Friday, April 27, 2012

The Modern Milton--A Book Review of SPIRIT FIGHTER

It seems like a good idea on the outside, in the same way it did to John Milton about 500 years ago: Epics are cool--especially Greek epics--so why not write something just as dramatic as The Iliad or The Odyssey, only make it better because it's about "real" magic--God.

Milton did an okay job of it, too. Though his Paradise Lost isn't nearly as good as Homer's two epics, it's still pretty dramatic and well done... and even if his Paradise Regained was pretty awful, he managed to make one good epic out of his idea...

Jerel Law has set out to do something similar. No doubt spurred on to write the "Son of Angels" series because of the popularity of magic series like J. K. Rowlings' Harry Potter and Rick Riordan's Olympians, Law has begun a series of magical beings, only instead of good and bad witches or the traditional Greek gods and demigods, he's created an epic battle between good and evil by using God's angels and Satan's minions, centering the action around two siblings who are both descendants of fallen angels. SPIRIT FIGHTER is the first of this series, and I had the opportunity to review a copy direct from Thomas Nelson publishers.

The action is certainly dramatic, and the tone of the book resembles Riordan's series quite closely. Honestly, though, that may be the book's biggest flaw. Just as Riordan can construct a world with a ton of action, lots of suspense, and practically no characterization, Law's characters manage to perform some pretty amazing things--yet at the end I know no more about them than I did in the beginning. The only characteristic separating Jonah and Eliza throughout is their ability, since he has superhuman strength and she's able to create a protective shield. Except for the reminders that she's the studious one of them, I found nothing to really tell them apart.

A further problem developed because of the use of Christianity. In Riordan's series, the gods are all silly and selfish and capricious, just as they are in the traditional myths. In Law's series, though, the poor mortal kids are often running around without direction--yet they are constantly being reminded that God knows all, that he's in control of everything--but that is troubling, for if He does, He isn't letting anybody know, and such a situation makes him seem almost as capricious as the pagan gods of Riordan's series. If this is meant as a justification and reinforcement of Christian thought, I'm not sure it's doing enough to deal with these problems, and my queasiness with these ideas increased as the stakes rose in the book itself.

Still, it's a fun read. And if you like Riordan, you'll probably like this series, too.

Forbidden Sea

If you are more into mermaids, though, you might consider FORBIDDEN SEA. I'm reading all the mermaid stuff I can get my hands on, and this is by far one of the best books I've read lately. GREAT characters, dramatic action, and more--emotional stakes that are rare in a lot of the books I've read lately. I became very attached to the main character very quickly, and her relationships with others on the tiny island were compelling all the way through. Only the undersea world was a bit of a disappointment, for it was made into some sort of utopia, yet its realities seemed less than desirable to me. Besides, I don't believe in utopias. I won't tell the ending, but I admit it made me happy, open-ended as it was. I can't wait to find more by Sheila A. Nielson. Her writing is refreshingly meaningful.

So, read any good books lately? Once I'm done with the annotated Grimm's Fairy Tales I'm reading, I'll be ready to tackle something new.


  1. Let's see Shakes, I just finished Harvest of War by Charles Gramlich...a sort of rehabilitation of Tolkien's Orcs. with an underlying them of the uselessness of judging what is not clearly understood and two former enemies standing against a common enemy not made of flesh. Very short 1.5 hour read on Kindle.

    Because were talking Fantasy and Magic today also on Kindle Resonance by Avery DeBow (first book) certainly grabbed my attention. Her antagonists went all the way back to the Sumerian gods, which I thought quite clever. At about 125,000 words it provided about a weeks worth of reading. I thought it the best new work I read last year.

    Normally though I don't go in for fantasy and magic, so now I am reading The Old Curiosity Shop--Chuck Dickens. After this I don't know maybe the Roosians some more or maybe I will move at least back to the 20th century. *shrug*

  2. What up shakes... missed you.
    Nice review, glad to see you hard at it.
    One day you might see a draft of my finished manuscript, I would love to read anything you might need help with. You have not stopped writing.....right?

  3. I loved the mist born trilogy, by Bandon Sanderson... of course the wheel of time series by Robert Jordan--just finished reading the 13 books for the second time, the last book (#14) comes out soon.
    Stephen king's the Stand was awesome.

    Orson scot card Enders Games was a good read.

    Brandon Mull's fablehaven series were good.

    just to name to top few I would recommend a friend to read.

  4. I'm most of the way through A Submission by Amy Waldman, and I can highly recommend that. The books I pimped hardest last year were Game Change and Ready Player One, neither of which I found put-downable.