My complaint is a Calvinistic one. Conversion is a work of God in the heart in which God produces a conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). Without such conviction there is no true repentance toward God and faith toward Christ (Acts 20:21). Burleigh's remorse is over his behavior of the past and the despicable results of that behavior, but it does not come across that he sees himself as a sinner in need of a Savior from that sin. He feels the need to make up for his wrongdoings rather than recognize there is nothing he can do to make up for them and that another must atone for them if he is to have any hope of forgiveness and cleansing.
I know, The Fatal Tree is a work of fantasy, but it is advertised as a Christian work of fantasy. Where is the gospel - the real gospel that you find in Paul whose desire was to boast in nothing but the cross of Christ by whom the world was crucified to him, and him to the world? Who insisted that it is not through keeping the law that one is justified before God (Rom 3:20), but through faith in Christ (Rom 3:22), and that law keeping is a result of salvation rather than the basis of it (Eph 2:10)? Burleigh's behavior does not look like repentance and faith as much as his seeking to fix things for the mess he has made.
The usual objection to this kind of inclusion of the gospel in a novel is that the story will become preachy or soppy or pedantic or confined. It's audience will be limited, and its prospect for publication by a respectable publishing house severely limited.
Well, I would grant the latter although Thomas Nelson is no mean publishing house, and if the gospel were present in the Bright Empires series as I would like to see it, such a publishing house would not for that reason alone turn Lawhead away provided he applied his fabulous writing with a view to work out the gospel at the appropriate places (such as the conversion of Burleigh).
I must say this, that Mr. Lawhead's development of the inner struggle of Burleigh over Etzel's kindness was brilliant. There was nothing artificial in it, or soppy, or preachy, or pedantic. It was simply a magnificent portrait. My point is the same can be done with the gospel where sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can come through explicitly, genuinely, and naturally. I think that often the offense taken with Christian fiction (such as you see in Amazon reviews) has as much to do (if not more so) with the writing as with the message.
This was the final book in the saga. Did it have a satisfying conclusion? Did it draw all the strands together and bring a closure to the tale? Yes and no. We see what the end of the story is for all of the main characters, but I am a little bewildered. Foremost in my mind is Lady Fayth and Giles who are stranded in a time and place from which there will be no way out. They have only each other and there is the happy conclusion of their discovery of mutual love and resulting marriage. If these two meant anything to the reader, the reader began to root for their romance at some point in an earlier book in the series. But if you were like me, you also expected them to have a significant involvement in the final resolution of things. That they did not was disappointing to me.
I would not hesitate to recommend the Bright Empires series to anyone but would caution that the tale is quite convoluted. Nevertheless, if one bears with it, the complexity actually adds to the quality rather than detracts, and provides ample opportunity for the imagination to romp like a child in an amusement park.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
The Fatal Tree (Amazon)
Steven Lawhead's Website
Steven Lawhead's Facebook page