Book Review: The King’s Shadow

King's Shadow, The

“You, Shadow!” the slave master shouted, as though Evyn were deaf as well as dumb. Laughter erupted behind him. “Shadow” was what they called dogs or horses. Evyn burned with shame. Uncle Morgan had even stolen his name.

Young Evyn is a Welsh serf in the 11th century. His life is turned upside down when his uncle betrays him and his father, leaving his father dead and Evyn a mute orphan. The uncle then sells Evyn into a life of slavery and pockets the money to repay a debt. Evyn becomes Shadow, a often mistreated and sometimes pitied slave boy. But his fortunes begin to change when he learns to read and write. He becomes a squire to Earl Harold and in time, the two become close friends. When Harold is crowned king, he makes Evyn his foster son. It’s a bond that will throw Evyn into the middle of two of the greatest battles of his time.

It’s funny how some books fade from your memory within a week of reading them, while some linger for years. The King’s Shadow is one that has lingered. I read it in 2008, yet I still remember feeling furious at Uncle Morgan and deeply sympathetic towards Evyn.

What’s your favorite time period to read about? Do you like any other books set in the 11th century?

Reposted from March 28, 2014

Glow Stick Gospel Project

Hello everyone! I’m still planning more Blades of Acktar posts, but I’ve been busy with a few other projects this week. My brother and I have a tradition of handing out Bible tracts before 4th of July fireworks each year. This year we discussed getting a little more creative with our firework evangelism and this is what we came up with!

1

2

Here’s the website to go along with the postcard track shown above.

If you like the idea, feel free to print copies of the tract for your own use. (And let me know if you find any typos!)

Brandi: A Light in the Darkness

Thirteen year old Brandiline Faythe bubbles a zest for life, and–according to her older sister–is the only person capable of making drooling and snoring adorable. She’s a rare type of person in both fiction and real real life–irrepressible, compassionate, and seemingly fearless even when she’s afraid.

Light in the Dark

“Would you like me to tell you a story?” Brand cocked her head at him.
He nodded. Another minute and his sense of duty might’ve banished his hesitation.
“There once was a boy named Daniel. He and his three friends were captured by an evil king and taken far from their home.”

Despite being the youngest lead character, Brandi might be the mentor character of this story. Though Renna, her older sister, makes the decision to tend to Leith’s injuries, it’s Brandi who refuses to hide their faith from him.

Her actions are far from practical. Every prayer made in front of the Blade, every Bible story told is an illegal action that Leith is duty bound to report to the king. Brandi isn’t ignorant of this fact. She’s old enough to remember her parents’ deaths and old enough to understand the king needs little provocation to order her death, yet something causes her to push that reality away and plow (or bounce) forward.

Naively Shining

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? –Romans 10:14

Leith is a young man who has had little opportunity to hear any sort of good news, much less the Good News of the gospel. While the older members of her family worry about the harm Leith might bring to them and fear giving him too much information to use against them, Brandi sees a soul in need of a gospel and a friend in the making. To assume friendship with a trained killer–one who assisted in killing members of her own family– is a naive perspective, but it keeps Brandi’s light burning openly while her more logical sister struggles to avoid hiding her light completely.

Brandi smirked as if she didn’t care he knew enough to get her killed. “And you know the first few chapters of Daniel. We’re up to Daniel 5. Would you read it tonight, Uncle Abel?”

Lessons from Brandi

Love is Genuine. This is what made Brandi’s love stand out to me. When the Bible says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” I usually think of the obedient good-deeds Renna portrayed. She took in the enemy and tended his wounds, but she did it with one eye open and battled the wish that her care wouldn’t be effective.

I don’t know about you, but if someone has wronged me I find it much easier to be civil than to bubble compassion. Sometimes our human nature can only follow God’s directions in obedience–like Renna–while praying for Him to help us trust Him more fully. However, there is no denying that there is something beautiful about pure, genuine love, and when that sort of love is shown to someone like Leith–an enemy–it’s something only God could orchestrate.

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. —Corrie Ten Boom on Forgiveness

Love is Bold. Boldness is defined as not being hesitant or fearful in the face of actual or possible danger. The wisdom of the world says to watch out for #1, otherwise known as self. Love isn’t all about looking out for yourself, though.

Around five years ago I was standing in the hallway of the nursing home my grandmother lived in when one of the ladies asked to pet my dog. I knew the lady pretty well. She had big glasses, a big voice, and always wanted to exchange greetings. On this particular day, she gave my Sheltie her usual brief pat then looked me in the eye and said, “Leah, do you love me?” The question took me totally by surprise. I hesitated, my brain racing. Did I love her? I didn’t mind saying hello and bringing my dog over for a brief visit, but did love require more than that. I finally managed an awkward, “Sure I do.”

That incident replayed in my mind for weeks. I wished I had responded instantly and confidently. This was a lonely woman who had never given me a reason to dislike her. I enjoyed older folks and besides, I was a Christian called to love those around me. After that encounter, I prayed that God would give me a love for her and a ready response if anyone asked me the same question in the future. “Yes, I love you. And so does God!”

Brandi reminded me of that incident because she defaults to bold love. I want to me more like that!

Love … Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. –1 Corinthians 13:7

Love is Risky. Think of the love demonstrated in the Bible. Jesus didn’t come to earth thinking that obeying God might lead to His death. He knew it would. That was the whole point. And he did it willingly, pouring himself out in service to the very people who would shout for his death.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

There are never any guarantees that your heart won’t get broken. There’s no guarantee that people you look up to and trust won’t make mistakes or turn out to be far different than you thought they were. And I guess that’s the crux of it all. Love isn’t born out of a confidence in humanity, it’s born out of a trust in the goodness of God and the superiority of His ways.

Brandi met her gaze with her blue, trusting eyes. “I’m not afraid.”
“You should be.” Renna hung her head.
Her sister’s voice dropped into a whisper. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Love is genuine, bold, and risky? What other qualities does Christian love have?

 

Series Review: The Blades of Acktar

Last weekend I plunged into the world of Acktar and finally came up for air three books later. I’m not sure why I took so long to heed my friends’ raving reviews of this series! Since I read all three book in one week, I thought I’d do a series review instead of doing each book separately.

Acktar Series

Leith Torren knows much of the world’s darkness and little of the light. Since childhood, he’s been trained as an assassin. He’s good at his job. When a mission goes wrong because of a young teammate’s indiscretion, Leith’s life almost ends. Wounded and trapped in a blizzard, he stumbles upon Stetterly Manor and finds inexplicable compassion at the hands of girls he helped orphan. It’s his first taste of Christ’s love.

I loved so many things about the first three books in this series. In my reader’s heart, characters are king, so my first loves in these books are Leith, Brandi, Renna, Shad, and Jamie. Tricia does a great job of bringing them to life. Each character has a distinctive personality, struggles different from any of the others, and strengths that propel them to heroism. In fact, certain things about each character intrigued me enough that I’m planning a series of blog posts highlighting different members of the Blades of Acktar cast.

One word of caution. When you sit down to start this series (when, not if), choose a night you can start reading early. Otherwise you’ll stay up too late and be sleep deprived the following day!

Author Interview: Sandra Orchard

Remember I promised you a cool interview with Sandra Orchard? Here it is! Sandra was kind enough to follow through with this interview even though she was on her way to be with her grandson who had an extremely serious accident. (Check out her Facebook page to learn how to pray for little Jed.)

If you missed my review of Sandra’s novel, A Fool and His Monet, check it out now!:)

Sandra Orchard Banner

If I was going to write a mystery, the art crime specialty division wouldn’t be the first thing I reached for! What made you aware of/interested in writing about it?

I read a newspaper article about the detective who founded Montreal’s art crime unit, which led me to research the FBI’s Art Crime Team and read the biography of its founder. I sensed immediately there was lots of fodder for potential mysteries. I’ve even read a couple of biographies and blogs of (former) art thieves.

What’s your favorite thing about museum-quality art and why?

The sense of stepping back in time and experiencing a different era or ethos.

What non-fiction (or fiction!) book(s) would you recommend to someone who wants to learn more?

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures 
by Robert K Wittman.

There are many others, but that is a good place to start.

If Serena time-traveled to the civil war, what role do you think she’d play in the war?

Hmm, she’d probably be a spy or scout.

What else would you like readers to know about yourself and your Serena Jones books?

My next Serena Jones novel, Another Day, Another Dali, is dedicated to my grandson Jed who inspired a character in the book. That dedication was written long before the tragic accident that recently left him struggling for survival. Prayers for his recovery would be greatly appreciated. The novel releases in October.

A great big ‘thank you’ to Sandra for being here today. I’m going to have to check out that book she recommended! What about you? Do you enjoy art? Does the idea of being an art crime detective intrigue you?

Book Review: A Fool and His Monet

Fool and His Monet, ASpecial Agent Serena Jones is trying to calm her jittery nerves following a painting recovery when she receives a panicked call from her best friend. Two valuable paintings are missing from the storage vault at the museum her friend works for. Serena dives headfirst into the mystery. Getting the paintings back to the museum turns out to be a tall order. The trail is months cold, and Serena has big distractions–like a stalker who might be trying to take her out and a slew of guys trying to impress her.

I purchased this book on a whim. Usually I dismiss anything art related, but I recently spent a week going to museums with a friend of mine who loves art. After several days of geek outs over Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh, I couldn’t help but noticed this book at a local homeschool conference. It took me a chapter or two to orient myself when I started reading. I don’t read a ton of mysteries, and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of Serena’s quirky commentary on life. Turns out, it’s Serena’s unique perspectives that make this story delightful. She’s tough without loosing her femininity, observant, and delightfully clueless about guys.

If you enjoy lighthearted, quirky, fast-paced mysteries, this is a no-brainer for your to-read list.

DSCN1503

One of the galleries at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Stay tuned for an interview with author Sandra Orchard.

P.S. Please take time to pray for Sandra’s grandson who had a bad accident and is fighting for his life.

How to Help the Hurting (Lessons from Samara’s Peril)

The Hurting Hero

It’s no secret that I’m a complete pushover when it comes to mistreated people (real and fictional). My brother read Resistance before me. When I started it, he told me he already knew who my favorite character would be–Jace. He was right.

Help the Hurting

The sympathy that fictional characters stir in me has played a large role in shaping my passions. As a twelve-year-old who spent the majority of the summer with her nose in a book, my thoughts and pretend games often revolved around how I would help the characters in my latest story–the lonely orphan, the bullied school kid, the frightened immigrant, the ill-treated slave.

Imagination Grows Up

People often think their imaginations dry up as they transition to adulthood, but maybe they just mature with us. Obviously my brain hasn’t stopped fantasizing over helping fictional people (it’s an author thing). However, I can now use abstract thinking to move that inspiration into the real world.

Jace spends much of Samara’s Peril hurting. He sinks into depression. He battles loneliness. His past haunts him. Jace is fictional, but his struggles are not.

Fictional Spark. Real Action.

I love how persistent Kyrin and Rayad are in loving Jace. Even when he pushes them away and causes them pain, they refuse to let him struggle alone. I love them as characters because of the way they care for others.

What can we do when we close the last page, return to our bedroom from a land of fantasy, and think with a happy sigh, “I want to hug Jace. I want to be like Kyrin and Rayad.”? Just ask yourself, “Who do I know who is depressed, anxious, lonely, scared? How can I love that person?

A Few Ideas

Kyrin nodded and wiped her cheeks as she rose. “Come on. I know it’s hard, but you must eat. You need the strength.” She held out her hand.

Jace gazed at it a moment, and then took it, the warmth and connection like a lifeline to his battered heart. She helped him up and did not let go for a long moment before turning and leading the way downstairs.

Loving doesn’t have to be extravagant or difficult. It doesn’t have to achieve want we want it to (more on that in a moment). It’s all about being aware, attentive, and genuine. Love tells people, “You are not invisible. You are not just part of the crowd. I see you as a unique individual–made in the image of God–and it is my joy to invest moments of my life into yours.”

If you’re at a loss for how to reach out, here are some quick ideas.

  • Send a note. Handwritten letters are always special (especially to older people), but if penmanship is not your forte or your schedule barely allows you to breathe, don’t despair. A quick email to say, “I’m thinking of you” or to ask, “How can I pray for you?” is sure to brighten anyone’s day.
  • Listen. At a missionary conference I recently attended, one missionary lady said that missionary kids and their families crave for people to listen to them. She said that the lack of shared commonality makes many people uncomfortable with simply listening, but their quickness to interrupt can make missionary families keenly aware of their own struggle to fit in. The art of listening is a wonderful way to show you care.
  • Spend Time Together. Nothing reinforces loneliness like watching other people rush around with “things to do and people to see,” while not having anyone to rush with or to. Sometimes the best gift is a phone call, an invitation to come over to play board games, or an hour spent hovering over two cups of coffee that would have been cheaper to make at home.
  • Send a Package. This is one of my favorite things (both to send and receive). There’s something about receiving a random package full of goodies that creates a sense of wonder. Several friends and I once figured out how many love languages a letter or packages speaks to. A package obviously touches a person who feels loved through receiving gifts. The time put into into preparing it speaks to a person who is loved through quality time. The servant’s heart behind (and perhaps practical items in) the package can warm the heart of a person who is loved through acts of service. The words in a note and the personalization of the package shows affection to the person loved through words of affirmation. If you want to stretch it to include all five love languages, you could even say that the tangible nature of a letter and package is the closest thing you can get to physical touch without being there in person.

Only God Can

One of Kyrin’s deepest pains is that she can’t get through to Jace. She doesn’t want him to hurt, but her love can’t penetrate his despair. In the same way, we may not be able to help our hurting friends to the extent we want to. One of my friends wrote the following quote into a book she’s working on…

As I mentioned above, love doesn’t have to achieve what we want it to. Results shouldn’t determine our behavior. Our role is to be obedient to God‘s calling–which includes courageously loving those around us. He is the only one with the power to heal souls, and He is mighty to save. Which brings me to a final way to help.

  • Pray.  God is the only one who can give true healing, so bring the lonely, depressed, and anxious to Him in prayer.

Can you think of anyone you know who has needs similar to those of a fictional character you wish you could help? Can you add more practical ways to show love to my list?

P.S. The graphic for this post has subtle relevance for readers very familiar with Jace’s story. Any idea what it is?

Author Interview: Samara’s Peril

Samara's Peril Tour BannerWhen I received the invitation to be part of the Samara’s Peril blog tour, I submitted my author interview questions and waited eagerly to receive Jaye’s replies. I really wanted to know which characters she’d pick to play which roles in her wedding!

Jaye L Knight

What did writing Samara’s Peril teach you about life?

Actually, I think it was more the opposite—that life taught me how to write Samara’s Peril. The last several years of my life have had quite a few ups and downs. There’s been a lot of emotions to deal with. But the one thing I’ve learned through all of that is to really cling to faith, no matter how painful it is. So much of Ilyon Chronicles was born out of these emotions and struggles, especially with my main character, Jace. He really sinks into despair in this book, yet it’s when he reaches his lowest that he finally finds the hope he’s always looked for. That is often true in life.

Clinging to faith and trusting God no matter what is something I’ve been learning lately too. It’s encouraging to see that struggle (and the benefits of it) play out in characters’ lives!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give people about pushing through hard times–especially as a writer, but for other things too.

Never give up or lose faith. I know, it is so easy to do, and there are times where you don’t really want to care anymore, but even if you slip, keep hanging on. This can be applied to both life and being a writer. Being a writer is scary. You bare your soul for anyone to see and might get crushed a little sometimes, but keep pushing forward. With every book I’ve ever published, including Samara’s Peril, there are inevitably times I start to worry it’s not good enough—that I’m not a good writer. That can be really hard, but just keep going.

Hmm. I admit this question was largely for myself because I’ve been struggling to make progress on the sequel to Counted Worthy. I’m going to have to take this to heart!

If the characters of Samara’s Peril were going to be in your wedding, what roles would they play?

Good question. Well, supposing my fiancé (are you out there anywhere?😉, was cool with anything I chose, Jace and Kyrin would definitely be part of my wedding party. Kaden too. Meredith would be the flower girl, and I would definitely have Talas and some of his crete friends do the music.:) Lenae would probably be in charge of the food. Oh, and I would have Timothy do the ceremony.

Meredith is so perfect to be the flower girl!❤

In upcoming books, which character’s personality arc are you most looking forward to?

Daniel!😀 He gets a whole storyline dedicated to him in book four, so I’m really looking forward to sharing that. Also, Jace, of course. He changes a lot in Samara’s Peril, but it doesn’t stop there. I love watching him continue to grow throughout the series.

Oooh! My brother and I have been hoping for Daniel to get more screen time.

Don’t Forget To Enter The Giveaway!

Samara's Peril Giveaway

Enter Here