Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Lion Vrie: A Review

War still rages in the once pristine land of Dionia. Morgui’s forces of Dairne-Reih have overwhelmed the few who withstood them. Luik and his fellow Dibor are fleeing for their lives, gathering what survivors they can find as they search for refuge. But a new threat has emerged. Now the Dibor and faithful Dionians must fight not only the demonic Dairne-Reih but also men—their once brothers who have chosen to side with the enemy. All seems bleak. But hope is not lost. An ancient sect of warriors, the Lion Vrie, return from the dust of history to help the weakened resistance. Hidden fortresses open their doors to the tattered bands of survivors. The Dibor regroup and prepare to face the enemy again.

The stakes are higher in this sequel to Rise of the Dibor. The effects of the enemy’s presence are seen more fully in poisoned lands and poisoned minds. Faith seems useless—but appearances can be deceiving. The Lion Vrie is a heart-wrenching story of perseverance amidst doubt, of struggles to understand how and why a loving God would allow such horror and pain to descend upon those He claimed to uphold. The answer is not simple nor is it complete—it cannot be for we are only in the second act and have yet to see the conclusion of the story—yet it still offers hope for the hopeless.

Christopher Hopper’s writing improves in this second installment of the White Lion Chronicles. While he still struggles with some homonym errors, they are rare and not as jarring as in the first book. More of the intricate world of Dionia is revealed and we are allowed to revel in its beauty despite the destruction that lurks in the shadows.

My absolute favorite part of The Lion Vrie comes when Luik explains to his fiancĂ©e why he would have her not fight in the coming battles despite her own warrior training. Hopper manages to get to the heart of the matter and I admire him for it. Once again, I would recommend this book to older teens and adults who enjoy fantasy with a solid Biblical worldview. But be warned—this story leaves one hanging and longing for the final installment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rise of the Dibor: A Review

In a world where the first man and woman never disobeyed God and refused the serpent’s cunning, everything is perfect. The relationship between Creator and created is unmarred, beautiful in its simplicity and seen in every action. Treachery is unknown as are pain and suffering—and death. Luik, son of Lair has lived an idyllic life, never wanting, always joyful. But an ancient evil that has lain in wait since the beginning of the world and has at last found a chance to strike. The peace of Dionia is shattered. War ravages the land. Luik and eleven other young men, sons of kings, are gathered together and sheltered on a secret island. Trained as warriors, the twelve return to their homelands to find destruction and evil everywhere. And so they throw themselves into the fray, trusting to the Most High to guard their backs and hold them close when all hope seems lost.

Christopher Hopper weaves and interesting supposal of a tale in Rise of the Dibor. What would it be like in a land where sin was unknown? What would happen if evil did invade? Nobility and honor abound among Luik and his companions—a stark contrast to the treachery and selfishness of the enemy. Though long, the battle sequences are intense and intricate and one is frequently left wondering how the heroes could possibly survive the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

Rise of the Dibor does suffer from some grammatical errors such as homonym substitution (hear vs. here) and poor punctuation (daggers weight vs. dagger’s weight) that can jolt the reader out of the story. However, Hopper quickly draws you back in with the intricacy of his tale. I would recommend this book to older teens and adults who are not “Grammar Nazis” and enjoy fantasy with a solid Biblical worldview.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Curse of the Spider King: A Review

Allyra is lost. 800 years ago, the Spider King’s forces swept in and destroyed the seven Elven Lords and their children. Driven into hiding, the elves have all but given up hope that they will ever be able to regain their homeland. Without the Elven Lords, what can they do? But then, there are stirrings in a distant land. Hints that perhaps the heirs of the lords yet live come from another world—Earth. Sentinels and Dreadnaughts—elite warriors of the elves—set out to find their lost lords before the enemy can.

Meanwhile, on Earth, only thirteen years have passed for the unknowing heirs of the Allyrian thrones. As far as the seven teens know, they are perfectly ordinary humans. Until dark creatures begin to stalk their footsteps and strange powers manifest themselves in startling ways and everything they know is turned upside down. Then, they must band together with their elven guardians in a desperate race to return to the homeland they never knew.

In this intriguing tale that turns portal fantasy inside out, Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper manage to weave their different writing styles together into a smooth tapestry of story. There are a few knots in the weaving—minor grammatical errors or not-quite-explained plot points—but they do little to detract from the whole picture. Since I have read all of both Batson and Hopper’s books, I was curious to see how they managed to mesh their writing. I was pleasantly surprised. The weakness of one writer was effectively balanced by the strength of the others. Batson seems to lean toward exaggerated characters in his writing while Hopper’s characters tend to be understated to the extent that it is difficult to tell them apart. Combined, we have an excellent cast, each with their own quirks and foibles but distinct without being exaggerated.

As for the story itself—I found it a bit slow to get started in some ways though the tension was set from the beginning. The two characters that the book stayed with the most, I found least appealing though still interesting. Because of the large cast, we often leave a character for long stretches of the book and can almost forget about their existence—almost. That said, I found this book an enjoyable, if light, read and look forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel Venom and Song. A second reading makes one realize how much foreshadowing the authors wove into the early chapters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys lighthearted fantasy with deeper themes but especially to those of Junior High age.