Independent Author Spotlight: Joseph Macolin0’s The Birth of Death

The Birth of Death by Joseph Macolino is a fantasy novel in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. It has enough common fantasy aspects to seem familiar with enough that’s new and different to make it original.

The Good

Macolino does an excellent job with world creation, and he doesn’t spend too many words to do so. Part of that is most readers are familiar with elves and centaurs, but even the less familiar peoples are quickly understood and grasped. If the reader gets confused, there is a glossary to help.

The author also developed characters to a reasonable depth. The four main characters, an elven couple, a centaur, and a cat-like creature are all multi-faceted, and the reader can understand the nature of each and empathize with each. The heroes are not overly perfect.

Macolin0 also handles action sequences well, particularly the battle and fight scenes. He describes the movements of each participant without slowing down the action of the fight. In general, the plot flows well, and the book is a good length.

The Meh

Some scenes take too long. For example, a large number of words go into an elf making a salad. Descriptions of beautiful female characters were overwrought. Readers who don’t like too much gore or violence may find the battle sequences overdone.  Occasionally, the plot stutters so to speak. In the final battle sequence, there is a change of circumstance affecting the main supernatural hero, the Avatar, that doesn’t quite make sense to me. Some areas need editing.

The book touches on several themes that are left open. These topics are authority and tyranny, community and individuality, government control and liberty, collectivism and free markets, dependence and personal responsibility.

Analysis

The book is part of a series, and I am sure many of these themes will be developed further if the close of this book is an indication. The book is a good read. A fantasy reader looking for a new series to start may find a good one here.

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Independent Author Spotlight: The One Who Sees Me by Kandi J. Wyatt

The One Who Sees Me by Kandi J. Wyatt is a fictional retelling of the story of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, in the Bible. In this story, the name is Faru, and the setting is medieval times.

Strengths

The writing is concise with few wasted words. The plot moves along well. Though this is not the kind of book that I would usually read, it kept my interest. The author tells the story in the third person from the perspective of Faru, who represents Hagar from the biblical story. This point of view creates an interesting angle that those familiar with the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, and Ishmael from the Bible likely have not considered. No characters are unsympathetic except perhaps a couple of minor characters. Many who have read the Bible miss the fact that Hagar had a measure of belief and that God made promises to her about her son and descendants.

Biblical?

Fictionalized is the key word to remember. The flow of the story and the major events of the story are faithful to the Biblical account. Faru has a love interest outside of Abraham in the story, which the Bible does not present Hagar as having. Faru’s relationship with this man never moves beyond deep friendship though the tension is there. The plot device works to make Faru a more sympathetic character.

The impression of Lady Cwen, who represents Sarah in this story, is often negative, but not unsympathetic. Since the story is from Faru’s perspective, this fact is not surprising in the story, but some familiar with the Bible story may take offense.

The book does not make any profound or unusual theological claims. Faru develops faith in the Existing One, who is compassionate and full of grace, but also just and wrathful toward sin. The author does not present the Gospel, though faith is presented as a requirement to have a relationship with God

Conclusion

The One Who Sees Me is a well-written retelling of the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. If one doesn’t get stuck on the differences between the retelling and the Biblical story, it is enjoyable. However, I highly recommend reading the original rendering in the Bible.

(Full disclosure: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to give a positive review.)

A Review of Rachelle Dekker’s The Calling

(Note to Readers: Those who follow me know I write a lot of book reviews, mostly on books related to theology or Christian history. You may be wondering why I would consider a novel. For one thing, I enjoy stories particularly sci-fi, historical fiction, and Southern fiction. If you think those are weird combinations, you should see what music I have on my iPod. Also, I am currently reading books related to politics, apologetics, church history, and autism not to mention studying Spanish and writing a prospectus for a Ph.D. dissertation. Plus I have to work. A novel now and then makes a good diversion.)

The Calling cover

 The Calling by Rachelle Dekker (yes, that Dekker family) is the second book in the Seer series. The Choosing was the first. The series’ setting is a dystopian world where the Authority runs the city under a legalistic religion and system that locks people into social classes and vocations. The Choosing told the story of Carrington, and The Calling picks up a year and a half later focusing on her husband, Remko, who leads the Seers when Aaron, their spiritual leader, is not around, which is most of the time. The Seers are those who have escaped the City to follow Aaron with his message of faith in the Father and surrender. In this book, Remko struggles with fear and failure that challenges his journey toward faith and surrender.

pic_full_Dekker_Rachelle

 The Good

 Reviews of The Choosing raise questions about Dekker’s development of individual characters. If The Calling is any indication, Dekker chooses which characters she will develop. The story is told mostly through the eyes of Remko. Interviews with Dekker indicate that she was very conscious of being a woman writer seeking to speak through a male character. She does an excellent job of capturing the masculine voice and the masculine reaction to insecurity and fear. Carrington remains an important character that continues to develop through the book. Damien Gold is the villain, but he is not one-dimensional. Dekker is excellent at developing the characters that are essential to the story. In the third novel of the series, I suspect that the author will give deeper insight into more of the people in the first two novels.

 The dystopian world is developed well and convincingly dystopian. It has a lot of similarity to the worlds of other recent dystopian novels, which may irritate readers looking for something new. The world may seem unoriginal, but the book has an original plotline.

The Meh

 The action was uneven through the book. If you are looking for a book with constant action, this book may not be for you. The pattern for most of the book was action followed by a lull as the character developed, which was followed by action and another lull for character development, on and on. I can say by the last quarter of the book, the action and plot have the reader hooked.

The Theology

As a Christian novel, some attention has to be given to the books message. I am not of the belief that all Christian fiction has to present an evangelistic message with the result that every Christian novel serves as an evangelistic tract. However, in The Calling, Remko does experience a conversion, and examining the message surrounding that message in the light of Scripture leads to some mixed conclusions. On the positive side, it is evident that one cannot come to the Father by one’s own efforts. Salvation is by faith alone. It is surrender to the Father. It is spiritually empowered. All of that is positive.

 On the negative side, it is unclear who is the object of faith or what the individual is being saved from. The Father is not entirely described. We assume that He is God the Father of the Bible. However, God the Son does not figure in the book. Atonement for sin is an absent concept. In fact, sin, as rebellion against God, is absent. The book mentions being free from earthly moral standards, but it is unclear if the Father has any moral standards. Conversion involves faith, but repentance is missing. People are set free from their human fears and shortcomings to find their true selves, their true identity in the Father. What that means remains unclear other than that it results in peace. Is it self-actualization or is it restoration to an Eden-like relationship with God such as the eternal life described in John 17:3?

 Overall Analysis

 As a novel, this work is good enough. The plot keeps one reading, and the characters are compelling. The writing is solid. Regarding message and theology, I have questions but would reserve final judgment until I know more about the author and loose ends that remain in the series.

 (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from Tyndale publishers in exchange for a review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review.)