Sunday, October 25, 2009

Isle of Fire: A Review

"Isle of Fire" picks up shortly after the conclusion of its predecessor, Isle of Swords. Cat is staying with the Brethren Monks, training with them while trying to regain his memories of his past life. But he isn't all that certain that his past is something he wants to remember.

Meanwhile, Captain Declan Ross and his daughter Anne sail the sea recruiting pirates for his "Wolf Pack," a group of former pirates paid by the British Government and the Brethren to hunt down other pirates. Villains, new and old, make their appearance quickly as well. Some are brutal and heartless, consumed by their desire for revenge; others are more subtle, content to wait until the proper moment to strike.

Wayne Thomas Batson paints a broad, sweeping tale that spans the Atlantic Ocean in this tale of treachery, truth, and tempests. Things are not always what they seem--even chapter titles can be deceiving. One rarely sees the newest--and cruelest--villain, The Merchant, but his influence is felt nonetheless.

As in Batson's other books, some of the secondary characters are so much "larger than life" as to feel almost caricatures of reality and yet they seem perfectly real at the same time. However, the main characters internal dilemmas are as clear and real as their external ones.

Overall, I preferred Isle of Fire to Isle of Swords. There were fewer extreme characters--or perhaps I just knew the characters better and so they felt more real--and the story is less obvious. One knows the good guys have to win, but how is very much uncertain. Also, I liked the fact that Declan, Anne, Cat, and the others, aren't searching for treasure but rather truth. And they all find Truth and therefore, true treasure.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys adventures on the high seas. But make sure you read "Isle of Swords" first!

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Isle of Swords: A Review

Bloodthirsty pirates. Buried treasure. Mysterious monks. Hidden islands. Daring escapes. Perilous searches. All these things and more are found in Isle of Swords. As Captain Declan Ross tries to discover a way to leave piracy behind, his daughter tries to persuade him to let her join the crew and his newest deckhand tries to recover his memory. A strange monk offers Captain Ross his chance to escape piracy if he will grant him passage to an island no one has seen. But the ruthless Captain Bartholomew Thorne also wants the treasure and will do anything to get his hands on the map now in Captain Ross' possession.

I had a little trouble at first with the manner in which Batson constantly shifts the point-of-view from which the story is being told. Hearing from half a dozen different characters who I barely knew was a bit confusing and frustrating. However, as the story progressed, I quickly lost sight of the point-of-view changes and lost myself in the story.

Isle of Swords is first and foremost an action and adventure story populated with memorably quirky characters. Secondly, it is a tale of what is really important in life--not the adventure, but those family and friends who share it with us. The message is smoothly interwoven into the story with the same skill Batson has shown in his Door Within trilogy. Nearly every reader should be enthralled by this fast-paced story set on the high seas.

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Final Storm: A Review

Imprisoned in the fortress of Paragor, Antoinette Reed still tries desperately to convince Kearn that Paragor's promises are empty. Meanwhile, Aidan loans the Scrolls to Robby in hopes that they will convince him that The Realm is real and that King Eliam is the one to follow. But Robby is not easy to convince. In The Realm, Kaliam readies Alleble for the assault by Paragor's forces that is sure to come, bringing all of those loyal to King Eliam under the protection of the city's walls. But with the ancient Wyrm Lord and the Seven Sleepers on Paragor's side, will the walls of Alleble be enough to with stand the storm?

The Final Storm brings together the best characters from the two previous books and introduces us to still more. Each of the three travelers from the Mirror Realm--Robby, Antoinette, and Aidan--have their own strengths and weaknesses keeping them from becoming copies of each other. The Glimpses too are clearly defined. While the characters retain their boisterous natures from previous books, the looming war tempers them making this my favorite of the trilogy. Amid the darkness of war, there is hope.

Beneath the shadows of ruin, there is life. These concepts and more are a foundation to this story of Alleble's great stand against the evil of Paragor. I love the way Batson illustrates the fact that though evil times will come, there is only one place to put our trust--In the King of kings. He will see to it that the evil will be used for good, no matter how bleak things may be. The Final Storm reminds us all that the end is only the beginning. Readers will love this gripping conclusion to the Door Within trilogy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Rise of the Wyrm Lord: A Review

Uniting familiar characters with delightful new ones, "The Rise of the Wyrm Lord" chronicles the further adventures of Aidan Thomas as he readjusts to life in our world, the Mirror Realm, as well as detailing the journeys of headstrong Antoinette Reed. When the teenagers meet at school, they quickly discover a mutual love for King Eliam and his ways. Convinced that Antoinette is being called to the Realm, Aidan secures her promise to search for Robby's Glimpse and persuade him to join them while he tries to persuade him in their own world. Never dreaming of the trouble it would cause, Antoinette gives her word and soon her adventures in the Realm begin.

Like "The Door Within," "The Rise of the Wyrm Lord" works with a broad cast of twelve knights, each with different strengths. This book introduces my favorite character, the herbmaster and pyromaniac knight Sir Oswyn. Batson manages to keep his main characters--both the Glimpses from each other and Antoinette from Aidan--very distinct so that we do not lose track of characters for the number of them.

Teenagers who enjoy fantasy will love this second book in the Door Within trilogy. Woven within the fast-paced tale is a lesson of trust and obedience--and the consequences of ignoring wise counsel. The only problem with the book is that it is the middle of the sequence. The ending leaves one wanting more! And that is hardly a true problem.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Door Within: A Review

When Aidan Thomas and his family have to move halfway across the country to care for his aging grandfather, the disgruntled teenager knows that life will never be the same. What he doesn't know is exactly how different life will be. The discovery in the basement of mysterious scrolls with a fascinating but unfinished story leads Aidan to seek the Door Within and travel to a world of noble knights and fair maidens. In The Realm, he learns more of the story found in the scrolls and faces the choice that will define his life forever--follow King Eliam or Paragor the Usurper.

Some of the characters are rather broadly drawn so that they seem rather exaggerated and thus unrealistic, but they are delightful nonetheless. Captain Valithor, Sentinel of Alleble, employs hilarious adjectives as he urges those in his charge to work harder. One fun thing about the characters is the way their build and temperaments tend to mirror their weapons. Archer brothers Nock and Bolt are slight and quick, while hammer-wielding Mallik is built like a rock.

In this adventurous tale full of truth and treachery, rambunctious and hilarious characters, Aidan learns what it means to never be alone. Though written for Junior High and early High Schoolers, the story contains enough depth to satisfy an older reader while remaining simple enough for children many years younger. "The Door Within" is sure to delight any reader of adventure and fantasy.

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

He's at it again

Author Wayne Thomas Batson is sponsoring a new contest. This time with friend and co-author Christopher Hopper. Why, you ask? Simple, they've a new book coming out in October. And the stakes are higher than before. Where last contest (for Isle of Fire), the highest prize was books for life and naming a character, the grand prize this time includes a private book signing party for the winning tribe. How cool is that? I plan to post a review of each book before the next month is out.

And now, the books:
By Wayne Thomas Batson:
The Door Within
The Rise of the Wyrm Lord
The Final Storm
Isle of Swords
Isle of Fire

By Christopher Hopper:
Rise of the Dibor
The Lion Vrie
Athera's Dawn (coming soon)

By Batson and Hopper:
The Curse of the Spider King (coming November 2009)
Venom and Song (coming soon)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Engedi. A place to which David fled as a refuge from Saul. An haven of life in the midst of barrenness. An oasis renowned for the richness of its produce. And the name of a retreat at the end of Summer's hot days.

This past weekend I helped other members of our church host a retreat for folks aged 16-32. It was amazing. Having been in on the planning and preparation made it even more wonderful. See, on the day of the registration deadline, no one outside our church had signed up. And I mean no one. Zip, zero, nada. And we'd promised the camp 80ish. What could we do? Nothing. So the main leaders prayed about it and decided to keep trying--and to keep registrations open. Folk visited other churches, called them, sent letters, and, above all, prayed. And you know what? God answered. The registrations started coming. From a trickle to a downpour they came. In one month we went from zero people outside our church to sixty. Some even registered the day before the retreat started!

And that's not all. Most of us had never put on a retreat of this sort before. Stephanie, Peter, and Rita have done massive homeschool conferences and the like but they're the only ones. The rest of us had been to them but never hosted. And the only difficulty we had was getting people to show up on time. Really. Everything went so amazingly smoothly. I had a one person who has been working on conferences say that she was learning things from us!

But wait! There's more! (Had to do that after our skit...) I'm not the most social person. That is, hanging out with complete strangers is very difficult for me. Usually, I'll hang on the outskirts, listen in on one of my other friends talking to the other attendees but not really get involved myself. Not so this weekend. Rather, I was in the middle of things. True, I didn't actually carry on much by way of conversation with a lot of people--I was playing v-ball, or other games during the little free time we had--but neither did I hesitate as to where to sit at meals, wonder if I would be welcome in games, or feel awkward flitting around the crowd to talk briefly to other people. God was good to me. I was nervous about not knowing anyone on my team but I really liked them. The guys--and gals when they showed up--were great. We just needed some help on the artistic side... :-)

Add to all that encouraging speaking from Brady and Eric on a purpose worth living--and dying--for and you have a marvelous weekend. Both reminded us that Christ alone is worth following and His kingdom worth living for. As Eric pointed out, we are His sheep. And His sheep are supposed to hear and obey. So get up off your seat and obey!

On the way down to Engedi, I prayed with a friend that God would show Himself mightily over the weekend. I think He did.

In Christ alone,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Music and Words

Music. Haunting, joyful, despairing, joyful, chaotic, rich. It can reach to the depths of our souls, pierce even the thickest walls, touch the most closed heart.

Words. Long, short, awe-inspiring, groan-inducing, hilarious, cruel. They can linger in our minds for a lifetime, break a heart or mend it, honor or defame.

How will you use your words and music?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad

A little tribute to my dad that I wrote a couple years ago for him at Christmas:

A pillar of strength
On whom many rest
A father of children
Who counts himself blessed

Born to a family
That was torn into two
Adopted again
By God made anew

A man whose heart
Seeks after his Lord
Bound forever
By an unbreakable cord

Drawn ever to service
To others he gives
Especially his family
At home where he lives

A warrior at heart
One of God’s mighty men
He fights for men’s hearts
For his King them to win

Eyes full of laughter
Deep wells of love
Endlessly filled
By the Love from above

Spending time with his family
To him brings more joy
Than getting the newest
Gadget or toy

A playground for children
Always ready for fun
A comforting presence
From whom nightmares must run

Husband and father
Mentor and friend
Servant and teacher
Prince to the end

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Running the Race...

Sunday night I was at some friends house watching a worldview course by Focus on the Family and it had a quote by Eric Liddell about why he ran the way he does or something like that and he said something like this - I run not for the praise or glory of man but because I can feel the pleasure of God when I run. So to all ya'll out there I want to encourage ya'll to run the race of life with endurance to the glory of the Most High and may ya'll feel His pleasure.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Orderly Writing

I was at a workshop the other day listening to John Erickson (author of the Hank the Cowdog books). He spoke about what it means to be a Christian writer—and I have to agree with his points. Mr. Erickson said that as Christians, our writing—or composing, or cinematography, or architecture—should be marked by excellence and order. Being “Christian” does not necessarily mean having a form of the Christian religion in your story. It does not mean that your music says “Praise ye the Lord!” every song (or some variation thereof). Rather, it means that, regardless of “religious content” our work reflects God’s order and His greatness and leaves the person better for having experienced it.

He put it something like this: Genesis 1:1-2a says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void…” That is God imposing order on chaos. And then there’s Genesis 1:27 “And God created man in His own image. In the image of God He created him. Male and Female He created them.” There is us, made in God’s likeness to do as He does. Therefore, in all our art—writing specifically for me and him—we should impose God’s order on chaos. It’s the only order that works anyway. Leastways, that’s what I understood Mr. Erickson to say.

And it makes sense really. As a Christian, we should strive to be the best. Our craft should be the finest. Do we have to mention God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, or church, or the Gospel? No. Why? Because in everything we do, all should be for the glory of God (Col 3:17). Would God be glorified by shoddy work? I think not. God is the Master Craftsman. His work is always good. Should not we, who are made in His image have good works as well? And I mean “good” as in “morally upright and virtuous” as well as “superior, excellent, skillful” and even “enjoyable” and “satisfactory.”

This does not mean that I think we shouldn’t write books that are “Christian” in the sense that they actually have Christians in them (or the fantasy form thereof). If I thought that, my own work would be ridiculous! But I don’t think that we can use having Christians in our stories as an excuse for weak work. There is a lot of “fluff” (as I call it) out there. Books that have mentions of God and prayer and Christians, and church—or even more than mentions—but do little or nothing to actually leave you better for reading it. There is no substance to them. And a good book needs substance else you’ll never read it again.

Does substance mean “deep theological discussions”? No. But it does mean that it reflects God’s Truth at every instance. That even in fun, God’s law is honored. Even in something as lighthearted as Hank the Cowdog one can see the struggle between what we should do and what we do, right and wrong, good and evil. Hidden unconsciously by the author (so he said) but there nonetheless.

So I suppose my challenge to you, O writer, and myself, is to ensure that your craft and your content are pleasing to the Lord. Strive to become the best that you possibly can. Show God’s order in your work. Hide not your light but rather let it shine that men may glorify your Father in heaven!

In the King’s service,
Rien Takhid

Sunday, March 22, 2009


I like writing stories. I don't like rewriting stories. At least, not that much. When I write the first draft, I feel like I'm accomplishing something. New pages of story flow with ease from my mind to the page. My friends are happy to see what happens next. I am happy to see what happens next!

Not so rewriting--especially for the sixth time. I'm dealing with storylines and descriptions that I've worked iwth before. Nothing seems fresh or new. My progress is slow. I have to resist the urge to scrap everything and start over. Sometimes I don't resist and new chapters result.

But then, when I look at what I rewrote as compared to the original, I am happy. Plot holes--even nearly invisible ones--are mended, new threads are woven in, adding richness to the tapestry of story, old threads that trailed off in ragged ends are clipped. All in all, it is a more rewarding read.

So I will keep rewriting. It is not pleasant now but the reward is far greater in the end. A bit like God's working in our lives, I suppose. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Heb 12:11). God's always working on our lives, bringing us to a closer likeness of Himself. It isn't fun. Sometimes--oftentimes--its the same lessons that we were working on last week, last month, last year. But each time, the lesson is deeper, more profound, shaving away more of our sinful nature. And we become more like Christ. Sounds good to me!

Friday, February 6, 2009

New Purpose

In the beginning, this blog contained updates on Rien and Tel's progress toward winning the prize set forth in the Isle of Fire contest sponsered by Wayne Thomas Batson. That contest is long since over and we await the time when we can reap the fruits of our labors. Now I (Rien) intend to take this blog in a new direction. From this day forth it will contain the occasional update on my writing journey. And, of course, Tel's opinion of said journey and whatever else he wants to say. For now, I leave with this summary of the first book in the Narratives of Nartanis, Sword Aflame

Draw me only in the right

Against my foes the Hosts of Night
Only then, behold my light

And strike at evil with thy might

For years, the cryptic verse inscribed along his sword’s blade and strange dreams and visions have haunted Conrad Edricson’s mind and heart. Now, with the Hosts of Night on the move and the king’s army assembling, it seems that he may finally have the chance to find answers to his many questions. And so Conrad sets out on his journey—despite the fact that he knows nothing of swordplay.

But in the land of Nartanis things are not always what they seem and even the most ordinary looking objects may contain hidden power. When the battle begins, Conrad’s sword reveals itself as one of the legendary Eliorc blades, powerful weapons against the Hosts of Night. Nothing can ever be the same for the former farmer as he his plunged into a world even he never dreamed would be his.