The review of Christian fiction covering the genres of the supernatural, spiritual warfare, military, science fiction, fantasy, mystery and suspense, and edgy, Christian speculative fiction from a Christian/biblical worldview.
A shaken faith. A terrorizing evil. And one dark secret.
As John Brighton is cleaning his church one night, a distressed and frightened man shows up looking for help. John reluctantly decides to lend a hand and as a result, comes face to face with a dark side of spirituality he hardly knew existed.
A young man named Donovan has been possessed by what John assumes can only be a demon. When John learns Donovan and Sean, John's son, are connected, he begins to understand just how close to home this possession hits. And he can’t ask Seth for answers because his son has been in a coma for nearly a year.
Through a dark maze of spiritual warfare and shaken faith, John discovers the accident that placed his son into a coma and led to Donovan's possession is linked to a dark secret he must unravel to not only rid Donovan of the demon, but to save his son's life.
The Guru's Review:
I chose this novel at the author's request to review one or more from his published works. I am glad I chose this one, it has proved to be a wise choice. The reason for choosing was I love the genre of spiritual warfare, especially when it is based on biblical principles and its worldview. The other reason was that I wanted to see if this account of demon possession would be dealt with based on those two previous criteria. Napier succeeds very well here.
Napier does this with flair and even on other aspects of pace, action, characterisation, plot. This is one easy to read novel, well constructed and flows well, the pace has no peaks followed by troughs, just one action scene after the other, that takes the reader on a journey to discover how Donovan became demon possessed, how John's comatose son is involved and why the attempts of Pastor Paul and Cal, Christian "exorcist", are not succeeding spiritually in delivering Donovan from his demonic bondage. However, the action from the second half of the novel has the thrills and action intensified as the plot gears up for its dramatic conclusion.
Napier spends the first half of this novel setting the scene for how John becomes involved in this demonic possession (from the first chapter), how this possession is expressed in and through Donovan, the attempts from Pastor Paul and Cal to deliver Donovan, how John and his wife attempt to piece together the puzzle as to how their son Sean is involved, including why he is comatose. It is also here that we see the true nature of the demonic spirits, their hatred of the human race, especially of Christians, represented by Paul and Cal, their supernatural powers and abilities, foul stench in the area where Donovan is, the cold, frigid, oppressive temperature of the house, a vase floating in mid-air then shattering, magazine pages being fanned out slowly.
Other manifestations include the convulsing of Donovan's body and body parts being slapped against the furniture, arching of his back, having urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control), his teeth chattering, while the demonic spirits, who call themselves the Six vocalise deep-throated growls that become streams of obscenities, with each of the voices alternating with every word. When Cal attempts to get close to Donovan, the spirits controlling him physically attack him by slapping him across the face so violently that blood is drawn and he almost falls back onto the floor but manages to maintain his stance.
These, of course, add tension, suspense and evoke fear in the reader. Normal reaction. This is heightened when all the attempts of Paul and Cal are unsuccessful in using the Word of God, prayer and to deliver and banish the demons from Donovan. Every failed attempt provokes in the reader the question of why this is unsuccessful when the Word is clear that using the Name of Jesus and many other verses together with prayer and fasting are more than enough to exorcise demons from humans. Napier has a reason for this that becomes evident in the second half that springboards the plot to its dramatic and satisfying conclusion. I must confess that I was beginning to lose faith in Napier's ability up to this point that he was basing this novel on Biblical principles and began to wonder if he was adding poetic licence to these. To me, that would have been one big "No No" and would have considered abandoning reading the rest of the novel.
However, just when I was about to do this, I had reached the second half and a twist in plot occurred that had me hooked again. This time, Napier provides the backstory to how Sean and Donovan are involved in the demonic that leads to Donovan's possession. From this point on, the tension and suspense escalate as we learn in intimate details what Sean experiences being comatose, which he summaries as being in a darkness where it was not life, but it was not death either. Sean compartmentalises the dark as his Grandfather's barn, that has two doors, both opened slightly. One he avoids, while the other door has the opposite effect, it is inviting. However, he felt that to understand why he was in the darkness, he had to open the first door and venture through it. And once he did, it was a point of no return.
And it is through this door and in the next chapters, Napier describes the events that led to both Sean and Donovan being confronted with the demonic that led to their possession. It is one creepy tale and my heart was pounding as I read this entire account. The alarming thing that Napier succeeds in doing is describing how easy it is to "invite" these demons into your body/life even if you had not intentionally sought them out. In the case of Donovan, Sean and the other person possessed, Jack, all they had to do was visit a known place of demon worship and that had unexplained, supernatural phenomena and venture in, unarmed, unprepared, ignorant of the existence of the demonic or how an innocent "mocking" of its demonic symbol (pentagram) was enough to have these demons interpret their behaviour as an open invitation for possession.
Once Napier is finished with this backstory, Napier lays the foundation for the final confrontation between John, Paul, Cal and the Six. More twists and turns as the latter up their resistance to the Word of God, Paul is spiritually attacked by them causing him to become unconscious. Cal, nearly ready to give up, is given a Word from the Spirit to remain calm, deliverance is nigh and to be patient.
What happens next is where the true Biblical principles come into action and where the Spirit again shows His Sovereignty over everything, in this case, demonic possession and demonic strongholds. Napier shines in his account here. He shows that the reason for the previous failure of Paul and Cal and to a lesser degree John's involvement was the status of their faith and their heart towards God and how unprepared they were to go into combat. It is only through John getting right with God, being prayed up and resubmitting to the Lordship of Christ did the Spirit infill Himself into John for him to be His vessel and the Six having to obey and submit to the commands of the Word of God that flowed forth from John via the Spirit and were banished from Donovan and Sean. Even the Six released there was something different about John that was not there before when they would taunt and weaken his faith. They now began to feel threatened and insecure about their victory in possessing Donovan and Sean. John delivered the Rhema (specific Word of God or Bible verse) he had received from God to the Six and this was successful in banishing them to where they belong and freeing Donovan. So it is the power of the Word and the Spirit that conquered the demonic possession over Donovan. I was pleased that Napier used two of my favourite Bible verses to show the authority we have from God to overcome demonic power,
I have given you the authority to trample snakes and scorpions and to destroy the enemy’s power. Nothing will hurt you. (Luke 10: 19, God's Word Translation)
For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11, Broadman Holman Translation)
I wondered about the spiritual attack on Pastor Paul and what happened there, but Napier explains yet another defence against the demonic that is not just specifically against the deliverance against demons but is for everyday life and that is the Armour of God,
10 Finally, receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength. 11 Put on all the armor that God supplies. In this way you can take a stand against the devil’s strategies. 12 This is not a wrestling match against a human opponent. We are wrestling with rulers, authorities, the powers who govern this world of darkness, and spiritual forces that control evil in the heavenly world. 13 For this reason, take up all the armor that God supplies. Then you will be able to take a stand during these evil days. Once you have overcome all obstacles, you will be able to stand your ground.
14 So then, take your stand! Fasten truth around your waist like a belt. Put on God’s approval as your breastplate. 15 Put on your shoes so that you are ready to spread the Good News that gives peace. 16 In addition to all these, take the Christian faith as your shield. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Also take salvation as your helmet and God’s word as the sword that the Spirit supplies.
18 Pray in the Spirit in every situation. Use every kind of prayer and request there is. For the same reason be alert. Use every kind of effort and make every kind of request for all of God’s people. 19 Also pray that God will give me the right words to say. Then I will speak boldly when I reveal the mystery of the Good News. 20 Because I have already been doing this as Christ’s representative, I am in prison. So pray that I speak about this Good News as boldly as I have to. (Ephesians 6: 10-20)
Paul states that yes, he was attacked but what protected him was this spiritual armour of God, it protected him from the spiritual effects of this demonic attack. He suffered physical effects without these being permanent and spiritually unaffected. Such is the power of the Armour of God.
There are only two concerns I have about this novel and it does not concern the theology of this tome. The first is the numbers that the Six were repeating over and over to John and company. Once John had finally worked out what they meant, I could not see what relevance they had to the story or why the Six were repeating them. But this did not detract from the plot or alter the outcome. The only point to this plot discrepancy was that it led John and Maggie to consult with Sean's girlfriend for more information but that could have been achieved in a much simpler means that through these numbers from the Six.
The other concern I had was no mention is made of what happened to Jack, who was also demon possessed. He is not mentioned at all following their escape from the demonic stronghold and he was the first one showing physical signs of possession.
I am glad that Napier showed another positive outcome of demon possession. It would not surprise me that in reality those affected by seeing loved ones, friends or otherwise who have gone through deliverance who are not Christians or do believe in the Bible become believers and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour following this event, including those who have been possessed. I could be daring and say what more proof do these two groups need to believe the Gospel of Christ after this event? It was so good to see that Donovan's uncle, Bob, see the reality of the situation and where this demonic event comes from and accept the offering of salvation after discussing this whole event with Pastor Paul.
All in all, a very cleverly constructed account of demon possession and the use of Biblical principles to deal with it. Kudos to this author for adhering to these principles on this important spiritual issue.Any poetic licence would just water down its importance and make a mockery of the Sovereignty of God over everything, including the demonic.
Very happy to have been introduced to this author's writing and it won't be the last!
World Building 5/5
Spiritual Level 5/5
Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
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The keepers of the Word continue their battle against the darkness in this sequel to Bruecke to Heaven. Jakob, Arktos, and the rest of the Huguenot force find their victory against General Lucier and his Papal army short lived. Lost in a blizzard, they seek shelter only to find their battle had just begun. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Vaudois massacre, both good and evil, seek to recover and rebuild, but not as you may expect. Each find their road to recovery wrought with life-changing choices. Those who have left their homeland to seek out others to enlist in their cause find a lost civilisation and become embroiled in trying to survive in a world much like their ancestors before them; yet, unlike those forefathers, they have God to see them through. Lastly, we find spirits colliding in a struggle of the light and darkness when a hermit and his wolf make a startling discovery, one that will change the fate of all who call themselves the people of the Vaudois, or the Children of the Light.
The Guru's Review:
This sequel has been highly anticipated and I am so glad has finally here! It was such a joy to read Bruecke to Heaven again in preparation for this. I would suggest anyone do this as this second novel follows so well from the previous. After its cliffhanger ending, you are instantly immersed in the continuing events of the Tron family and other characters.
If any reader considers that Julia, Rebecca, Peter, Marik, Berg, Arktos, Jacob, Anna, Jean Paul, Albert, have been through enough, well, Tron does not let them off lightly in this novel. In fact, everything is upped and intensified. The darkness of the demonic forces is wrapped around them tighter than in the previous novel and they are further challenged in their faith and relationship with God. But God is faithful and they are strengthened by God's intervention in direct and indirect ways. Their bruecke (bridge) to heaven remains intact and is even strengthened further.
Tron sets up five plots arcs running concurrently. There is Arktos, Peter, Marik, Berg, Galack, Jakob and Anna on one quest, while Jean Paul and Albert on another. Julia, her daughters and the rest of the Vaudois community are still surviving in the upper levels of the mountains deciding to train and send out evangelists with the Word. We have Dabria and Lucier on their spiritual quest and later in the novel, Lucier is mandated to continue on his own then we have a new character, a hermit and his she-wolf, Lukos, tending to the physical and spiritual needs of a character from the first novel that readers will have to guess his identity until this is revealed later in the novel. This plagued me until I worked it out and was pleasantly surprised!. All these plot arcs deepen the mystery and suspense, action and adventure and totally absorb you. In each of the arcs, you wonder what is going to happen next. You become more endeared to these characters and share their emotions with them as if you are there.
Speaking of Lukos, the she-wolf, Tron has her as a side plot and if read just on its own, he proves himself as a competent author of animal fiction. This was one of the many highlights of this novel. I loved Lukos and the relationship she had with her master, the hermit, and as the novel progressed, with the one that the hermit was healing back to health. Lukos plays an important role throughout this novel and she becomes just another of the many characters that you become endeared to. Tron has developed this animal and her recognition of the spiritual and human realm very well without coming across as if Lukos is more than an animal.
This novel is so much more infused with spiritual aspects and the Spirit of God than the previous. When I read of the spiritual warfare that Tron portrays here, it is surreal in the sense that we do not experience it in real life to this extent but it does show that it is attainable and available to us now as it has always been. Tron simply shows that it is due to having a pure heart towards God, in submission and trust in Him alone. But more importantly, through the Tron family characters, namely Arktos, Jakob, Jean Paul, Tron shows such a simple and proven way to do this and that is to live out our faith, exercise it if you will. It is just as the Word says,
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. [James 1:22-25 New King James Version (NKJV)]
Another aspect that Tron shows in this spiritual warfare is that these same characters do not rely on their own strength but on God and God alone, and He responds not just by His power, but by His Spirit in many signs and wonders and the infilling and flow of His Presence and Power when they are in prayer, seeking His guidance and direction or when involved in attacks from the many forms of the demonic. Another aspect that supports this is when Arktos admits that he has placed all his hope in an artefact (glowing stone) infused with spiritual power and is surprised when God does not use it when Arktos commands the stone to express its power upon his command.
He continued to pray something would change or at least give them a sign, for he had put all his hopes on this stone providing them the power to slay as many of the Viscount's guard as posssible, yet nothing happened.
It was then, as the last thought had passed, like a cloud overhead, when he realised his error.
"Puting his hopes in the stone.....and not God."
He had once again been putting his faith in something other than God the Father. He asked for forgiveness, knowing too well the scriptures that warned of such foolishness, the multitudes who awaited Moses descent from the mount were proof of that.
And once he had accepted God's forgiveness, God acted on Arktos's plan and delivered them from their adversary.
Tron delivers this with enough action and adventure, suspense and thrills while being extremely entertaining and does not detract from the lessons of spiritual warfare he wants to deliver in this narrative. I pray that readers will not compartmentalize these, leaving them in the confines of this novel and character traits but realise that this is how we need to be living.
When I look at the various forms of the demonic that the various members of the Tron family were confronted with, it all boils down to this same factor mentioned above, being submitted to God, trusting in Him and obedient to His Word, practising a lifestyle of prayer, being doers of the Word by living out their faith and applying the principles that God has structured the Bible in how to live. And yet there are specific principles used for each to defeat this evil and its perpetrators throughout this novel and its predecessor such as
quoting specific Bible (verses) appropriate to the situation at hand,
putting on the Armour of God (Ephesians 6: 10-20),
singing songs based on the Psalms and others while under the Anointing of the Spirit (as Jakob did),
playing musical instruments (again as Jakob did with the Lyra while under the anointing of the Spirit).
walking in the Spirit. Physically as well as spiritually. Many examples of this through Jakob, Arktos, Jean Paul, Lucier. However, the most noted are Jakob and Arktos. They both had overcome their human frailty, their fears and looked past their physical senses. They acted solely in total obedience to God's prompting and guidance.
Tron is very competent at describing and showing what this demonic looks like as the reader experiences all the evilness that accompanies it. His description is not short, shallow or implied. It is in your face, and explicit. It is shown through Shamus, and Pope Lucius III, the former being possessed by the spirit of a fallen angel, Semyaza, while the latter is oppressed by the demonic and fueled by his own greed and pride.
Shining through all this as well as its predecessor is the Sovereignty of God. Tron is encouraging us to consider this in every aspect of our lives as we live out His Word. God is Sovereign and any outcome is His if we are living according to His precepts and direction and are in His will. He has everything under control despite our wavering faith, sense of hopelessness, or our finite vision (not physical only) that is incapable of seeing the whole picture of our circumstances and its future. Just as in our lives, God will not leave nor forsake us and when He gives us a quest, mission or task, He will not allow the enemy to thwart our attempts. Tron has portrayed this truth almost as if all these Biblical principles are fabricated as part of a purely fantasy novel.
After reading both novels this is the impressions I have experienced:
I have been entertained immensely,
My faith and relationship with God has been strengthened and uplifted,
Tron has not deviated from established Biblical doctrine, and his content will not, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine,
He writing and content honours God and portrays God as He is from the many character traits outlined in the Bible (Deliverer, Provider, Redeemer, Sovereign, Healer, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscience, Warrior, Conqueror,
His writing does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels, man, animals) but of the Creator (God) instead.
it promotes the power and practice of prayer as a lifestyle and to an unadulterated relationship with God
Christians know the power of the Word and of the Spirit in transforming the spirit of unregenerate man. Tron shows this very powerfully in the conversion of Lucier. It is one of the most descriptive conversions I have read for a while. Then seeing him have a heart after God reminds me very much of the Psalmist, David, including Lucier's Godly remorse at his adultery and how he dealt with this spiritually. His remorse is tender, sincere, heartfelt and it is tangible as you read it. It is not directed at himself but at God and it reminded me so much like David the Psalmist felt when he wrote to God in Psalm 51:4,
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight
It struck me as how it should be and needs to be whenever a Christian falls into sin, no matter what type.
Julia's reaction to Lucier's confession is just as tender, sincere and heartfelt. Both of their reactions to this sin is devoid of any of the usual human emotions we experience today that can become stumbling blocks to being restored to God. But then again, this situation described by Tron shows the work of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of these two and their submission and obedience to Him.
I have not singled out this situation as the only time such reactions towards human shortcomings and sin are in these novels. It is an example that shows how we can have such a humble, tender, submitted and pure relationship with God when we fall to sin or allow our humanness to take over. It is described by Tron as not idealistic or unrealistic. It resonated with me and was very relatable. And so it should be to all who read this novel.
I must make some mention here of the radio interviews that I would encourage any reader to listen to. It enriches the enjoyment of both these novels when you understand the background to them as Tron describes his genealogy and spiritual heritage. It adds power and credibility to these novels and their poetic licence does not detract or minimise this heritage.
Once this novel took off after the first chapter, I was totally absorbed and on the edge of my seat, figuratively speaking, and I was exhausted many times throughout. Despite the frustration of having to stop reading to either return from lunch or to and from work, this was a blessing as it gave me time to reflect on the spiritual side of the many topics that uplifted me, encouraged me to know Jesus better and to have a tender heart towards Him. I must confess, the relationship Tron described between the Vaudois characters towards each other and them towards God, convicted me and I found myself having some conversations with God regarding this.
There is definitely the power and presence of God in this novel. I said similar in my review of Bruecke to Heaven:
I knew when I read the description of this book that I would be blessed and that this book is unique and special. This book has not let me down. I finished this speechless due to being in awe of everything related to it. Truly, this book is inspired by God and many times, I could feel His presence with me. I have had that with only a few books. I will never forget this book. It really does have a profound effect on how you see God and how you have experienced Him. It has made me want more of Him and a desire to increase my faith and always be in His will.
I can apply the same here in this novel.
When I finished this novel, I posted this on Facebook and Goodreads,
Words cannot express how brilliant, how powerful, how epic, how divinely inspired this novel is! It is definitely the most spirit-filled novel I have ever read. I said that the first novel, Bruecke to Heaven, was special and unique, but now this novel takes it to the next level and this series is so unique, so special, it has impacted me like no other novel! Spiritually uplifting like no other Christian novel has!
This is one highly impressive novel. But then if it reflects the power of God, His wordm and the character of God, then we can expect nothing less!
Truly, an unforgettable novel and one that has impacted me like no other, together with its predecessor, Bruecke to Heaven.
Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Light in the Darkness: Children of the Light contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I award Timothy Tron with the
I originally published this review on 09/05/14. I have read it again in preparation for the sequel, The Light in the Darkness, now released. On behalf of Reality Calling, I have bestowed upon Timothy a Spirit-filled Fiction Award as this novel now meets the criteria for Spirit-filled fiction as part of The Reality Calling Christian Fiction Awards. These were instigated since this review was published. The Award can be viewed at the end of this review. I appreciated this novel better the second time around. Again, it has challenged me to remain submitted to God in all things and to trust Him in the same. Reading this, I long to have more of the simple faith that Arktos, Jacob, and Jean Paul have just the way God intended. One of the lessons I have learned reading this novel and what maybe Tron wants readers to embrace is that this faith is attainable as we live out the Word of God in our lives and as we have a righteous relationship with God upon salvation, we have a bridge (bruecke) to Heaven. As John says in John 1:1, Jesus is the Word and therefore the Word is alive.
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. (God's Word translation)
Not only is there power in the Blood of Christ, but there is power in the Word. Jakob showed this powerfully as he sang the Word of God with his gift from God and the power of the Spirit was very evident in signs and wonders in protecting Jakob and those in his company during physical and spiritual attack/warfare. I will not forget this novel. It holds a very special place in my heart and in my spiritual maturity.
I am looking forward to reading the sequel and being further spiritually uplifted, entertained, and challenged.
When two of Jesus' seventy disciples are sent into the wilderness, they find themselves in a remote Alpine valley delivering the Word of God to an ancient people. A miraculous event occurs and they realize they are not only to give them the Word but the abilities and gifts that go with it; one of which becomes memorization. Centuries later, when the people of the valley are asked to leave their homelands because of their known gift, their memorization of the entire Bible, a journey and adventure like none other begins. They quickly learn they had been imbued with more than just one ability, and soon, their bridge to Heaven becomes a race for their lives.
The Guru's Review:
I knew when I read the description of this book that I would be blessed and that this book is unique and special. This book has not let me down. I finished this speechless due to being in awe of everything related to it. Truly, this book is inspired by God and many times, I could feel His presence with me. I have had that with only a few books. I will never forget this book. It really does have a profound effect on how you see God and how you have experienced Him. It has made me want more of Him and a desire to increase my faith and always be in His will.
This is the first book I have read from Timothy Tron and it won't be the last if of course, he chooses to write more after the coming sequel, which is in the works at the moment. His writing style, command of the English language and imagination transport you to the 1100s AD, set in both the alpine area of France and also in Lyon. You are more than a spectator in this novel, you are there with all the characters as if you are part of the plot. I found it difficult coming back to reality every time I stopped reading. His characters are all very relational and three dimensional, well developed and believable whether they are protagonists or antagonists.
Tron has created some very admirable and loveable characters in the protagonists, Arktos, elder of the Vaudois people, Jakob his grandson, Peter Waldo (real name Augustus Pizan but uses the name of Peter Waldo who existed years before him), Marik and Steffan who seek out the Apostle Speakers (the Vaudoisians who have been imbued with the gift of memorization of the entire Scriptures), Gabriel (Waldo's right-hand man and whom you are forever thinking is he really the angel Gabriel or not?), Jean Paul, Jakob's older brother, Julia, Jakob and Jean Paul's mother. There is an emotional investment in these characters as you read. Everything they go through you feel it with them, joy, grief, horror, sadness, stubborn faith, righteous indignation, victorious elation.
The same goes for the antagonists, the main two being General Lucier and Pope Lucias III. These two embody the evilness and corruptness of the Roman Catholic Church, both are power hungry, corrupt, manipulative and deceitful and deluded into thinking that they are doing the will of God by persecuting and eradicating anyone who defies the teachings of the Catholic Church. Both have no issue with murder, torture or persecution to achieve their aims: recant your faith and convert to Catholicism or die. You feel their hatred towards the Vaudosians, you recoil in horror at their persecution of those who defy them, and the methods of killing they employ, you can feel the evil oppression they exude, yet you feel pity for them for them when you see this evilness taking them over and blinding them from the Truth that is so ever before them.
Here is what Lucias considers of himself:
......for I am the embodiment of heaven on earth, and if it is my will, it shall be done!
He sees and hates the Vaudoisians and their gift as a threat to his papacy:
Yet, there it was: the fact that they had preserved the Word of God of their own accord-a Word not compiled by mankind, but that was given to them reportedly from the sources themselves. What would it do to the power of the papacy should it become known? or worse yet, what if the unknown Word produced an entirely different view of the hereafter or the road to perdition?.....
Then there was the other, more-distressing side note: the fact that the books these people quoted were exactly as they had received them, unfiltered and encompassing all of the writing and teachings that followed the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. This Word they possessed gave a power that bound them to one ruler, but a ruler who was not of this earth. That in of itself sent a shiver of terror down the papal spine, causing him to shudder at the thought.
Tron's research into this era, the Vaudois people, the aforementioned corruptness of the Catholic Church and their politics add depth and credibility to the story. It is hard to believe that this is a novel and not the account of actual events as they happened, including the supernatural intervention of God in various ways as described that is just not commonplace in today's world.
I can see Tron's passion throughout as it is loosely based on his family genealogy from his paternal side. When I read this on his author page on Amazon, I was further intrigued and contacted him about this. He sent me an account of his discovery and it is very captivating.
Here it is, in part:
In 1995, my late Aunt June Tron gave us a one-of-a-kind housewarming gift; a genealogy binder including information about the town in Germany from whence we came along with our pedigree, all the way back to the founding father's of the little town, Walldorf Germany.
In 1998, we decided to take a trip to Germany.........We pulled up in front of the Heimat Museum........That was the next phase of my research as I began drinking from the proverbial fire hydrant of knowledge. I found that Tron's had existed as part of the Waldensians from the beginning and I then began to learn what it meant to be Waldensian. The people from the valleys had migrated to Germany in 1699 and built Walldorf from scratch. Two of the original families were my direct ancestors. The rest of the link and how they go back in time genealogically can be explained at a later time; suffice it to say, its a long, long tale.
The story and the tale of which you are reading are closely intertwined, but what made me begin writing the book was the conflict of how they received their iconic name versus how they actually became who they were; meaning, Peter Waldo did not cause Waldensians to exist, rather, he became famous because of who the Waldnesian people already were; thus, the impetus for starting to tell our side of the story. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned, "Why would these people struggle for over 600 years, fight in over 30 wars and face extinction of their kind all because of what they believed." Then I realized I had to tell the story from the perspective of "BEING" Waldensian. There had been many books written about Waldensians and their struggles, but none had been written from the point of view of what it was to be Waldensian and how that fact formulated who you were and how you faced adversity.
What Timothy means about "BEING" Waldensian is very aptly described and forms one of the main backbones of this novel. Peter Waldo, actually existed and the term Waldensian is based on his name.
I wondered about the name of the novel, what did Bruecke mean (bridge) and why have a German word in an English title? It was this strange looking title that drew me to this book in the first place. Timothy explains again:
In time, the meaning of some of what I have put down becomes clear; and so it was with the title, "Bruecke to Heaven". Initially, my timeline was going to extend through their migration to Germany, thus I decided to include that influence in the title. But later, when it became apparent that my 600 year timeline would only progress only about a year and a half in the first book, I questioned if I really should keep that working title. I felt compelled to keep the title foreign in language, but didn't know why. Recently, I was driving to work and was listening to a song on the radio when it hit me why the title fits. People who are not Christians, come into Christianity not knowing anything about it and with time, learn how and what it is to become a Christian. Then, like the obscure title, they realize the meaning and eventually accept Christ into their life, and as such, the title becomes clear.
I also questioned Timothy about the surname of Arktos, the main character, which was LeTron. Was this the original surname of his ancestry? Timothy had this covered too:
Like the title, I didn't realize why I felt compelled to use a form of my family name for the characters in the book either, but something said to me that it was important to do so. Last year, while attending a Waldensian Festival in Valdese NC., I learned from a young man who was from the Alpine valleys where the Waldnesians came, was there doing research and he explained to me what my name actually meant in the ancient language of the valleys; Tron meant "One with Strength" and that they often gave their warriors this title. Needless to say, I was once again blown away. Even though my book was already in print by then, I felt good about keeping the form of the name intact and that indeed it was an important part of the actual history.
Interestingly, Tron has portrayed the LeTron family (Julia, Mary, Arktos, Jakob, Jean Paul, Rebecca and Angela) as a very strong family by nature and by faith without knowing what his name meant.
Faith is a strong feature in this novel. How I now long to have the faith of Arktos and Jakob! The author portrays the Vaudoisians living the Word so vividly and naturally, it is literally their first nature. And in this novel, these two and the Vaudoisians know no different as their ancestors have lived this way since two of the seventy disciples (Olympas and Herodian) delivered the Word of God to them. At this delivery, God imbues them with the ability to remember and quote the entire Word/Bible. So for generations over the centuries, until the time of the Crusades where this story is set, this closely knit community, almost cut off from the secular world, live and act out the Word; for them, it is a tangible experience, the Word being literally alive. Tron even mentions this in his Introduction: Author's Notes:
It had been memorized word for word and passed down from one generation to the next, preserving not only the mere lines of Scripture but the ultimate spiritual power it possessed in its infancy. Regarding this "Word," the Bible reads in John 1:1-5,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
Yet in truth, there were some who did not recognize the Word and the light, and this is their story.
The spiritual warfare aspects of this novel are very unique and different from any I have read in other biblical supernatural thrillers. In all the instances portrayed in the novel we see the power of the Word manifested through either chanting or singing Scripture: Arktos and his elders chanting Scripture as the papal army invade their village of Rora and the papal army is destroyed and at the end of the novel, Arktos chants Scripture when the papal army is about to capture them, defeating them. Jakob discovers that when he sings Scripture, the same happens; when he plays the lira the power of God either defeats their enemy or confuses them, in one instances him playing this lira disguises their compound as empty as the papal army invades and search it even when Arktos, Jacob, Peter, Gabriel and their staff are still present in the compound, another where the group he was in passes by in a mist, unheard of by the papal army, as they moved close by them on their journey homeward bound. I know these occurrences are due to the other gifts imbued by God when He delivered the Word via the disciples, but it does make me consider how it would be if Christians were able to do the same in the reality of our world in this 21st century?
All in all, this is one very memorable novel that has had a profound effect on me. It is has encouraged and strengthened my faith and relationship with Christ, witness to my family and community, inspired and challenged me to stand up for the Gospel and have a ready defence for the same just as 1 Peter 3:15 says:
....but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
It is one book that needs to be read again (and most likely again!).
World Building 5/5
Spiritual Level 5/5
Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Bruecke to Heaven contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I award Timothy Tron with the
Today, I am featuring novelist, Alexander Preston in his blog tour promoting The Gevaudan Project which is being released on March 3rd, 2018. I have reviewed the previous edition, published as Harvest of Prey in October 2016 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I jumped at the opportunity to feature him in an interview for this blog tour.
So sit back and let Alexander explain what makes him tick as an author and the background behind The Gevaudan Project. Over to you, Alexander! Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Preston Klopfenstein. I’m originally from central Illinois but have lived in Sioux Falls, SD since 2013. I met my future wife almost right after the move, we married at the start of the following year, and have since been blessed with two wonderful children. In my day job, I work in operations at a local bank. I’ve been working on the story that became The Gevaudan Project for about four years now. What inspired you to become an author?
A lifelong love of books and an imagination that just couldn’t sit still. The concept of “what if?” has fascinated me as long as I can remember. As a kid, I actually made a game out of constantly asking my parent's hypothetical questions (driving them a bit batty in the process, I’m sure). I still gravitate to these basic questions as an adult “What could have been?” “What might be?” “What would happen if”, etc. Fiction to me is the single most powerful medium for exploring those very questions.
I see that you write under a pen name. What is the reason for that?
For one thing, my real name is a mouthful and takes up oodles of extra space! I’ll also confess that I’m a lifelong introvert and consider myself a very private person – it’s taken time to build up enough basic courage to put myself out there and openly express my ideas. A little thing like this helps by shifting the attention from me to the books I write.
What is your favorite genre?
Science fiction, primarily action-oriented, Dean Koontz-style technothrillers. I also enjoy well-written fantasy in the tradition of both Tolkien and Lewis. For now, science fiction is my own genre of choice, though I may branch out into fantasy in the future.
What role does your faith play in your writing?
I view my writing as, in a sense, an act of worship, using my creative talents to honor the Creator who gave them to me. My stories are meant as an exploration of the mystery and wonder implied by a biblical worldview. With that being said, I write “fiction written by a Christian” rather than specifically “Christian fiction.” I have a few different reasons for this, but the primary one is the following: I’m a member of the Apostolic Christian Church, which holds to a literal “non-resistance” interpretation of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, a belief we share in common with the Amish, Anabaptists and Mennonites. At the same time, following Romans 13, we also believe that God has ordained ministers on earth to combat evil by force (this passage primarily refers to government authorities, but I believe it can also embrace individuals). This created a bit of a challenge for me that doesn’t come up for most authors of action-oriented Christian fiction. For this reason, I’m not comfortable portraying my characters as “Christians” with doctrinal beliefs identical to my own. In The Gevaudan Project, I’ve made my main character a Roman Catholic even though I do not subscribe to the tenets of Catholicism. In the future, I may feature protagonists of Protestant, Orthodox and perhaps even Jewish beliefs. I draw my reasoning from the way the Bible shows God using such individuals as Cyrus of Persia and Alexander the Great to accomplish His purposes. A Christian can find much to admire in the lives and deeds of both these men without making them a model for his own – and acknowledge their very significant and un-Scriptural shortcomings in other areas.
With that being said, I have hit upon a few ways of more explicitly expressing my true beliefs in my writing. The Gevaudan Project and its associated short stories, for example, introduce a new “mystery character” that was entirely absent in Harvest of Prey – his presence is used to illustrate what I believe is the most powerful role played by believers when it comes to earthly affairs. He appears only briefly, but I’m planning to include him in most of my future books as a common thread connecting all the events. Another long-term project I have in mind is a series of speculative historical fiction based on the Scriptural accounts. I would focus primarily on Genesis (particularly the pre-Flood world and time of Noah) but may perhaps continue on through the entire Bible. Here, I anticipate an opportunity to more fully express my beliefs through my characters.
How have family and friends responded to your writing?
Quite a bit different, actually, from what I was expecting! I come from a very traditional and mostly rural faith community. I can think of only one other person within it that has written a work of fiction, and I can’t even remember his name at this time. I had a perception for some time that a fiction writer’s pursuit was “out of order” and it took time for me to see my imagination as a gift to be embraced rather than a temptation to fight. Think of someone from an Amish community deciding to write in the speculative genre (though I have heard of at least one such author who writes “Amish science fiction. The main turning point came when I had been wrestling with my creative urges for some time and finally went to my local pastor (“elder” as they call them in my church) to seek his counsel. He listened as I laid out everything in front of him, including the most far-out and seemingly bizarre of my story ideas. As it turned out, he gave me the most supportive response I could have hoped for – that my talent (and imagination) was indeed a gift from God and that I should seek to use it. He actually told me I was sincere enough that I would have fully accepted things if he had given me the opposite instruction – but then I would have left thinking “he just doesn’t understand me.”
Since that time, I’ve received similarly positive responses from my church family – from both the younger and the older generation. I’ve even found some older members whose favorite genre is science fiction – something I never knew until I told them about my book, which they are eager to read. I’ve been blessed to find that a lot of my assumptions were based on nothing more than baseless fear. In some ways, I’ve tapped into a significant unmet demand I never even knew existed!
Where do I even begin? Originally, my genre of choice was classical space opera – basically a fully-fleshed out galactic setting with a detailed ‘future history’ and multiple planets. I put this partially on hold so I could recover from “world-builder’s disease” – I was spending so much time constructing the setting that I wasn’t accomplishing any narrative writing. So I took a step back and started thinking about some more small-scale stories I could write. A thriller of some sort had the most natural appeal to me – Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy have become some of my favorite authors over the years, and I’ve also enjoyed Frank Peretti and some books by Michael Crichton. A somewhat more detailed account of how I determined the storyline specifics is available in a guest post here, but my basic idea was for a speculative story that would appeal to both the scientific and moral imagination. To summarize things heavily, I combined thematic elements from Peretti’s “Monster” and Crichton’s “State of Fear,” (Dean Koontz’s “Watchers” being another formative influence). The result was a genetic engineering and environmentally-based plot that explores the human use of knowledge for both Good and Evil.
What kind of research did you do for this novel?
Most of it took place online, where I read through multiple sources on environmental science, genetics, zoology, and artificial insemination – one scene is based almost entirely on a single YouTube clip I found depicting a collection procedure at a tiger sanctuary in Indonesia. Since most of the book actually takes place Indonesia, I was able to draw upon some previous knowledge from a college course where I wrote some papers on that country. I also did some research on political history, particularly as it relates to the environmental and population control movements. Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair proved a very informative resource in shaping the characters of my antagonists.
One of the hardest parts of the process was getting information on the real-life physical locations appearing in my novel. Being that my travel budget is virtually non-existent, I made heavy use of Google Earth and filled in some gaps with my imagination and logic. Going forward, I hope to write about some places I can actually visit in person.
How long did it take you to write the book?
That’s actually a story in itself! The manuscript has gone through two different versions. It took me approximately a year and a half to write the original, which was about 150,000 words. I was very much a newbie to the publishing world, so I thought I could immediately self-publish through CreateSpace (without promotion or marketing of any kind aside from my blog and Facebook profile) while still pursuing a traditional publishing contract. I initially released the book as Harvest of Prey in October 2016 - You can actually find the original guest post [Guest post: Novelist Alexander Preston ] and review [Harvest of Prey by Alexander Preston ] for it on this very blog. I then sent a query to the Steve Laube Agency early the following year.
Steve Laube expressed interest after seeing the first three chapters, though he recommended some key revisions. At the time I originally wrote it, I had Dean Koontz and Dostoevsky on the brain and was deliberately trying to make the book as long as possible. This resulted in multiple overwritten passages, particularly the dialogue. So I went through and did some editing that brought everything down to about 137,000 words before I sent the complete manuscript.
Steve got back to me in July 2017 and said he really liked the book. There were some follow-up questions, however, regarding my decision to self-publish. Any previous sales figures would need to be reported to a potential publisher. That’s when I got my first big lesson in the publishing industry. Many traditional publishers only take on one first-time author per year, which makes the competition for that slot extremely fierce. It’s a big enough risk for them to take on an unknown writer with no previous sales history – but if they see someone who has sold books before but with anemic sales figures, they take that as a red flag that this person won’t give them a return on their investment. It’s by no means an in-depth or fully accurate process, but it’s all they have the time and resources for.
Ultimately, Steve had to tell me “not yet”. He didn’t want to put either of us in the position of seeing me fail for non-writing-related reasons. He did leave the door open for the future though – he said I had a great story, but he’d be better able to bring me on board if I came back with sales in the thousands.
You can probably imagine what I was thinking and feeling after that kind of a setback – so close, yet so far! But I picked myself up and decided on a new approach. I made a few revisions to the manuscript in addition to those Steve already recommended to me, retired Harvest of Prey from Amazon, and took the time to construct a detailed launch and marketing plan under a new title. That process has taken me just under seven months, and the result has been The Gevaudan Project. All in all, the total time I’ve spent working with both versions comes to about four years.
What are some themes you explore in this novel?
You can call The Gevaudan Project a straightforward monster story, but the book is first and foremost, a story of Good and Evil (most of it of a very human variety). One thing constantly on my mind throughout the writing process was that eco-terrorism and its related movements rarely receive an intelligent portrayal in fiction. Hollywood depictions, in particular, are either entirely positive or strongly sympathetic. Few of us have any concept of just how toxic these ideas are or their roots in literally fascist [Fascist Ecology: The "Green Wing" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents] ideologies. Most environmental groups of modern times have either abandoned human exceptionalism or, worse, perverted it to place an opposite value on human life. My story is meant to vividly illustrate the moral consequences of this worldview. What sort of actions follow from the basic idea that human beings are nothing more than vermin infesting an otherwise pristine planet?
One thing observant readers will also notice is that my antagonists, while seemingly committed to the same ultimate goal, all have their own set of priorities and agendas, some of them diametrically opposed to the others. In one corner, you have the fanatical true believers, in another the cynical, self-interested manipulators and in yet another the amoral “useful idiots” who really don’t care what happens so long as they’re given a free hand to exercise their proclivities (most of the scientist characters fall into this category). Which of these groups truly controls the other? Can there, in fact, be any form of honor among thieves? This, incidentally, has allowed me to explore other ideas in addition to the main environmental element, namely the shortcomings of materialistic Darwinism and the ethics of genetic engineering.
To tie things in a bit with what I’ve said earlier regarding my faith and my writing, I’ve also sought to explore the ways in which God uses different individuals on earth (with all their flaws and shortcomings) as instruments for good in the face of seemingly overwhelming evil. We’re told in Job that “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.” In the end, even the best-laid plans of the wicked are doomed to failure. Though Scripture gives us no guarantee of earthly justice, neither does it say that God assigns no value to it – quite the opposite, in fact, as can be readily demonstrated from both sacred and secular history. Evil may seem triumphant for a time, but judgment is inevitable, both in the long-run and in the short – ultimately culminating in the Final Judgment at the end of time.
Do you plan any more books in the future?
The working title for my next book is “TALOS” which I plan to start in earnest once I finish up the launch for The Gevaudan Project. I expect the writing process to take at least as long as it did for the initial version of my first book, but hopefully not a full four years! Similar to how The Gevaudan Project explores ideas like radical environmentalism, this one will explore transhumanist ideology – focusing especially on Artificial Intelligence and human augmentation. All I’ll say beyond that is the book will be set in my current hometown of Sioux Falls, SD.
What advice would you give to other Christian authors?
There are good points to be said in favor of both self-publishing and traditional publishing. Based on my own experience, I would just recommend choosing one or the other. If you take the self-publishing route, make sure you take the time to go all the way. If you prefer a traditional publishing contract, be sure to make that your singular focus – you can shoot yourself in the foot if you move too fast in other areas.
Even more important: don’t let your fear of others’ opinions prevent you from writing – your church family may be far more supportive than you think.
This comes to the end of our interview. Thank you, Alexander, for such a revealing behind the scenes view into yourself as a novelist and background to The Gevaudan Project.
For readers who want to explore more of this novel and the background to it, Alexander was interviewed by Parker J Cole on The Write Stuff radio show. Click here to listen.
Alexander, what a great interview!Thank you so much for introducing us to the world of The Gevaudan Project and insights into your world as an author. I am sure once readers read this interview they will want to investigate this novel and look forward to your future novels. You are one new author to follow and support.
Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, science fiction and fantasy and futuristic fiction to consider reading The Gevaudan Project and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).
Today, I am spotlighting one of my favourite authors, Timothy Tron. I read his debut novel, Bruecke to Heaven a few years ago. It is up there in the top favourite novels I have read. It is very unique, beautiful, inspiring, uplifting novelisation based on the heritage of Timothy's family. I have anticipated the sequel and am now pleased to say it has been released. I plan to re-read Bruecke to Heaven before being treated to this sequel. To celebrate this release and promote this series, I offered to spotlight both these novels and the background to the author and his heritage. One of the aspects of this novel and Timothy's heritage that I found inspiring and fascinating was the unique and rare appreciation of the Word of God, all preserved by memory and by direct mandate of God to do so.
So if you are curious and intrigued by this account so far, sit back and let Timothy Tron take you on a journey of his ancestry and where his spiritual heritage comes from.
But first a little about Timothy:
Timothy W. Tron currently lives in the Blueridge Mountains of North Carolina with his wife and two children. He was born in Evansville, Indiana, and spent the next sixteen years in southern Indiana, living in mostly rural areas around the historic small towns of New Harmony and Newburgh. Timothy served in the USAF from 1986-1990. After leaving the Air Force, he attended the University of Florida and earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering. He and his wife moved to North Carolina and for the next 26 years, built a farm while working at Nortel/Genband. More recently, after answering his calling to serve God, Timothy served as the Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, NC. Since that time, God has opened many new doors. In addition to being a High School Math Teacher, he is also a contributor to the Blueridge Christian News, an artist, musician, lay speaker, and Church historian. It is his continued life's goal to glorify God in all that he does.
When two of Jesus' seventy disciples are sent into the wilderness, they find themselves in a remote Alpine valley delivering the Word of God to an ancient people.
A miraculous event occurs and they realize they are not only to give them the Word but the abilities and gifts that go with it; one of which becomes memorization. Centuries later, when the people of the valley are asked to leave their homelands because of their known gift, their memorization of the entire Bible, a journey and adventure like none other begins. They quickly learn they had been imbued with more than just one ability; and soon, their bridge to Heaven becomes a race for their lives.
Bruecke to Heaven – Children of the Light by Tim Tron. Reviewed by AL Capehart December 3rd, 2014
One reviewer calls Tim’s Bruecke to Heaven “A historical biblical supernatural thriller.” Thrilling, yes. And, I found it an exploration of the presence of the power of the Spirit experienced by the Word and Song.
Set in Lyon France and the Franco-German Alps in the 1100s AD. A blessed community of faith, the Apostle Speakers, lives in the high valleys of the Alps. They have received and memorized the Bible as brought to them by two of the 70 Jesus send out. Their blessing of memorization is sought out for transcription so all souls may have access to the power of the Word and Song.
Salvation open to everyone who knows the Word, believes the Word, lives by the Word in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The state’s religion says such a belief is in error. It is a heresy. The Roman Catholic Church, said it has Salvation. Further more you must believe it, for if you don’t you’ll be tortured and killed. In 1184, Pope Lucius III decreed Ad abolendam that all "counts, barons, rectors, [and] consuls of cities and other places" who did not join in the struggle against heresy when called upon to do so would be excommunicated and their territories placed under interdict – and declared that these provisions joined the apostolic authority of the church with the sanction of imperial power. The Thirty Years War was one result.
The characters are well developed, the action vivid, too much sometimes, the pace engaging and the language flowing resulting in a sense of a presence. The Spiritual power in the recitation of the Word spoke, the Word sung brought mystical interventions of natural and heavenly elements in preserving, protecting and continuing the community of faith and its believers.
Tim with creative fantasy and fiction has blended his own family roots, church history, and spiritual evolution into a realm of reality for this reader. I like the notion of access to the Word is access to the power of the Holy Spirit.
A testimonial to the courage, strength, and sacrifice of a proud and gifted people, this book brings to life a noble and selfless cause to undermine the dictatorial authority of the Roman Catholic Church during the crusades. The author does a great job of intertwining his imaginative and wonderfully descriptive story with historical events that few probably know anything about. I really enjoyed the level of detail and imagery that envelopes the characters in their settings and interactions with each other. Furthermore, there is always a sense of urgency and righteousness in the journey that keeps the reader focused on the characters' actions and the plot as it unfolds. Plainly put, this is a great read that gives clarity to what it means to protect and preserve the word of God.
The keepers of the Word continue their battle against the darkness in this sequel to Bruecke to Heaven. Jakob, Arktos, and the rest of the Huguenot forces find their victory against General Lucier and his Papal army short lived. Lost in a blizzard, they seek shelter only to find their battle had just begun. Meanwhile, the survivors of the Vaudois massacre, both good and evil, seek to recover and rebuild, but not as you may expect. Each find their road to recovery wrought with life-changing choices.
Those who have left their homeland to seek out others to enlist in their cause find a lost civilisation and become embroiled in trying to survive in a world much like their ancestors before them; yet, unlike those forefathers, they have God to see them through. Lastly, we find spirits colliding in a struggle of the light and darkness when a hermit and his wolf make a startling discovery, one that will change the fate of all who call themselves the people of the Vaudois, or the Children of the Light.
No reviews yet!
I asked Timothy why he wrote the novels:
Initially, the first book, Bruecke to Heaven, was meant to be written as a fictional tale about the Waldenses, a people often described as, “A people of the Bible.” Since I was unsure at the time of how the truth of the story would be received, I felt it necessary to share the reality wrapped in a fictional account. The story of the Waldenses, the people of the valleys of what today is the northwest corner of Italy, dates back to the time of the Apostles.
Various historians agree to the fact that they received the Word from the Apostles, and/or their early disciples. From that point, until Europe would awaken with the Reformation, they would protect the gospels and keep them pure, not allowing any misinterpretation to be copied or preached. They would eventually evangelize nearly a half-a-millennium before the Reformers would arise. Bruecke to Heaven shared how this could have happened, and then goes on to create a world in which our protagonists attempt to survive while continuing to protect the Word of God. The readers are put into the story as it unfolds and can literally feel themselves becoming one with those ancient forerunners to the Reformation.
The second book in the growing series of The Children of the Light is The Light in the Darkness. In this sequel, our friends and characters from the first book continue on in their struggles to survive the seemingly endless persecution. In fact, the Waldenses were the longest persecuted Christians known, even though most people have never heard of them. Their slaughter was never made front page news, yet their history should have become the inspiration for any modern-day evangelist. The Light in the Darkness carries on the theme of protecting the Word of God while challenging our faith in various forms. Questions arise that we have to ask ourselves, “How far would I go, how much torture would I endure for my faith?” “Would you go forth to share the gospels if it could mean your death?”
These and many more questions and threads are presented in both novels that will challenge the reader to revisit their own foundations of faith.
I asked Timothy what are the Christian/biblical/themes/eschatology/apologetics in his novels and he provided this Character Biblical Analysis- A Liturgical Study of The Light in the Darkness:
Character Biblical Analysis
– A Liturgical Study of The Light in the Darkness
By Timothy W. Tron
Excerpt from Chapter 26 –
“The voice of Gabriel returned one last time, "You must not lose sight of this even though your own body is now being forced to do without. Like your father before you, you too must take nourishment from within, and the power of the Lord will keep you whole."
Jakob awoke in the darkness, on the cold floor of the prison, still within the dungeon of the castle Fenis. In the distance, he could hear the screams of the next victim being taken away to the chambers of death. Around him, the depths of darkness could not be discerned, only that they seemed to go on forever. He closed his eyes and focused on the last words of his teacher, his protector. He turned over and felt the warmth within his little body, kept by the hand of God, become fed from the Word within, and he slept a peaceful slumber once more.”
Much like today’s society, consumed by the worldly influences, so will some of our characters become in the story. They become addicted to something that they know is bad but feel helpless to refuse its offerings. Once they partake of its sustenance, they can no longer escape the provocative evil which begins to devour their soul. Their only escape is either through death, or rebirth through the Holy Spirit. Either way, they must die in some sense to achieve freedom from sin or be enveloped in it for eternity.
First, if one is considered born again, having accepted Christ into their lives, then they can consider what I am about to say.
Again, and again, we must ask ourselves, “How much greater would my walk in faith become if I could only memorize an entire chapter of the Bible?” Once we obtain that goal, then we should ask the next question, “How much greater would my walk in faith become if I could only memorize an entire book of the Bible?” After one book, why not two, or three, and so on? Once we consider the implications of such an achievement, then and only then, can we begin to comprehend the changes that would begin to talk hold of our lives. As the Spirit dwelleth in us, so greater is He that is in us, and eventually, we literally begin to be consumed by the Word.
It is this simple question’s results that radically changes the lives of our protagonist, and by seeing their faith in action, we can then start to consider how much greater we might be able to serve should we take our belief to that next level. It is not for the faint of heart. Even though we may not be persecuted in our own community, there are many places in the world today that do persecute Christians to this degree.
As Jesus told His disciples to walk as himself, so would we find ourselves when we bring the Word within us. In our daily toil, we would consider those scriptures secured within our hearts, relying on their meaning. As we find them turning in our minds, we find opportunities to bring new life and understanding that never before could be achieved. It is this deep comprehension that allows one to commune with God, and to hear his voice. Those of the natural world cannot fathom this, and as such, they ridicule and make fun of those that can. If they only knew how much greater their lives could be enriched if they could find His truth and grace within.
This is just the point of memorizing the Word. It doesn’t even begin to address how one might call upon the Word and find it actually coming to fruition in reality. This is another wrinkle in the belief that touches upon supernatural to those of this world. To those of the faith, it is God answering prayer. Breaking through what is considered normal, evoking a disruption in the course of nature, miracles begin to transpire. Some often dismiss them as occurrences of consequence. The truth is that no matter how easily we brush them off as a matter of consequential relevance, miracles do happen. When we have prayed for them or invoked them from recalling the scripture that proposes a direct correlation to the need, one can only accept the result as God-given; such is the case throughout the Children of the Light series.
He is the innocent faith of a child empowered by the Holy Spirit. He represents what, as Jesus put it, “Faith of a child,” being more important than anything. The essence of pureness, totally faithful without sin. Jakob is the pure vessel, nothing of his own being can stain that through which flows from heaven. He is as was Christ, pure and without sin. Because of this sterile faith, his gifts are amplified beyond what any man is capable of performing.
Te aged Waldensian has seen his share of hardships and battles. There is a side to him that we do not know, but it keeps him grounded. From his past, he knows what man is capable of doing in his darkest hour. He struggles with keeping his anger in check. He holds himself responsible for his son’s (Kristoff) death. He is the unofficial guardian of his grandson Jakob, and with that, also the teacher of Jakob’s faith; at least from the terrestrial perspective. Arktos’ is a true to heart Waldensian, one willing to die for his faith, but chooses to live in order to protect his grandson. His strength comes not only from his physical stature of having lived his life in the highest elevations of the mountains but even more from his deep-rooted faith and memorization of the scriptures.
Jean Paul –
He is the image of one that is converted but not solid in his conviction. He has yet to reach a level of sanctification of his younger brother. His problem is not only the battle of the sin of the flesh but also that of the weakness of his faith, where he questions things instead of accepting them for what they are. Like learning a new language, he tries to interpret the meaning instead of immersing himself in the Word and becoming one with the Holy Spirit. His time spent in this virtual translation slows him down and causes him to often stumble, allowing the darkness to creep in. He is one of the spiritually weaker members of the Tron family.
Timothy also grounded this novel based on the following bible verses:
The Great Commission Mt.28
“In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.”-Psalm 56:11
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.”-1 Timothy 4:10
Answer only to God, not man. Acts 5:29
Timothy has a well-documented bibliography to support the background to his novels and family history:
Allix, Peter. The Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont and the Albigenses. 1690-92. Gallatin, TN: Church History Reseach Archives, 1989.
Scrivner, Fredrick Henry Ambrose, M.A., D.C.L, L.L.D. Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, Vol. II, George Bell & Sons, York Street, Covent Garden, 66 5th St., N.Y., N.Y. Cambridge, Deighton Bell and Co. 1894
Nolan, Frederick, Ph.D. An inquiry into the integrity of the Greek Vulgate : or, Received text of the New Testament, National Institute for Newman Studies, F.C. and J. Rivington: London , 1815. (pages xvii-xviii)
Lightfoot, J.B. D.D., D.C.L., L.L.D., Bishop of Durham, St. Pauls Epistle to Galatians, MacMillan and Co. 1881.
Wilkinson, B.G. PH.D., Truth Triumphant; The Church in the Wilderness: Brushton, NY, TEACH Service, Inc.
Dr. David L. Brown, President King James Bible Research Center, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Corunna Michigan
Morland, Samuel, Efq. The History of The Evangelical Churches of the Valley of Piemont; Containing A most exact Geographical Description of the Place and a faithful Account of the Doctrine, Life and Persecutions of the Ancient Inhabitants. Henry Hills, one of His Highness’s Printers, Pope’s Head Alley, 1658
Willyams, Jane Louisa. The Waldensian Church in the Valleys of Piedmont, from the Earlies Period to the Present Time. The Religious Tract Society, St. Pauls Churchyard, Piccadilly. 1878
Cpt. Stephens, R.M., Never Failing Light; The Waldensian Story. Torre Pellice: Libreria Editrice Claudiana, 1957
Perrin, Jean Paul. History of the Ancient Christians. 1619. Gallitin, TN: Church History Research and Archives, 1991
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John Doe is a killer. Fourteen children in the last twenty-six years. Teddy tells him to and he listens. He has to listen. He is parked across the street from the elementary school in Payne, North Dakota, waiting for Teddy to tell him the name of the next child. He hasn’t yet, but he will…
For Matthew Mills, God is good. It's the only truth Matthew needs. But, pain is still pain. It has only been a week since his wife had her second miscarriage in the last three years. She has become a shell of who she was. Only his daughter Marcy is a light in his life.
What would happen if she was taken away?
The Guru's Review:
I should start out by saying if the description makes you uneasy, please ignore this uneasiness and persist with this novel.
I was uneasy when I read this description as I don't like serial killer plots, especially when it involves children. However, the author asked me to review this and having read some of his other novels, I know his mindset. I therefore I know it will be based on the Bible, it will not glorify serial killers, it will not be gory and his motive for writing it is not to show horror for horror sake. I know it will show victory over our fallen nature through faith in God, through his Spirit or not in any strength of our own. And the author definitely shows this in this novel.
He has described this novel as his best. It is not his latest, but I agree with him, it is his best. Very different to The Faceless Future trilogy that he has released now (episodic instalments of a novel) in writing style, genre, pace and narrative. All this does is show how versatile this author is.
When I started reading this novel and John Doe starts describing how he kills under the instruction of a "talking" stuffed toy (a teddy bear, hence the name Teddy), I found this very creepy. I hate novels or movies where inanimate objects have control over humans. It speaks of one thing and one thing only. Demonic possession and/or possession. I did not like this half of the novel. And I nearly gave up due to my dislike of serial killer novels involving children. The other aspect to this dislike is that I hate the mindset of the perpetrators. The TV show Criminal Minds contributed greatly to this, I did not finish Season 1 of that TV show!
Towards the end of the first half of this novel, I wondered when Allen would show the why and the how of this demonic oppression and if John becomes free of this? Allen does not keep you in suspense for too long. The second half is where it all falls into place and as it did, I then wondered when the author was going to deal with it from a Biblical perspective, as I knew he would.
I was not to be disappointed! This second half adds a much detailed spiritual layer to the plot and the mindset of John Doe and Teddy compared to the first half. It is here that Allen shines with the biblical point of view in dealing demonic oppression. The first half describes the consequences of the demonic oppression that John is in bondage to while the second describes the how and the why and provides one very satisfying resolution to this from the Biblical point of view.
What helped my uneasiness in reading this novel was the alternating character arcs of Matthew and Janet Mills, their pain and grieving of losing two children due to miscarriage, and then the subsequent kidnapping and murder of their 8-year-old daughter Marcy by John Doe. Just when I was getting further creeped out by John and his actions and control by Teddy, I was given a reprieve by the further development of the plot arcs concerning Matthew and Janet. However, this was a bit uneasy for me too as I could relate to this couple losing children through miscarriage as my wife and I lost two prior to our existing two daughters. One of these was through miscarriage and the other through premature birth. I was affected by Matthew's reaction and Janet's reminded me so much of what my wife went through. It is every parent's nightmare to have their child abducted or go missing without a trace and I shared the Mills' grief, despair, loss, anger, frustration at this loss. These circumstances definitely endeared me to Janet and Matthew. I wanted to so much offer my empathy and counsel to them!
It is a very clever plot construction when an author intertwines plot arcs together and you know that they will eventually intersect and bring the ending of this novel to a climatic ending or one mighty cliffhanger where you wait in bated breath for the next instalment. The former is true in this novel. The alternating plot arcs of the Mills' grief over their miscarriages, their waxing and waning faith and feelings towards God in relation to this, and John's desire and quest to be free of Teddy's bondage give you plenty of indication and suspense that these two paths will eventually intersect. I must confess, I was convinced I knew when this would occur, but then Allen changed course and this intersection occurred at a point that I was not expecting! This led to a great ending! I was exhilarated, spiritually uplifted and even felt a measure of closure in my own grief (left over from our loss of children over 25 yrs ago) that had troubled me since. I thank the author for portraying grief and God's response so realistically and sensitively. This reinforces my belief that God can and does use fiction to minister to the reader where they are at. All it takes is an author who is willing to be a willing instrument for the Spirit to use and one who wants to write for God and let Him be the real author. This novel shows Allen as one of those authors.
One highlight of this novel was how Allen developed the spiritual aspects. I appreciate the inclusion of God in a novel where He interacts with the characters. In this novel, we have Him minister to both Janet and Matthew Mills and John directly either in a supernatural appearance or for the most part, as a voice to their mind or spirit. For John, it was the latter. I found this depiction of the Spirit refreshing and how Allen had Him guide, encourage, and instruct these three characters was as what I would expect Him to say if He was doing the same to me. It is relational, specific and appropriate. Throughout the Bible, we can see that what God says in His interaction with His human creation shows the nature of His personality and His many attributes and I felt the same here with Allen's depiction. But it also shows Allen's commitment to writing for God and being used by the Spirit to write a novel that shows the Omnipotency of His character and Jesus's victory over sin and death, including over bondage from demonic possession.
Allen's depiction of the Spirit guiding John to deliverance from the bondage of the demon inhabiting Teddy, the stuffed toy, is a joy to read. Allen has depicted a side of spiritual warfare using the Biblical principle of calling on the name of Jesus to be saved in order to be delivered from demonic oppression. This is very effective in breaking the bondage John is under and he revels in his new found freedom. The end result is that He becomes the new creation that only happens when God frees us from sin and death. There is more that Allen includes that follows on from this in him getting to know God once he accepts God's forgiveness. I pray that Allen's depiction of this deliverance will be a great encouragement to anyone who is under any degree of demonic oppression and be the same for the Christian who does not know anything about this topic. It was a wise depiction showing this.
I also found the same with how Allen has depicted the Spirit ministering to Janet and Matthew Mills. Both had different reactions to their loss and relations ship with God. God meet their needs according to what would heal them and restore them to Him. I loved the open channel that Matthew had with God and even when his faith wavered and he rebelled he still came back, repented and restored himself to God. I loved the spiritual lesson that Matthew learnt from their last miscarriage. I can see how this would be easy to fall into without realising it until it is brought to your attention. Matthew was humble enough to see his mistake, the reasons for it, its consequences and repent of it. In the process he was letting go of his pain, dealing with his grief and being a support to his wife in her grief. And likewise, Janet had her own issue with rebelling against God in her grief and only God's intervention restored her faith and she then became a support to Matthew as he struggled with his grief as described above.
Allen's depiction of the demonic oppression of John was dark and devasting. This demonic spirit shows up as a result of John's father's actions through his sin and is a generational one as described by his father. Not only did this spirit exert its power over John but it affected negatively many others including Matthew and led to the death of an adult. However, it is no match for the invocation of Jesus' name when John in being oppressed by this spirit. Very biblical as evidenced by the following verses:
Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’
Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Allen is quite the master at showing the complexity of this demonic oppression and how it manifested in John and the connection to his father (it borders on being dark and tense). From reading the events surrounding this oppression and the explanation as to the how and the why of it, this spirit's manifestation in John was far more extensive than his father. Reading how the events played out, one can only feel compassion for John from the emotional devastation this oppression and the murders had on him. It is all the more joyous when you see him decide to be free from this spiritual bondage and respond to the promptings and revelations from the Spirit of God including the use of visions that God provided of his mother to show more of the truth of this spiritual bondage and what John must consider in being free.
I must make mention that it was a clever plot construct having a spiritual connection from Marcy that sparked the desire for John to be free and subsequently joining both the major arcs of the Mills and John together that led to one very successful and satisfying ending. There is a hint of something through an event in the novel concerning Matthew that comes to light at the very end of the novel. This just made my enjoyment and appreciation of the novel all the more.
Despite my dislike of serial killer plots, abduction and murder of children and this making this novel difficult to read at first, there is much to be enjoyed, edified and faith strengthened in this novel. This novel is Allen's best and it showcases his creativity, talent and willingness to write for God and allow Him to compose the story He wants to be written. The author has stated that he was guided by God through every word. To me, this shows.
I would love to see Allen compose more novels like this one. They would minister to the reader who is going through similar or can relate to these issues. And it strengthens the faith and knowledge of God in the believer and may even spark the beginning of faith in the unbeliever and lead them back to God.
Created as an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this novel is set in the modern day time period. It chronicles the overnight adventures of the world-famous atheist, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is on a crusade to rid the world of religion and things could hardly be going better. But his fortunes soon change and he has a “Dickens of an evening” filled with ghostly encounters during which he’s given a chance to reconsider the meaning of life and his answer to the question of God’s existence. But Scrooge is a brilliant, hard-core sceptic, so the thought of the ghosts convincing him of anything or bringing about a change of heart is, as Scrooge would put it, a “bah-humbug!”
The Guru's Review:
This novel grabbed me as soon as I discovered the genre, apologetics. The other was the description. This was the deciding factors to accept the author's request to review it. I even showcased the author in an Author/Novel Spotlight post to explore this novel, its apologetics and the author's history behind it. It can be found here. I was impressed with the reason that Luhring crafted this novel:
I’ve been fascinated by A Christmas Carol since I first saw a movie version on TV when I was an adolescent. From the moment Marley’s ghostly face appeared in the knocker of Scrooge’s door, I was hooked. Now as an adult, I realize the reason this story has such universal appeal and has become a classic is because of Dickens’ genius in portraying so convincingly the complete transformation of a human being from so believably rotten to so believably good in the context of an imaginative, sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, and always entertaining story. In a similar way, I’ve humbly endeavored to adapt Dickens’ story to portray the complete transformation of one so believably sceptical to one so believably embracing a reasonable faith. I think the only way to portray that type of transformation in a convincing manner is by introducing reason and evidence into the equation. The project in ways resembled putting together a puzzle -- fitting compelling Christian apologetic arguments into one of the greatest stories ever written. The result is a modern-day adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” which chronicles the overnight transformation of the world-famous atheist, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is on a crusade to rid the world of religion (bah-humbug!), and things could hardly be going better with the passage of a new hate-speech law designed in part to target the religious. But his fortunes soon change and he has a “Dickens of an evening” filled with ghostly encounters during which he’s given a chance to reconsider the meaning of life and his answer to the question of God’s existence. But is there really anything the ghosts can say or do to bring about a change of heart from this brilliant, hard-core sceptic?
I was also impressed with what two other apologists had said about it as well:
“While Charles Dickens' immortal story is a compelling tale of transformation, imagine what it would look like had Dickens been ambitious enough to have had Scrooge go on to tackle some of the greatest questions in life, such as Does God exist? If so, why is there such evil and suffering in this world? Is there meaning and purpose in life? Is there an after-life? Is freedom worth fighting for, and what's at stake if we lose it? These pages are bold enough to do exactly that, and do it brilliantly.”—Dr. Paul Maier, author with over 5 million books in print including A Skeleton in God’s Closet.
"The choice of a modern retelling of the Scrooge story is very clever, perhaps even brilliant.” Dr. Heck, C.S. Lewis scholar and author of the book, From Atheism to Christianity: The Story of C. S. Lewis.
I read Maier's A Skeleton in God's Closet and its sequel many years ago, so I am not surprised at Maier's endorsement in the Foreword and it was this connection that also clinched it for me to read this novel. He was the first apologist author I read and I still have fond memories of these two novels and the impact they had on me. I can definitely understand Luhring's respect and admiration of this author and his endorsement for this novel.
But it was not only these factors that encouraged me to read it. It was the fact that Luhring has travelled down the path that the Bible exhorts us to do as Christ's disciples in 1 Peter 3:15
.....but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
I was encouraged with how he did this:
I started pursuing in earnest my passion for Christian apologetics (otherwise known as “defending the faith” or “dealing with doubt”) after stumbling upon a Dr. William Lane Craig podcast in 2007. I vividly remember listening to the first podcast while shoveling snow in my driveway. It was quickly clear to me that Dr. Craig’s effectiveness rested not only in his command of the facts and logical argumentation, but also in his ability to communicate concisely and persuasively - and with wit no less. From that point I was hooked. Within about a year, having gained reasonable and convincing answers from a Christian point of view to some of life’s biggest and toughest questions and with enthusiasm only building to learn more, I felt that I needed some productive outlet for sharing. I began teaching bible studies at my church that focused on dealing with doubt and answering the big questions in life, like “Does God Exist?” Over the years, I’ve been a student of the writings of other great, persuasive Christian apologetics including Dr. Paul Maier, C.S. Lewis, Professor John Lennox, G.K. Chesterton, Greg Koukl, Frank Turek, and Ravi Zacharias (whom my son and I had the privilege to hear speak in person at a nearby university earlier this year). During that time I also had the idea for the Scrooge book which I see as an ambitious attempt to reach both the heart and the mind through a gripping story.
This was a breath of fresh air to me when I read this. Apologetics is such an important discipline that is either not taught or very little taught in most churches today. It should be and needs to be, if and only due to the verse mentioned above, but more importantly for why it was written, to show the hope of Christ and what He has achieved by His death on the Cross: salvation and redemption of mankind. For us in today's world of increasing secularism, humanism and rejection of all and everything relating to God, the Bible and Jesus, we are seeing laws created and enforced that are forcing the human race to think and behave in such a way that is tolerant of everything as long as it is not connected to Christianity and everything Christianity stands for.
How many of us know enough our faith, why we believe it, and then be able to defend it? I admit that I need more of this knowledge and discipline too. It is a sad indictment that we are not encouraged to so or that we do not do so on our own accord. We need to be competent in this discipline and obedient to the instruction of this bible verse that also undergirds and support the Great Commision. Hence my interest, challenge and conviction that this genre of Christian presents to me as well as to all those who have a righteous relationship with God.
I applaud authors such as Luhring for writing novels in this genre for this very reason. And sadly again, it is not a popular genre of Christian fiction and it should be and needs to be. Hence my interest and promotion of this genre and specifically this novel.
Luhring has created a very unique concept with this novel. Not only has he given A Christmas Carol a twist and set it in a modern setting, it is also a story within a story. When you start this novel, you are not introduced to Scrooge. The character that creates this story within a story, Professor Edward Spassnicht, emerges in the Introduction and the reader meets him again in the Epilogue, with him achieving what he set out to achieve, through adapting A Christmas Carol to tell of his opportunity to reconsider the meaning of life and (through Scrooge) his answer to the question of God’s existence. Luhring has adapted this classic very skillfully. How can I say that when I have not read Dicken's classic tale? Simply from reading what others have said who have read both novels and the various annotations that reference the many inclusions of the original parts of the original in this novel. I do regret not taking the opportunity to read this Dickens classic before reading Luhring's novel as it would have enhanced my appreciation of both. I did not have time with my review schedule and life in general. However, I have seen enough snippets of the various movie adaptations and it being referenced and described in various other reading material I have read, so I did get more than a gist of the story.
And for someone like me who has not read Dickens first, I can say that this reworking of the former could stand on its own. Luhring's creation here reads like it is an original story. There has not been one reviewer who has said the opposite. It is a great novel. Luhring writes very well. The flow and pace of the novel are not disjointed or has peaks or troughs. This is an impressive debut novel.
Readers appreciate reading a novel where it shows that the author has done their research and has seamlessly included this into the plot where it does not stick out or appear misplaced. Luhring succeeds here. He has a solid grasp of the rise of atheism and scepticism that is evolving into the suppression of free speech by laws and ideologies to adhere to. Luhring uses the example of Bob Cratchit speaking out against a fictional community with liberal lifestyle choices to show how these laws come into effect and affect those who are in opposition to them. He effectively portrays how this will clash with the tenets and doctrines of the Bible and how Christians will be the direct target of these laws and their severe penalties. This is a real depiction of spiritual warfare played out in the human arena with its aim to abolish religion and increase the liberality of mankind.
Using the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Luhring takes the reader on a journey showing Scrooge having all of his worldview and belief system challenged by some of the greatest Christian apologists of our time, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Blaise Pascal, John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, Dostoevsky, Martin Luther, William Lane Craig, Leibniz, and John Newton! This supports my statement before about being well versed and knowledgeable about why we believe what we believe and being able to defend it. In this case, it is about challenging different worldviews and seeing how they stand up against Christianity. Luhring's novel definitely shows that when we do this, the Spirit takes up our cause and works in the heart of the person being challenged. It also shows despite how strong one is in their worldview and belief system when it is "their time" as stated by Marley, the Spirit has done His work and the person is ripe for accepting God on His terms and only His terms. It was entertaining and engrossing seeing Scroope challenge the three Spirits and try to outwit them by disproving the existence of God but against such a huge weight of evidence, and God at work, he finally realised that God does exist based on this evidence and the Gospel being presented to him through this.
I highlighted so much of the text in my Kindle while reading this novel that I felt I was a kid in a lolly shop! A treasure trove of insight and evidence showing God's existence outside of the Bible! The Bible is more than enough but having other apologists add to this that supports it, is an added bonus. There are some great quotes and snippets that I could add here but it would make this review far too long and this is long enough as it is! The list of references at the back of the novel is worth reading that gives the background to the evidence he has included but in the Kindle version, you can press the reference number and the reference content is shown on the page and can be read immediately. A great feature that lends itself well to having references in a novel like this.
I also listened to a few of the radio interviews listed in his Facebook page that Luhring has participated in and this reinforces some of the existing plot structures but does give more background to the novel and his reason for writing it. Well worth checking out.
Luhring has developed this novel so extensively that I feel an apologetic study guide could be created to allow the reader to explore these issues and evidence further, thus equipping them to be ready to give a defence to the hope that is in us as the Apostle Peter exhorts us as stated above. He is more than equipped to do this from what he outlined about his own journey in studying apologetics and now creating this novel.
I have been challenged, uplifted, convicted and my faith increased by reading this novel. For Christians who read Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence, I pray that they would also understand the insight into the worldview that the unbeliever, particularly the sceptic and atheist has in their belief system.
I have stated many times in reviews and I have it listed in the Why Christian Fiction? tab in this blog that I like to see in Christian fiction that,
it has entertained me immensely,
it has encouraged my walk with God,
it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine,
it honours God,
it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God).
It seems that apologetic Christian fiction will meet all or most of these criteria due to the specific nature of what it is. This will make for some great Christian reading and experience and if Luhring continues in the path he has set and the standard in Scrooge and the Question of God's Existence he will be one author to follow and I won't far behind him.
World Building 5/5
Spiritual Level 4/5
Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5
Overall Rating 4.4/5 Stars
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,
Better things ahead? If you ever want to reach heights where you can fish disease from family members—if you ever want to step into the next stage of evolution, we must be united. United in how we think. United in what we believe. And united in cultivating a future that our closed-minded ancestors never could have dreamed of.
A tragic trinity of losses weighing heavily on Ken, he has only just begun to trudge through his endless field of grief. But, time stops for no man. In less than six months, the Credit Chip will be the only form of currency accepted. He can either prepare for what’s to come or suffer the consequences of having the rug pulled out from beneath him.
Pastor John and the Matthews girls have more than enough money to prepare for the coming cashless society. But, life has a tendency to throw curveballs. In order to be prepared for what’s to come, they will have to decide what they are willing to lose.
Successful in a business she never wanted, fishing cancer from animals with her mind was always supposed to just be a stepping stone to President Pummel’s heart; instead, Margaret is stuck in a niche, her popularity never higher. But, it isn’t high enough. Time to move onto the next stage…
A man in the middle of an infuriating infestation of Christians, The President needs to take some anger out on the stragglers as he works to dismantle them from the inside out. Able to kill from a distance and in secret, he finds that the high from it fades too quickly. With a new and far more volatile power branching forth, he has found a way to have his cake and eat it too.
The Guru's Review:
I was asked by the author to review this new episode. Like the previous one, it is just over 100 pages. And like the previous one, it is action-packed and Allen has packed a lot in this page length.
This episode is definitely darker than its predecessor. Not surprisingly seeing the first one set the stage for what is to come, introducing the characters, the spiritual themes, spiritual warfare and the evil scheme behind the Chip and the demonic control it exposes the recipient to.
This novella revves up everything on all levels. It will definitely be the springboard for more plot and characterisation and darker elements that Allen has in store. Readers of the initial episode will love this one.
You hit the ground running from page one. The cliffhanger plot arc from the previous continues where this left off. We are introduced to a new plot arc that of The Holy Army who is comprised of Christians who exist to resist the efforts and effects of the Chip and the President who has set up this demonic dominion while parading as an angel of light. We don't hear much of this group until the very end which sets up as another cliffhanger for two characters from the previous instalment. It seems this group will be dominant in the next instalment from the involvement of these two characters.
The spiritual journey of Ken continues as he strives to know God and Jesus more. I love the honesty he shows to God in admitting that he does not know Him and how does he apply Him to his life. Just as in real life, God will answer questions like this when they are based on an earnest and honest heart. This reminded me of the verse in Hebrews 11:6,
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We may not get a tangible answer like Ken received, with a direct answer such as "Know Me", but He does answer us in many other ways that we know are directly from Him. I appreciated Ken standing up to another character who tried to encourage him to accept the Chip and rather than give in, stood firm in his conviction that the Chip was not for the good of mankind but is of demonic origin leading to eternal damnation. This plot point raises a confronting question for us Christians. Will we be prepared to do the same as Ken here? Taken to the worst case scenario are we going to be prepared to be tortured/killed/murdered if we refuse to accept this Mark of the Beast as outlined in this novel and representative of the same as described in Revelation? Will we stand firm in our faith, knowing that God will be on the other side to accept us into His Kingdom or will we give into the pressure put on us by society and the ruling authorities to accept this? Are we certain that this Mark is demonic and lead to Hell?
I do like the plot arc concerning him at the end of the novella. It will good to read what happens to him from this in the next episode. The same can be said for his mother, Deborah.
Allen develops further the previous plot arcs from the previous novella. Margaret Still's desire to secure the affections of the President lead her more into the demonic as she deceives the masses into healing that comes at a price, that of demonic bondage but for one person, he pays the ultimate price. I found that the consequences of what she has allowed are all too real. These consequences begin to take us over and change us. In this novella, it is a combination of the effects of the Chip but it is also due to the effects of the sin that so easily ensnares us, as the Bible puts it. This also happens to another main character that leaves the novel on yet another cliffhanger and an even more dramatic one than the last. I can see readers cheering at what happens to this character but if the reader knows anything about demonic possession, it does not end the way Allen has depicted it for this character. I can only say that Allen had not left this next novella too long with this cliffhanger the way it is!
Allen likes to depict flawed characters and this includes his Christian ones as well. Even more so for these! One example is the crisis of faith Pastor John has when someone close to him has a life-threatening event. He nearly journeys down the wrong path but like Ken, God looks after His own and restores John to Him. I panicked with this plot arc as I did not want to see John make the wrong decision based on an easy, tempting solution that has a hidden price tag with eternal negative outcome. The turmoil that John goes through shows how easy it is, even with a deeply grounded faith in God, to be tempted for other solutions that are not in the perfect will of God when the situation gets dire, any immediate action from God is not forthcoming but we feel something must be done immediately. But what peace and security occur when we realise that God will intervene in His timing and His outcome that is the best for the situation we are in and that the battle belongs to the Lord and not us!. I rejoiced when John found this peace and security again albeit when God spoke directly to him. But John's answer was one of obedience and submission. That is the important thing when we respond to God. Obedience and submission. Such a hard lesson for us to learn when we fight against our fallen nature which pulls us in the opposite direction to this.
Getting back to Ken in his flawed state, I was a little concerned as to why Allen had depicted him falling so easily into sexual sin when he seemed to be seeking God and even recognised Him as Lord and Saviour. I spoke to the author about this, as I could see that this could be a stumbling block for both Christian and non-Christian readers. Allen replied,
Even though he is technically saved, I tried to convey that it was more done out of obligation. His whole arc, along with Willow's, is finding a point of entrance with Jesus. In many ways he was trying to return to the Ken before he came to Christ. I appreciate you pointing that out for me. I like writing characters that are flawed and I'll keep that in mind when finishing off the series.
His spiritual growth has only just started......Do you think Ken's situation, having lost three people pretty suddenly, will help readers understand his distraction with Katie?(into sexual sin?)
I also have found that we don't always ask for forgiveness until convicted by the Holy Spirit. I will definitely address this in part three. The pacing didn't really allow for it in book 2 (Better Things Ahead), considering how much information comes to light in Ken's final part.
An author's insight into a character's motive and behaviour is always beneficial and feedback can help them clarify issues in future works and help them to become better authors. When this is achieved, readers know exactly where the author is going with a plot arc and can better understand and relate to the character(s) and their situation. It also shows why the author included this issue in the plot. In this case, it was not to show sex for entertainment or promote society's attitude towards this and there are no graphic accounts or titillation. I understood to a point why Ken acted as he did, it was just not as clear as it could have been depicted.
Allen has also shown more of the spiritual journeys of Willow, Lily and Deborah since Book 1. All of these plot arcs show more of the redemptive power of God and how some Christians will submit themselves to God as the events leading up to His Second Coming draw close and how some of those who do not believe will come to know Him. This is absorbing reading and is an essential element of Christian/Evangelistic fiction.
All these plot arcs are contrasted with the darker elements of the spiritual deception that affects Margaret and President Pummel. Both reach new heights of darkness and demonic possession and I must say, I found some of it difficult reading. Of note is that of the President. Allen shows the conflict he has as his own desires for domination and control of the world conflicts with that of the demonic spirit that possesses him. The consequences are not just dramatic but far-reaching and Allen leaves the reader with a cliffhanger that is swaying in the wind.
If there is one thing that Allen has succeeded in depicting in these books (that will make up this full-length novel) is that the Chip, Mark of the Beast, or whatever it is being called worldwide, or will be called, is not just a physical addition to control whether we buy or sell, but one that will control every aspect of our lives on every level, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Total control and submission to the controlling power that is behind this Chip/Mark. This will connect mankind to satan in a way that those deceived and who take this Mark will not be able to return from it. God makes that very clear in the Bible. Allen shows why this is so through the demise of Ken's brother, Kyle, who was not just deceived by the promises of what the Chip/Mark offered but was totally taken over by it on every level so described resulting in demon possession and death.
All the events in this novella set the stage for more action-packed plot arcs and deepening character developments. This is gearing up to be one explosive good versus evil story but if Allen continues to expand on the redemptive elements and adherence to biblical principles, he will be on a winner with this series.
World Building 5/5
Spiritual Level 5/5
Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5
Overall Rating 4.8/5 Stars
To buy or preview this novella, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon on the image below:
I came across novelist Michael Boncher in an author's Facebook group where he was seeking advice from fellow authors relating to the covers of his novel, A Light Rises in a Dark World. I checked it out and was impressed with the evidence of detailed world building and an epic fantasy plot. I bought this book straight away and decided to invite Michael to talk about this trilogy and its worldbuilding.
So sit back and let Michael guide you through his trilogy and how he has woven a Christian worldview into it.
Over to you, Michael!
Thank you, Peter for allowing me the opportunity to share the creative foundations that you will discover in the setting of "Akiniwazi Saga: A Light Rises in a Dark World".
Hello, I'm M.D. Boncher, an aspiring writer from Green Bay, Wisconsin. To pay the daily bills, I am a Night Logistics Admin for now. I have been steeped in the storytelling tradition since I rolled up my first character for Basic Dungeons &Dragons, thirty-eight years ago. I have written off and on for decades, everything from comic books and RPG manuals, Action/Adventure to Horror, to Cyberpunk and Space Opera short stories and novellas. The Akiniwazisaga is my first published work.
Now let's have a look at the first novel in the Akiniwazi Saga:
A rejected boy who only desires his father's approval.
A band of children sold by their parents for food.
A disgraced monk and his dog sent on one last quest.
A Faith ready for revolution.
Two civilizations of spirits and steam trapped in a war they cannot end.
In Akiniwazi, the Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas, the war between Heaven and Hell is joined, and all souls hang in the balance.
I asked Michael what type of Christian themes are in "A Light Rises in a Dark World"?
At first, I was inspired by what I could not have. I love fantasy, but even then I have to be very careful about it because certain themes and subjects are not spiritually healthy to me due to my walk with God. That means lots of popular fantasy subjects and stories are off limits if I pay attention in the spirit.
Most fantasy is now off limits to me and began to upset me for it seemed all the games and books or movies I wanted to experience turned out to have such a foundation. I was not familiar with the amount of Christian fantasy so much and what I did find often preached a sermon before getting to the story. That was not what I wanted. This is what drove me to consider writing Christian Fantasy.
My central themes run around redemption, hope and following your individual walk with God. My characters are broken, defeated characters that need to come to terms with their situation and see how God can use these and how it is all part of a greater plan. Reimar and Finn are in many ways flip sides of the same walk of faith. One just starting out, and the other deep into his journey.
This theme of redemption includes the land of Akiniwazi as a whole. From the individual to the nations of Forsamling and Skaerslinger who are trapped together and are struggling to survive the other.
Originally, this was going to be only a trilogy, but it now looks as if it will become a nonology (nine book series) to cover the story arc of not only my main character but an epoch of history in a land undergoing a great transformation. You won't see all of this in just one book, mind you. It is an evolving thing that will connect all the upcoming books as well
Four thought experiments became the core philosophies of the world I created.
1. How can literal Christianity be used as a spiritual basis for fantasy?
The first hurdle for me was that I wanted literal Christianity in my fantasy. After 30 years of playing role-playing games, I knew the conventions of the genre. Monsters, unknown lands, ancient mysteries, "magic systems"... all the tropes. Most of which are antithetical to Bible. I also wanted to use actual scripture from time to time, particularly in spiritual battles that would be part of the setting instead of making up gibberish or pagan mantras I would use scripture. That required Israel, Judea, Babylon and Rome to be as we knew them in the real world.
The answer came with the realization that till around 800AD, the entire western hemisphere was "off the map". That fitted perfectly for my needs. If I wanted to make a fantasy world, that was where I could play! I could create new continents and leave Asia, Europe and Africa as we knew them! Tada! Literal Christianity and a fantasy land that nobody knew. I then isolated them behind a sea of ice thanks to a geological disaster tied into the same period as the "Little Ice Age". This allowed their society to grow independently and gave me much more flexibility while preserving the history of the Old World.
The problem then rose of what would a "Magic System" look like? The D&D mindset is a hard thing to get around. Readers expect it. On the other hand, we have Spiritual Warfare/Deliverance Ministry/Exorcism. The key to reconciling this was to give the Gifts of the Spirit the "This is Spinal Tap" treatment and turn the special effects "up to 11". This would make them more dramatic and more akin to trope appropriate fantasy magic more palatable to the public.
All things supernatural in Akiniwazi are based on a relationship with the divine/demonic. If something impossible is happening, there is a demon or angel doing it. I knew that people who would play the setting wanted "Magic like coal" as I thought of it. Akiniwazi does not do
2. What if the Vikings colonized North America?
Once freed from North and South America as is in the real world. The Vikings, being the first discoverers from the "Old World" who came to the land became my focus and worked out very well historically. This is where history in the setting changes from our literal past to the fantasy. I did research on the era the Viking era and their Christianization, the Monastic orders that would have done most of the missionary work of the Church during that era. Blending in other trends of the era helped to create the Forsamling, who are the Viking descendants of the setting was a lot of fun.
3. How does Great Lakes/ Lumberjack Lore, myth and mystery lend itself to fantasy?
I also love my local history. I'm a Wisconsinite. "A Cheesehead, born and bred" I like to joke. I love reading about the history of the upper midwest, and realized that there were great resources to be mined for an atypical fantasy setting. I deliberately looked up old Indian tales and myths as well as the lumberjack lore. I found a Bestiary of forgotten folklore creatures you never see in fantasy novels. Creatures people do not consider because they are too modern despite having long histories, or just like Paul Bunyan, silly tall tales. They became the basis for fantastical monsters I use from time to time. Never expect a dragon, goblin or elf in this setting. Nor will you see the usual old world traditional Viking fairies and trolls which may be explained some book in the future. Get ready for Draugr, Manitou and Thunderbirds.
This also lead to the creation of the map being a re-envisioning of the upper midwest of the US and Canada with the Great Lakes as its center. The Name Akiniwazi came from a corruption of the Ojibwae terms for "Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas".
4. What if a society discovered steam power without discovering gunpowder?
I blame Sid Meier for this one. While playing a game of Civilization a decade ago, I managed to discover steam power before getting gunpowder. There was the map. Ironclads and pikemen side by side with railroads soon to come. That made me wonder what a society with steam and sword would look like, so I coined the term "Fantasteam". But when it comes to steampunk styling, I demanded realism. With the supernatural always attached to a spirit, I decided that all steam creations must be grounded in realism. Therefore you get steamships and primitive railroads, but no "Steamboy" or "Wild Wild West" super steam creations that could never exist in the real world. This was an area I decided must be "hard science" once you get around the fact they discovered this technological leap about four centuries early.
I spent years cobbling together the names of the setting, its map and features. I took inspiration from Old Norse, Norwegian, Icelandic, Inuit, Finnish, Swedish, Danish to create flavor of the setting for the Forsamling Vikings (The name means "Congregation"), and named their language "Noerrent" which some of my research said was a common name used in the language of that era. For this reason, I provide what I'm now starting to call my "Encyclopedia Akiniwazi" in the back of the book to help pars the terms, meanings and pronunciations of the book. It his constantly being referred to by myself for names as well as reminding me pronunciations. I erred on the side of historical adherence rather than convenience of American readers.
I also had the natives who lived here before the Viking's arrival to create with. I decided to mash together several aboriginal cultures but centered mostly on the woodland tribes as a model, but included inspiration for the Incas, Mayans, Carib, Sami, Hopi, Huron, Inuit, Aborigine, Picts and others from around the world who were encountered by emigrating cultures. Ojibwe was chosen as the basis for the languages of this fantasy tribe who I called "Skaerslinger". Ironically, years after I named them, I came across the name "Skraeling", which was the term given to the Inuits by Greenland Vikings. The term roughly means "Rough" or "Rude" fellows. Funny how that all works out?
To present the world that was stuck in my head, I decided the only way left to share the world was to follow the life of two characters, a ten-year-old boy named Reimar and his unlikely mentor, Brother Finn. Together they provide a view of the world both innocent and cynical, and how their trials help them to heal their own wounds as well as the others.
The following excerpt is one of my favorite scenes that I wrote early on. It touches on many things that make the scenario different (You will notice there are no horses as one detail!) The scene blends the Fantasteam elements and the nature of the supernatural throughout the setting.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~Start of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Bright light blasted Reimar awake as another train thundered by. He gasped and jerked back from the sight. Once it was past and he could think again, he saw another train behind them stopped on a siding. Dawn's dim light was just coloring the eastern edge of the sky a pale blue. Their train crawled alongside a slow-moving river. It was wide and shallow, thick with reeds and mud bars. Fishing boats were casting nets out on the water while other fishermen dug for clams on the shores. A steam knarr trailed a plume of thick black smoke and hugged the far shore while pulling a barge, her decks piled high with cargo between a pair of huge arches that followed the length of the shallow drafted boat. The fore and aft figureheads were flanked by long raised gangplanks. Its center mast was replaced by a tall smokestack which belched sparks to the waning night.
The train was travelling down a long gentle slope to the water's edge. In the distance ahead the first hints of a town could be seen. Overhead seagulls circled and headed out over the lake to fish. Off to the east, huge back-lit clouds could be seen. As winter approached, storms were frequent and powerful. Reimar wondered if this was a storm on the way or just an unseasonably warm day.
The forest had been thick, tight up against the ribbon road, with branches hanging over the tracks from the land side, but the trees and brush on the shore side were cut back sharply as they came closer to a town. Fisherman's shanties and farmer's sod houses were now scattered through the thinned pinery with slices of cleared land that up came to the ribbon road.
As they approached the port of Meidrhvall, the temperature began a noticeable drop. The boundless waters of Lake Neezhoday controlled the weather around its shores for many miles inland. A narrow road came out of the thinning forest and wove through the trees next to the train. Farmer's carts, piled high with harvest goods, were going into town as morning brightened. Some kusken had teams of oxen that were pulling very large dray wagons, but most were carts drawn by two or four llamas, and a post rider trotted along on a caribou. Some animals baulked at the train's passing, but most ignored it, content to keep plodding along.
The Port of Meidrhvall was the largest city the children had ever been to. Only a few hundred souls resided there but that was more people than they had ever seen in one place. A handful of tall chimneys produced smoke as the boilers of the mills, workshops, and ships came to life. A tattoo of quick whistle blasts startled the brakemen awake, moving them into position to slow the train. Then a strange bell began to rattle a warning. The train lurched as it slowed. Lethargic Huskarls sprang forth and made ready for dangers to appear. Brakemen rushed to their places and the train was abuzz with excitement. Brother Finn stood up and looked at the bleary-eyed children around him.
"Do not fear. We are coming into town and must go through the gate, but the warning flags are flying on the stockade. Skaerslinger are near!" That familiar tingle of fear flew down their nerves and made eyes sharp, their ears straining to hear anything over the slowing train. Squealing brakes, banging carriages and loud chugging made it impossible. The road next to the tracks was so close the two almost merged. On a thin strip between the road and ribbons, there were pikes taller than the train, topped with the heads of the executed. The image shocked the children, and Anja began to cry.
"What is that?" Talo asked.
"They are the heads of those who were either criminals caught by the local borgvordr or Skaerslinger killed in a raid against the local lands."
"Why do they cut them off and put them so high up?"
"To show that to kill or try to harm any Forsamling, you must pay a terrible price in return. They keep the heads and secure them high up, just in case a manitou tries to animate them into Draugr. That is why Gallows are so rarely used or are quickly emptied. Those spirits have terrible strength and could rend the bars if the bodies were kept whole. It does not happen often, but occasionally an unclean spirit will take up residence in a head and torment those passing by." Brother Finn pointed to one of the fresher heads on a pole, "If you will notice though, many have had their mouths sewn shut and packed with salt just in case."
"Why salt?" Liesl asked. The idea giving her some discomforting ideas.
"An old custom that some practice. It is a superstition of course, for the salt does nothing, and a determined manitou could break any threads or sinew used to close the mouths. Other heads might be bound by an oil seal made upon it by a priest. Those never come back. After all, what is bound in Heaven will also be bound here on Earth."
A commotion began on the road ahead. The train slowed to the pace of a walking llama. The rising light revealed the remains of a Skaerslinger attack on a kusk. The oxen lay dead and the wagon was on fire. Around it, a few dead bodies of both Skaerslinger and a kusk. Meiderhvall's borgvordr were already attending the scene, tossing the bodies onto the burning cart.
As one corpse was being grasped by the arms and legs, it spasmed to life with a green light that came from the soil below! The borgvordr cursed as the corpse grasped at them looking to free itself and rend them with its dead hands. The corpse screamed an unearthly language and began clawing and kicking its captors. Shouts of alarm came from the train's passengers as they rolled by. The engine shrieked the whistle in alarm but kept moving. On the last car, a Huskarl took aim with a massive springbow. The borgvordr at the head of the animated body let go and tried to step back as the possessed corpse grasped at his Gambeson sleeves. His axe tangled in its holster while the other borgvordr at the body's feet fought to pull him free. A loud metallic snap was heard and a bolt the size of a javelin rocketed out from the last springbow. It struck the no longer human creature in the chest, tore it free from the borgvordr, and pinned it to the damp earth with enough force to tear it loose from the town guard it had assaulted. A third borgvordr rushed in with the opportunity, and with his glaive swung at the pelvis of the thing. The blade chopped through its target in one swift motion. A chilling scream went out from the creature.
Brother Finn, who had remained still in all this stood up and shouted.
"In the Name of our Lord Jesus, silence, foul spirit!" From his mouth, a thin shock wave of breath came out, glowing in the dim morning. "I command thee bound. Come out of there! Obey and be gone!"
They appeared like figures of mist on a pond out of the morning light. Delicate as frost.
A chill went through Reimar at seeing the divine for the first time. Their wings spread and towered over the men and the fire that burned there. The fell creature inhabiting the body turned to see the angels, its expression now one of awe and terror. Their beauty and grace washed over the fetid scene and the two divine figures stepped between the borgvordr, grabbed hold of the horrible manitou, and tore it from the dismembered but still fighting corpse. Like a flash of blue and white lightning, the angels and captive demon vanished. The body tensed and then became still as death lay claim again.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Michael can found at the following social media platforms:
If your interest has been piqued from Michael's account of the Akiniwazi Saga series, this can be bought from Amazon in either individual volumes:
or as Book 1 which comprises these 3 volumes:
Thank you, Michael, for giving us an insight into your writer's mind and passion for writing for God's Glory and using the talent He has given you to do so. I am looking forward to reading the Akiniwazi Saga and I pray others will also. It has been a pleasure having you as a guest blogger on this blog. Please consider visiting again!
Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, science fiction and fantasy, to consider reading the Akiniwazi Saga and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).
The Æglet's Answer (Book Two in the Kinsman's Tree Series)
Introducing The Æglet’s Answer, the second novel in the epic adventure series from Timothy Michael Hurst.
Return to a land full of supernatural wonder. Return to the world of The Kinsman’s Tree.
Their mission to locate the Kinsman thwarted, Company Jasper yet languishes in the clutches of the perverse Doctor Scarsburrow.
Meanwhile, Nat’s discovery of the Kinsman’s Tree brings him into contact with friends old and new. Employing mysterious abilities and the aid of an unlikely ally, Nat plans his return to Sakkan with hopes of rescuing his mother and friends from captivity.
But little does the young Etom know that his involvement with the Kinsman’s Tree will call down unwanted attention on his friends back in Endego, placing them in danger.
The Guru's Review:
I was asked by the author to review this novel pre-release. I am so glad he did.
All I can say is that this novel is beautiful and tender!
I have not read a novel that is so infused with the Spirit of God, not only from the Spirit's inspiration to the author but also in the novel itself, as a character! But not as a physical character but as He is in reality and as we know and experience Him, as a Spirit. He talks to the main characters, with words of instruction, encouragement, guidance and even firmness bordering on discipline, He acts in their lives supernaturally with signs and wonders. In other such novels, the Spirit's presence may be only a few times, but in this novel, it is very frequent. And it is such a joy to behold and to read. I found this to be very uplifting and satisfying.
Hurst has created an unforgettable story here. His imagination is very complex and detailed (as shown in the previous debut novel in this series, The Kinsman's Tree, but also in this one). His world-building is excellent, and reflects his imagination, and is solid with depth and many layers. I mentioned about this in my review of the previous novel. This provides a firm foundation for the characters and plot arcs. But in this novel what enhances all this and takes this to the next level is the inclusion of the Spirit of God and many biblical aspects that God desires us to live by in order to be heirs and children of God. All this adds wonderful layers of spiritual depth and insight.
We have water baptism, healing of the Stain and Blight (the former a physical sign of sin and the latter where it proliferates into major body systems and causes death), manna in the form of a Rhema, tongues of fire on the characters head, (akin to being filled with the Spirit), living in the Vine, (being connected to each other through the Spirit of God), Resonance (detecting the will of the Spirit and other spiritual attributes towards living in the Spirit and with each other), the many fruits of the Spirit, Asteri, (messenger angel from the first book) providing physical and spiritual assistance and instruction to the main characters and others. Reading more of these in-depth in an absolute joy and pleasure to read. The chapters relating to Nat in the Sanctuary where he experiences all of the above-mentioned aspects and the life they live there is just another uplifting experience and filled me with peace, serenity and appreciation for who my Creator and God is and what He has done for me on every level. It is enough to make to you worship Him while you are reading this!
What I found very clever and very effective is the way Hurst integrated the biblical and supernatural aspects of these concepts into the various story arcs and character conversations. In doing so, he has avoided coming across as preachy or these concepts sticking out like a sore thumb and not seeming to fit into the story. This integration is seamless and does not appear to have come from the Bible at all but from the world building or the theology he has created for the world of the Etom, Men and every other creature. Christians will identify this and realise how poetic he has achieved this integration. I chuckled as well as appreciated the inclusion of actual Bible verses in the story or conversation from either Miyam, Asteri or Nat and again these did not stick out as obvious unless you have read these from the Bible. The other aspect of this is that these verses have been placed very appropriately to either highlight these aforementioned aspects or to reinforce them.
I highlighted most of these aspects in the ebook edition and in looking back on them, it seems to show that these are all how we should be living as Christians, how we are to regard and treat each other, how to have a right relationship with God via the Spirit, how to deal with conflict and deal with our negative emotions and nature. All these based on submission to the Spirit and allowing Him to have His way in the situation we are in. This is very evident through Nat and Sayah. Having both of these characters willingly and immediately seek the Spirit for guidance, repentance and instruction is such a breath of fresh air in a novel such as this. It definitely highlights an important discipline for Christians. Why do we need to battle in our own strength when the battle belongs to the Lord? It is Him, through His Spirit that battles this for us when we allow Him to. No wonder the Bible says in Zechariah 4:5-7,
Then he replied, “This is the word the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel: You won’t succeed by might or by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Armies.
The gap in time from when the first novel, The Kingsman's Tree, was released and now has worked against me in truly appreciating this novel for its beauty and tenderness. I wanted to read this first novel before this new one, but time and life events prevented me from doing so. Now having finished this new novel, I can now see that any reader who attempts to read this novel must first do themselves a favour and read the first one again. They will then fully appreciate the flow from the first and see how all the spiritual aspects fit in so well with each other, and how the worldbuilding from the first strengthens and reinforces that of this novel. I plan to do this with the third novel, read from the first and continue on to fully appreciate not only the third novel but this trilogy in its entirety. Such is the craftsmanship of an author that Hurst has developed into. If the reader is unable to read Book 1 first, then I feel that they should reread the last chapter or two of Book 1 as this will assist with chapter 2 of The Æglet's Answer.
Hurst definitely lives up to what he says in his Bio:
I am a writer who believes that the life lived best is lived in service to God and that only under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit one might produce a worthwhile work. I seek to craft entertaining, enriching, and inspiring tales that glorify the Lord in confidence that the Holy Spirit will use them to change and draw people closer to Jesus Christ.
In simply offering myself in surrender to the Spirit, I have discovered the satisfaction of worshipping the Lord as an instrument of the writing process. I believe my experience be confirmation of God's calling on my life, and pray for every person is as deeply transformed in reading these stories as I was in writing them. To Him alone be the glory.
After reading this novel, I did wonder if Hurst lives out what he has so masterfully depicted in relation to the spiritual aspects of this novel. His Bio above gives clues to this so I am not surprised. It is a great asset to novels like with its author well experienced in spirituality to write such novels like this with convincing spiritual aspects.
I must make mention of Hurst's description of the Passion (of Christ). I must confess that it must be very daunting for any Christian writer to write about the crucifixion of Christ. I can imagine all the mixed feelings they have about this, do they feel worthy to do it justice, will it lead the reader astray, will they capture the Biblical essence and honour it as well as God? The list must go on! But Hurst has depicted a very God and Bible honouring account. He has paid careful attention to the reader being a spectator here but for me, it was more, it was as if I was there with Nat, Sayah and Asteri but felt the emotions strongly as Nat did as if I was connected to Nat in some way. It is one of the best accounts of the Crucifixion I have read in a Christian novel and one I won't forget. Hurst's account had me in tears! Why does this always happen when I am on public transport!
Authors love to include subplots that are intertwined in the main story. This is not different here. I wondered what a Æglet in this novel had to do with Book 1, and what this answer was referring to. This novel opens with the introduction of the hatching of two aeglets and their subsequent early life. We witness the bullying from the female aeglet towards her brother and how the parents favour their female offspring (Gael) and are almost dismissive of their male offspring (Sayah) for not living up to the aegle standard and behaviour. Hurst establishes these dynamics and other aspects of the aeglets lives over one long chapter. Just when you think you have had enough of this plot line and start wondering where Hurst is going with this, he commences Chapter 2 simultaneously joining this plot line with that of Nat's continuing journey from Book 1. I won't spoil it for the reader but this introduction is very clever and it from this point on that you hit the road running and cannot put the novel down.
I can see that readers will become fond of the new characters of Miyam, Sayah and many others. They may even despise Gael for her self-centred arrogance and pity towards Sayah. They will love being reunited with the many characters from Book 1, Nida, Shoym, Asteri, Demsey, Rae and many others. I was very impressed with the maturity that he exhibited responding to the situations he is involved in this novel but especially as he responded to the Spirit's call and the transformation that the Spirit made in him. It was just like 2 Corinthians 5: 17,
Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]. (Amplified Bible)
The same can be said for many others including Sayah, and characters from Book 1. I have made mention of the life that Nat lived in Sanctuary and when this is reproduced in Endego this life is very reminiscent of the early Christian church after Pentecost. It is a great allegory and fits in very well with this storyline. This reproduction of Sanctuary in Endego sets up the ending of this novel in one spectacular way and brings all the spiritual aspects together for one explosive and climatic ending. It gets back to what I mentioned before in that the battle belongs to the Lord. I found this final confrontation one that is very spiritually uplifting and I pray that readers both Christian and non-Christian alike will see that despite their circumstances, God is there to battle for them as long as they remain faithful to Him and allow Him to have His way in their circumstance knowing that whatever the outcome, this is the perfect will of God. This confrontation definitely shows how Sovereign God is and all powerful. I found it a huge booster to my faith, but then again, this entire novel is a boost to one's faith! It shows there is always hope while God is Sovereign and in control.
However, just when you think Hurst has tied up all the loose ends nicely, you are reminded of one unfinished plot arc (that has been a thorn in the side of Nat and Endego community) and this is now tied with one almost forgotten character from the first book. And it is in this setting that sets the scene for the final novel. And you leave the novel wondering where this is going to go in the final novel. A cliffhanger of sorts but it definitely has your curiosity piqued and the anticipation high.
I finished this novel with one word in my mind, "WOW!" This is a great novel and one I won't forget in a hurry. It has entertained me greatly, it has uplifted and challenged my faith, it has drawn me closer to God, and it has encouraged me to be more discerning of the Spirit (Resonance in this novel).
If Hurst continues to write novels with such depth of imagination, worldbuilding and so Biblically and spiritually in tune with the Spirit of God, then both Christian and non-Christian alike are going to be fed spiritually and challenged. The former as an encouragement to have a better relationship with God and to appreciate who He is, while the latter to see that there is hope from the world we live in and that God is seeking them to be restored to Him. As Hurst says,
I believe my experience be confirmation of God's calling on my life, and pray for every person is as deeply transformed in reading these stories as I was in writing them. To Him alone be the glory.
World building 5/5
The Spiritual level below is based on the following book that I use: