To Darkness Fled, by Jill Williamson

2012 Book 68: To Darkness Fled, by Jill Williamson (4/28/2012)

Reason for Reading: Second book in a trilogy

My Review 3/5 stars
In this second installment of The Blood of Kings trilogy (first book reviewed here), our heroes Achan and Vrell gather an army with the help of the Old Kingsguard Knights. The romantic tension between Achan and Vrell intensifies. I didn’t feel that this book was as good as the first. The religious message got a bit heavy-handed, and the plot barely moved forward at all. Sure, progress was made, but it was progress that was outlined by Sir Gavin as their “future plans” in the end of the first book. There were only two small plot-thickening events. On the other hand, there was much character development, and the reader becomes very familiar with the setting (i.e. which cities are where, who’s in charge of them, who’s on our side). I was also a little irked by the cliffhanger ending. I’m not a big fan of cliffhangers—I lose my patience with them quickly, especially if the entire series hasn’t been published. Luckily, this series has been published so I was able to start the third (and last) book with only a few grumblings. Despite these shortcomings, I think the story is very good, and the characters are well developed for a young adult novel. I think it may have worked out better had Williamson shortened the trilogy into ONE book, and edited out a lot of stuff. I realize editing is hard, but there’s really only enough plot for one book! Maybe the third book will thicken the plot a bit more, though. 🙂

The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels

2012 Book 66: The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels (4/24/2012)

Reason for Reading Am interested in reading a few of Pagels’ books, and I thought this was the best place to start

My Review 4/5 stars
Pagels objectively introduces the subject of the Gnostic Gospels—she describes the history of the texts, some basic differences between Gnostic beliefs and Orthodox beliefs, and then summarizes by saying that Christianity would have developed quite differently (or perhaps even fizzled out like other mystic fad religions) if Gnosticism had survived. She supports neither Orthodoxy or Gnosticism in this book, but provides an objective historian’s view on the two faiths. This is a fantastic introduction to Gnosticism, and it lacks the sensationalism of many Gnostic scholars today. Highly recommended.

The Book of Mormon, by Joseph Smith

2012 Book 52: The Book of Mormon, by Joseph Smith (3/22/2012)

Reason for Reading: I like to read scripture books from a variety of religions because I am interested in how they compare and what sort of message they relay. This book was given to me by a couple of Mormon elders who knocked on my door last year. “Elder,” by the way, means that they were 20 year old boys who weren’t allowed to enter my home without having an older male as an escort because apparently I am a threat to their innocence. Ah! I feel so sophisticated now! The fact that the escorts were meant to protect THEM and not me. 😉

My Review 3/5 stars
Although I think it’s a good idea to educate oneself on other religions (especially those religions which have an undeserved bad reputation), I’m not sure reading the Book of Mormon is the best way to learn about LDS. It was dense, difficult reading. It starts out with some wanderings in foreign lands, then they have lots of wars, then Jesus comes and saves them all, then they have a bunch more wars. Half the sentences begin with “And it came to pass that…” There are some passages of uplifting spirituality, but these passages were few and bogged down by a lot of unexciting depictions of war. Personally, I think the best way to learn about LDS is to talk to some missionaries and THEN (once you’ve gotten a good idea of what the religion is about) read the Book of Mormon if you’re still interested. But that’s just my humble opinion.

Prophet, by R. J. Larson

2012 Book 48: Prophet, by R. J. Larson (3/14/2012)

Reason for Reading: LibraryThing Early Reviewers

My Review: 4/5 stars
Ela Roeh’s life is turned upside down when The Infinite asks her to become his prophet. She must leave her family, her country, and everything she knows in order to travel to pass on the Infinite’s message to a foreign king. She shows amazing strength of character when she is embroiled in politics and war. This book is Christian Fiction, and is probably meant for young adults; however, despite Ela’s youth, she has the maturity of an adult. The message can be a bit strong (which is understandable given that it is published in the Christian Fiction market) but it’s not preachy, and the message flows pretty smoothly into the plot. Furthermore, the plot is exciting and intriguing enough to keep me curious about what was going to happen. Overall, I think it was an excellent addition to the Christian Fantasy genre and should be enjoyed by the general fantasy audience as well.

A History of the End of the World, Jonathan Kirsch

2012 Book 45: A History of the End of the World, by Jonathan Kirsch (3/10/2012)

Reason for Reading: Out of a vague interest in eschatology. And by that, I mean I’m interested from a sociological point of view why everyone is so fascinated with the end of the world.

My Revew 3.5/5 stars
This book surveys how the Book of Revelation has influenced culture throughout time. It provides a basic idea of how apocalyptic rhetoric has been used and developed with time. However, I didn’t learn much history from this book. In fact, Kirsh mostly assumes that the reader is either familiar with the history or willing to look up the interesting bits elsewhere. It is also very dense, since much of the text is direct quotes or paraphrases from other writers. Kirsch has a strong bias against apocalyptic rhetoric, and his book implies a direct influence of Revelation on pretty much everything bad that has ever happened. Personally, I think the case is over-stated. Apocalyptic rhetoric certainly impacts everyone’s lives in the same way as Shakespearian rhetoric does, but Kirsh implies a more active influence. I had the uneasy feeling that Kirsh was quoting people out of context; and I noticed one time he left important facts out of a historical example, thus misleading the reader. Kirsh also has a distinctly un-Christian leaning (I’m GUESSING he’s a secular Jew), and his views might offend conservative or fundamentalist Christians. Overall, I’m happy I read the book because it provided a broad survey. But I’d like to read others to get a more in-depth look at specifics.

Shadows: Book of Aleth, by Michael Duncan

2012 Book 43: Shadows: Book of Aleth, Part 1, by Michael Duncan (3/3/2012)

Reason for Reading: This was my book club choice for this month. I am in charge of the discussion for the month so I have no choice but to read it! 😉

My Reveiw 4/5 stars
When Aaron, Captain of the Royal Guard, is given a mission to retrieve a stolen book by any means necessary he doesn’t question his orders. He soon finds that not all is as it seems. He becomes embroiled in the politics of Dwarves, a race of men he believed were fairy tales. He must lead a mission to retrieve the Book of Aleth and to discover the truth. I was pleasantly surprised by this allegorical fantasy of the Christian Fiction genre. The epic fantasy story was original enough to capture my attention and the writing was smooth and enticing. The religious message is present but subtle, which to me is a sign of a good writer. (I hate being beat over the head with a Message.) The book DID end with a cliff-hanger, but I guess I was expecting that based on the term “Part 1” being in the title. So I was only a tiny bit irked. (I think books should have a natural ending…even in series.) Other than that quibble, I was very pleased.

By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson

2012 Book 39: By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson (2/27/2012)

Reason for Reading: Was wondering what a Christy Award winner was like. I’m pleased.

My Review: 4/5 stars
Achan has grown up in a medieval-esque village as a lowly stray and his future seems bleak when a head-strong knight illegally begins to train Achan as his squire. The lord of the village is angered, and Achan is punished by having to guard the nasty, abusive prince on a trip to the capital city. While traveling, Achan runs into many difficulties—including Vrell, a rather effeminate “boy” who is actually the prince’s chosen bride-to-be in hiding. Vrell and Achan must learn to trust one another, while at the same time taming their sharpening their blood-voices. This book is Christian young adult fiction, so it has a reasonably subtle religious theme. It is the first book in a trilogy, and it had a cliff-hanger ending, but luckily for me the whole series has been published. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story—even though the characters aren’t perfect and sometimes I wanted to pound them over their heads for their obtuseness, they ARE teenagers after all and are really quite endearing. The book started out slow, but I was really into it after the first 50 or so pages. It was getting really interesting at the end, right when it ended. Ah! Cliffhangers!