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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Shadow Within and Shadow Over Kiriath, by Karen Hancock

I have previously discussed Karen Hancock's Light of Eidon in this blog.

I have now read the second and third books in her quartet of novels. Both of them also won Christy awards. They are The Shadow Within (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2004) and Shadow over Kiriath (same publisher, 2005) and

In these two books, Hancock stays on some well-beaten paths, in both fantasy literature and faith fiction. But she also departs from well-beaten paths.

First, the beaten paths. Abramm comes into the kingship in this pair of books. He also falls in love, and the object of his affections reciprocates. But there are difficulties. There is a religion, which is important to the characters, and the plot. None of that is a surprise. The same sort of aspects, including the religion, may be found even in fantasy literature which is not Christian. For example, see here.

Hancock departs from the beaten path in a few ways. One of them is that the Terstan faith, which is clearly meant to be a fictional Christianity, has what amounts to church services. Sometimes, Abramm receives prophetic guidance in the teaching, or sermon. Another, as I indicated in the first post on the series, is that those who are Terstans, as well as those who oppose that faith, wear, or have attached, tokens of their faith -- small stone-like objects. These are not merely passive. They can work magic. Another non-standard religious matter is that there is an apostate religion, which claims to honor Eidon, the name for God in the series. But this apostate religion emphasizes form rather than belief and heart attitude, and, it turns out, is captive to evil supernatural beings. Some of the followers of that apostate religion wear a different kind of token, which can also work magic.

The last non-standard item I wish to discuss is that, in the third book, the opening section, the close, and small parts of the in-between, are about an evil supernatural being, who wishes Abramm, and his kingdom, nothing but harm. This is something like The Screwtape Letters, but without any humor. The evil being can interact with other such, and even commands some of them. It also inhabits a member of Abramm's staff.

I think that Hancock may have overdone her menagerie of evil creatures. There are several kinds of beings which appear to be part animal, and part evil spirit, and she almost seemed to conjure a new type up whenever she needed them for a plot device.

Nonetheless, this is a good series. As I said in the previous post, I believe that it could have stood up as a fantasy series published by a publisher not overtly Christian, and I wish it had received the larger audience that that should have meant.

Thanks for reading. I'm glad that I read these books, and I look forward to reading the fourth. I'd like to know what's going to happen to Abramm.

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