – The Good, the Bad, and the Seriously Confusing.

For now, continue to Read the Extraordinary.  Responsibly.

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Check out some other insightful opinions about this book:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
CSFF Blog Tour
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebekah Loper
Marzabeth
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Joan Nienhuis
Crista Richey
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant
Thomas Clayton Booher

Dear Money – Can’t We Be Friends?

February 7, 2012 9 comments

(In my past vocation as an ESL teacher, I’ve taught that there are three things Americans think impolite to bring up in unfamiliar company: politics, religion, and money.  This post is all about the latter, so consider yourself warned).

Once there was a movie called Penelope.  This movie is a modern fairy tale in which a New York blue blood, Penelope, is cursed to have the nose and ears of a pig until she is loved by one of her own.  To try and help the romantic process along, her mother gives Penelope a huge dowry.  This attracts more than a few down-on-their-luck blue bloods, including one Max Campion, a compulsive gambler:

Penelope: “So you’re a fan of the money.”
Max: “I’m a big fan of the money. But it doesn’t seem to like me.”
Penelope: “Well maybe the money and you weren’t meant to be.”

I can empathize with Max in this conversation.

I hasten to say that I am not impoverished. Far from it. I live in a comfortable apartment, have a modest savings account, a sturdy car, and secure employment for the present.  I have access to clean tap water, a free library, and DSL.  I’m certainly among the world’s wealthy elite, and there is no reason to complain.

There always seems to be just enough–and no more. Every month, the budget is drawn up and every section receives it’s due portion. And every month, there is nothing extra. No happy little cushion of dollars for a rainy day, no spare fifties or twenties to ease the mind into a feeling of contentment and self-satisfaction.

Like the Israelites in the desert, I get the manna and quail, sufficient just for the day.

And, like the Israelites, a part of me longs to squirrel something extra away. It can’t be that wrong to want a little more put by, can it? With just a little more, I will be free from worry. With just a little more, and a little more, and a little more after that, all my problems will be solved, and then I can truly be at peace. With just a little more, I can finally focus on giving to others.

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

Using one’s funds with prudence and Biblical stewardship is a good thing. Hanging one’s happiness and ability to trust God on the continual pursuit and production of money is not.

It is time for me to realize that me and the money weren’t meant to be. I’m already in a relationship with an all-powerful Creator provides for me in countless ways and has promised to never leave me or forsake me. Furthermore, He has blessed me with many relatives and friends who give wonderful love and encouragement.

It is not my job to decide when I am ready to use my finances for the glory of God. It is my delightful calling to surrender my finances to the will of God, to follow His lead regarding their distribution, and to love Him above all else.

And be ever thankful that books from the library are free — as long as I return them on time.

For now, continue to:

Read the Extraordinary.  Responsibly.

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Taste of the Fantastical

“Dogs have no money. Isn’t that amazing? They’re broke their entire lives. But they get through. You know why dogs have no money? .. No Pockets.” – Jerry Seinfeld

But what if they did…?


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