Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Shock of Night, by Patrick W. Carr.

  This is the first book of The Darkwater Saga, whose medieval setting is in the twentieth year of King Laidir’s reign. The key figure is Willet Dura raised to minor nobility by Laidir, King of Collum whose citadel is Brunard. Dura served as the king’s reeve and the story begins as he is summoned to investigate the brutal murder of Robin, a guard whose keep was Elwin, a member of one of the religious orders known as the Servants. In an attempt to glean information from Elwin who survived the attack, the Servant pronounces “Domere” upon Dura and expires. From that moment on, Willet Dura is able to delve the minds of all those whom he touches.
  The story unfolds in a tale of Dura’s encounters with the rest of the higher nobles who despise him, a mysterious group known as the Vigil, the four religious orders (Servants, Vanguard, Clast, and Absold), and the menace of Laewan whose minions are those who were once lured into the Darkwater Forest to become his blind followers.
  Willet Dura himself is a survivor of the Darkwater - in a past war, he led a band of warriors into the dreaded forest as a matter of survival against an overwhelming enemy; only Dura escapes, the details of which he is not able to recall and marks him as mysterious and dangerous.
  The singular bright spot in his dismal existence is his betrothed, Lady Gael, with whom he shares an indomitable love. Yet, the prospect of their marriage is increasingly threatened.
  Dura continues his investigation and slowly discovers that there are as many who seek his death as those who are sworn to protect him. As his inquiry becomes more involved, he unearths a plot that threatens the survival of kingdoms and all that he holds dear.

  I grant that the story itself is intriguing and goes a long way in sustaining one’s interest. However, I am quite distraught. One might take issue with its anemic theological world-view (there is an obvious Trinitarian Godhead that corresponds to the Three Persons of the Christian faith) in which little of redemption in this present evil world is artistically dealt with. But that is not what disturbs me. It is the writing itself.
  When I first considered reviewing this novel, I read cursory samplings of some of Carr’s other works, which seemed to hold promise. But I found the writing in this novel to be extremely disappointing. I suspect there are few on this tour, if any, who would agree with me, or at least not to the same extent.

  There is a constant commentary whose purpose, I guess, is to bring the characters to life, but I found to be unrealistic and very distracting. The relentless narrative of body language and facial expressions was simply overbearing: shrugging shoulders, furrowed brows, lips thin, lips tighten, lips quiver, gazes go flat, blossoming anger, blossoming heat, arched eye brows, bile in the throat, chewing the inside of cheeks, faces knotting, standing on the balls of feet, etc. Combined with this were silly metaphors. I catalogued a list of examples, which could have easily been extended. Here are some of them:

p. 46, Invisible hands reached inside my gut and started kneading my stomach like dough.
p. 77, He scowled down at me, his brows meeting over his hooked nose.
p. 77, He spat and growled a curse that could have stripped paint from wood.
p. 78, I gnawed on the inside of my cheek.
p. 112, I felt a trickle of sweat begin to trace an icy path down my spine.
p. 114, My stomach, still queasy, started tumbling in my gut, like an acrobat but not nearly as graceful.
p. 160, His voice rose as the rage trapped behind his eyes broke free.
p. 167, A network of wrinkles radiated out from her mouth, a tight circle at the center of a spider’s web that communicated anger and fear.
p. 170, I could feel the tension in my throat, like lute strings tightened to the breaking point.
p. 172, Uncertainty drained from her like water through the sluice of a dam.
p. 172, She smiled, but her lips imitated the quiver in her fingers.
p. 174, A tremor began in the outer two fingers of his right hand, working its way up his arm until Gael nudged me.
p. 179, A distant rumble of thunder rolled across my hearing like a drummer’s knell before an execution.
p. 206, My stomach collapsed into a hole in my middle, pulling my breath and heartbeat with it.
p. 228, He could feel his eyes trying to start from his head.
p. 232, Cold like the point of a dagger in winter, traced its way through my middle.
p. 238, Anger welled up through my middle, spreading to my arms and legs until the chill from the air faded and my face burned with shame and anger.
p. 260, His eyebrow, as thick over his nose as it was over his eyes, lowered some more.
p. 262, Her brows made half circles over her dark brown eyes.
p. 284, I shook myself like a dog in the rain and stepped behind the barrel.
p. 297, Fear ripped through me like the disturbance of a pebble dropped in a reflecting pool…
p. 309, Her brow lowered, and a vertical line appeared between her eyes.
p. 384, I smiled, forcing my face to don an expression that belied the fear churning in my gut.
p. 399, He eyed Bolt, his dark eyes squinting until they almost disappeared.
p. 401, A giant hand had hollowed out my middle leaving naught but a shell of skin and bones. Spots swam in front of my eyes.
p. 402, Bile built at the back of my throat as more puzzle pieces slipped into place.

Nothing like this is found in the Christian writing that is worthy of emulation (C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Andrew Peterson). Perhaps this is what is being taught at our Christian Writer’s conventions or approved by editors of Christian Fantasy. I hope not.

I received a review copy  from BethanyHouse for this blog tour.

Amazon The Shock Of Night
Author Website

Participant's list:

Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Carol Bruce Collett
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rani Grant
Rebekah Gyger
Bruce Hennigan
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Jennette Mbewe
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas
Robert Treskillard
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

Monday, September 21, 2015

September 2015, Christian Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour

The First Principle, by Marissa Shrock.

After  the Great Collapse and the Second Civil War, the geographical and polical makeup of Canada, Mexico, and the United States was reformed by the Council of World Peacekeepers into the United Regions of North America. Governor Wilkins of the The Great Lakes Regions is about to be nominated for the presidency of URNA, when Vivica, her daughter finds out that she’s pregnant. Term law requires that she abort the child, which Vivica has no problem doing. But she begins to have second thoughts when she is challenged by her boyfriend and father of  the child, Ben to keep the baby. Ben is a Chrisitian, who acknowledges his sin and seeks to make things right between him and Vivica and the baby she is carrying. Keeping the baby would not be an easy task as teen girls are constantly monitored. However, Vivica does have a knack for hacking into networks and modifying information, a skill that has been financially rewarded by those whose school grades were in need of adjustment. She’s able to keep her pregancy test results negative, but she is up against the clock as time is obviously going to reveal something that no hacking skill is going to be able to amend.

Ben’s Christianity is an offense to Vivica, but her continued interest in him, and an almost unwilling acknowledgement of a commitment to protect her baby, keeps her from rejecting it outright. To make matters more complicated, Ben is part of the rebel contingent that is gaining in strength; any commitment to him is to place Vivica in opposition to her mother and the whole naturalist philosophy that dominates the political and social structure of URNA.

Marissa Shrock has written a tale that takes current-day issues and injects them into a future that is teetering between dystopia and eutopia. Vivica has to make some hard choices, any of which is going to place her in opposition to family or friend.

The story is fairly well-written, though there is one thing that I find very annoying – free indirect speech. An occasional use is acceptable, but a steady diet can become very irritating. I do not doubt that I am in the minority on this, but I think it is a cheap, colorless way to peek into someone’s mind and see what is going on. Overlooking that, I am quite pleased with Ms Shrock’s writing.

I suspect that the strong, and at times tract-like (though artful), presentation of Christianity might be a source of consternation for some, but frankly, I think it has its place in Christian literature. If the purpose of a story is to present the Christian faith in a straightforward, head-on manner, The First Principle fills the bill. I suspect that is at least part of what the author had in mind. In concert with that was the subtle and sometimes not so subtle encapsulation of the social issues of today – teen pregnancy, abortion, rationale for abortion, the anti-intellectual charge against Chrisitianity, etc. Some of it may come across as stereotypical and might detract from the story, but regardless, the issues are laid out for the reader. For those who are familiar with them already, they might find the novel one-dimensional. But for the world of teens in which not much thought has been given to the issues, or in which the party-line has been uncritically swallowed, this story is precisely what is needed, and it is in that I find its greatest value.

Not only that, but it was very entertaining. An enjoyable read that I have no problem recommending.

am very grateful to Kregal Publications which provided a copy for this review for the September, 2015 Christian Fantasy and Fiction Blog Tour.

Blog Tour Participant Links:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback 
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas