Book Review: The Door Within

*Reposted Review: First posted August 10, 2012*

“What can I do?” Aidan pleaded. “I can’t fight. I even had a middle schooler beat me up once.”

Aidan is upset about his family moves. Lonely and restless, he ventures into his Grandfather’s basement in search of adventure. He doesn’t expect scrolls to magically appear, but they do. When Aidan chooses to believe what the scrolls say, he becomes part of an adventure bigger than he ever imagined. He enters the land of Alleble, and joins the Glimpses of the realm in a fight against the evil Lord Paragor. Can a teenager from the Mirror Realm save many from death?

Great book! I highly recommend The Door Within and the other two books in the trilogy. I read all three of them in a week! The Door Within gets off to a little bit of a slow start, but stick with it. It gains momentum through the whole book (you won’t be able to put it down), and the beginning is important in the grand scheme of things. Allegorical components add rather than distract from the story, and there’s no magic to worry about.

Author: Wayne Thomas Batson
Audience: All Ages
Genre: Christian Fantasy
Pages: 311
Publisher: Tommy Nelson

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Book Review: Raising Dragons

Raising DragonsSummary
Arthurian legend meets contemporary fantasy and ties together with an allegorical twist. Billy, the main character, doesn’t know what to do. His struggle with bad breath is getting out of control. It doesn’t just stink, his breath is hot enough to set off the fire detector and sprinkler system in the school bathroom. Billy’s about to learn a secret about his past, make a new friend, and discover an old enemy.

The fact is, Billy is half-dragon. His father is a dragon from the day’s of King Arthur, and took human form to escape renegade dragon hunters that killed good dragons along with the bad. Billy’s new friend, Bonny, is also half dragon. Instead of scalding breath, she has wings she hides in a backpack. Their school principle, a descendant of the dragon hunters, is hunting for them. Billy finds himself struggling to learn to trust God as he tries to stay a step in front of the dragon hunter and come to terms with his father’s identity.

Thoughts
The writing in this story (and subsequent books) is amazing. Bryan Davis keeps the story moving at rip-roaring speed and you never want to put it down. At the end of book one, you can’t get to book two fast enough. That said, books that combine ‘other worldliness’ (i.e. Dragon’s that can turn into humans) with real world (God and salvation) always make me a little uncomfortable. I feel more doctrinally safe in worlds like Narnia that are separate from ours and allow our world’s rules to stay the same while allowing the allegorical stuff to work beautifully in the other world. Maybe that’s just me. In any case, that overlapping of worlds is the only concern I have with these books. On the other hand, dragons, half-dragons, and dragon hunters running around in modern day US and England is kinda fun! 🙂 Also, if you read it, try thinking of the sword Excalibur as a picture of the Bible. I totally missed that parallel my first time through the series and it gives the books a whole new depth.

P.S. Scary content might make this book/series unsuitable for kids under 13.

What do you think of combining real life faith with fantasy elements like dragons?

Book Review: The Royal Ranger

Royal Ranger, The

“I’ve been telling you, Maddie. You are no longer a princess. And you can no longer behave as if you are. You are my apprentice. You are no better than anyone else here in Redmont–Not Jenny, not the stable boy at the castle, not the youngest of the Battleschool apprentices.

“On the other hand, you are no worse than any of those people either. You’re an equal among equals.”

Story Synopsis
Will Treaty, now a grown man in possession of just as much fame as Halt, is consumed with a need for revenge. With the person closest to his heart dead because of the actions of an outlaw band, he is determined to hunt down every responsible person and kill them. He doesn’t care what he has to sacrifice to reach this objective. His worried friend and the current ranger commander, Gilan, is on the brink of being forced to expel Will from the ranger corps.

Gilan isn’t the only one with someone to worry about either. Horace and Cassandra (aka Evenlyn) are frustrated and worried about their daughter, Madelyn. Headstrong, spoiled, and a little too full of herself, Maddie seems determined to defy her parents wishes. It’s only a matter of time before she gets herself into significant trouble. Something must be done.

And so it’s decided. It’s time for Will to take an apprentice and for the ranger corps to accept it’s very first female apprentice. Only time will tell the wisdom and effectiveness of the decision.

My Thoughts
From the first rumors about a female ranger’s apprentice, I was apprehensive about this book. The last thing I wanted to see was the well loved characters in this well loved series used to promote a feminist agenda. Or even just to tell a story with feminist overtones. I was pleasantly surprised. The overall concept could be considered feminist, but even if a message of this type was intended, it didn’t take precedence over good story telling. Yay!

The whole story was great. Maddie’s journey from spoiled princess to thoughtful, self-sacrificing ranger was delightful. It reminded me a little of Hugh’s similar journey in Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince. The rest of the story was typical John Flanagan adventure and humor. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed!

Any other Ranger’s Apprentice fans out there?

Book Review: By Darkness Hid

By Darkness Hid

“Come to the stables an hour before sunrise tomorrow. Your training mustn’t interfere with your duties to the manor. Tell no one of this for now. If I decide you’re worthy, I’ll talk to Lord Nathak about reassignment to me.”

Young Achan Cham’s life is worse than that of a slaves. As a stray, he’s the lowest of the low, destined for a life of servitude and degradation. Despite his unpromising future, Achan’s a fighter. When a famous but enigmatic knight shows an interest in training Achan, the young man jumps for the opportunity. Maybe someday he can make something of himself after all. If the strange voices in his head don’t make him insane first.

I read this book early in 2013 and didn’t have any complaints when my brother purchased the other two books in the trilogy. The beginning is admittedly cliched–a slave with dreams of bettering himself and a girl posing as a boy (she’s the other main character). Starts like that never bother me. Especially the slave one. And By Darkness Hid soon leaves any such complaints in the dust. You’ll be drawn into the characters struggle to protect the people they love and tell friends from enemies. And by the end of the book…well, don’t blame me if you can’t wait to buy the next one.

Book Review: The False Prince

False Prince, The

“Hail His Majesty, the scourge of my life,” Conner said to Roden and Tobias as he stomped up the stairs. “I fear the devils no longer, because I have the worst of them right here in my home!”

The Ranger’s Apprentice meets The Prince and the Pauper in this exciting story. Sage, a young orphan boy, has plenty of wit and daring. When Connor, a nobleman with questionable intentions, selects Sage and four other orphans for something special, it doesn’t take Sage long to determine the man’s intentions. The country is on the brink of civil war, enemy nations are poised to attack, and the royal family is dead. Connor needs someone to fill the throne. At the end of their training, one boy will be selected as the false prince. The other boys will be disposed of.

It’s not often I read, much less enjoy, a recently published, secular book. The False Prince was an enjoyable exception. After reading a couple positive reviews from friends, I reserved this book at the library. Once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. While Sage does possess some undesirable traits (i.e. a penchant for theft), he generally exhibits good character qualities. The book as a whole contains no inappropriate content that would make me hesitant to recommend it (refreshing!). I couldn’t wait to get my brother to read it.

Have any of you read The False Prince yet? Does it sound like something you would like?

Guest Book Review: The Princess and the Goblin

Princess and the Goblin, TheOur guest book reviewer today is Emily Ruth. Born 6th of a family of eight, Emily Ruth has been all the way through homeschooling; from birth to graduation. In 2012, she graduated from Grand Canyon University and received her teaching credentials. At this time, she is now acting as a guest teacher in her hometown public school system. From the time she learned to read, Emily has been gorging herself with literature. Some of her very favorite books growing up were “A Little Princess”, “The Crimson Fairy Book”, “The Green Fairy Book”, “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, and all the Austen books she could get her hands on. Enjoy her delightful review of The Princess and the Goblin.
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If a little girl told me she had visited her great-great grandmother in the attic, I wouldn’t have believed her either. Such is the life of the little Princess Irene who lives in a huge mansion on a mountain with her nurse and other such occupants to attend her. For all the eight years of her life, Irene has lived unaware and blissfully ignorant of the existence of the Goblins, a fae race that lives under the mountains. They had lived on the surface, but were banished underground, and due to this, kept a burning hatred for not only humans, but especially the royal line. One rainy afternoon, as Irene is exploring the corridors of the mansion, she gets lost, and discovers a hidden occupant of the attics who introduces herself as Queen Irene, Irene’s great-great grandmother. Soon afterwards, Princess Irene and her nurse, who were out for a walk, are saved from a group of Goblins by a brave peasant boy, Curdie. Irene, now aware of the danger around her, soon starts to show her true noble colors. She is aided by Curdie, who discovers a plot against the kingdom and against the princess’s freedom by the goblins.

Frontpiece of The Princess and the GoblinThis tale is great fun, and there is much entertainment in reading it. The plot is somewhat convoluted, and not as simple as children’s books usually are, even for that day’s standards. The character development, however, is incredibly charming to read. Irene goes from a frightened little girl to a brave princess, and Curdie, who is already quite brave, must learn that things are not always what they seem, and to trust the trustworthy.

This book was written a very long time ago, before children’s books started to include “fantasy” as a genre. At this time, the only fantasies you could get was either in adult novels or stories, such as the fairy tale books that Andrew Lang compiled (another review for another time), or the Arthurian Legends. When George MacDonald came out with his “the Princess and the Goblin”, he was providing the world with the natural next step in children’s literature; and single-handedly reshaped modern children’s literature. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read George MacDonald’s books, and the Chronicles of Narnia and the Hobbit were both influenced by his writings. Thus, however indirectly, many of the fantasy books you read today are influenced by “the Princess and the Goblin”.

Is there a book or an author that you look up to the most for having inspired you towards something you love?

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Book Review: The Light Princess

Light Princess, The

One day [the prince] lost sight of his retinue in a great forest. These forests are very useful in delivering princes from their courtiers, like a sieve that keeps back the bran. Then the princes get away to follow their fortunes.

When the king and queen of a far off country try to keep a wicked relative from their baby girl, the woman curses the child with the loss of gravity. And so it is that the princess grows up without her gravity, both literally and figuratively. Her nurses must be careful not to let her float up to the ceiling. In addition to floating her way through life, the princess can take nothing seriously. She laughs at even the most serious of matters and causes her parents a great deal of concern. The only time she regains her physical gravity is when she swims. It is in the lake that she meets the prince. The prince who will willingly sacrifice… well, telling you that would give away the end of the book, wouldn’t it? And the ending was by far the best part.

I read this book last year after enjoying Sir Gibbie. (Yes, if you follow the link, it’s the abridged version. No rotten tomato hurling please, that’s the version I read because I got it at a book sale. I didn’t even realize it was abridged at first.) Anyway, The Light Princess was the only other George MacDonald book I could find at the library. So I checked it out. I found myself quickly irritated with the princess. I wanted to slap some sense into her head. But something kept me reading, and when I started tearing up during the prince’s sacrifice at the end, I was glad I’d stuck to it. It’s only a little over 100 pages after all.

Any George MacDonald fans out there? What are your favorite books by this author?

New Parent Guide!

LighthouseThis has certainly been a busy week on this blog! As a grand finale, I spent a couple hours tonight making a new parent guide and making the guides available as FREE downloadable PDF files. The new guide is for Speculative Fiction Series. For those of you who don’t know, speculative fiction encompasses fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian and other “weird” fiction. Most (if not all) of the series included in the guide are fantasy, but that may change at some point. If you are interested in the downloadable PDF files, you can find those on the main Parent Guides page. Hope this is helpful to you.