Posts Tagged ‘Fantasy’

finding-angel-coverHaving written stories for several anthologies, Heckenbach launched her debut novel “Finding Angel” on Sep 1, 2011. As a homeschooling mother, fantasy lover, and self-proclaimed science geek, Heckenbach put her skills into creating the Toch Island Chronicles. There are currently two books released in the series, with Seeking Unseen (Book 2) published a year after the first. Finding Angle is available as a Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook.

Story overview:
Angel knows that her family isn’t related to her by blood, but she loves them just the same. Particularly her younger foster brother. Having been adopted at a young age, and lost her childhood memories, she often wonders what her birth parents are like.

Fascinated by the world of fantasy, whether books or pictures, Angel feels a close connection to otherworldly elements. Not only is she smart for her age, but her recent curiosity over a beetle that her brother found sets her to task. Her mission: to find out what type of beetle it is.

Before exhausting the library’s resources on the subject, Angel meets an oddly dressed boy by the name of Gregor. Little did she know that the beetle was magical, and the boy had been searching for her for years. But most of all, Angel was soon to discover that her love for magical worlds wasn’t based on fantasy at all.

My thoughts:
Cleanly written in the third-person limited narration, I quite enjoyed this story. Some elements of it made me think of Inkheart (by Cornelia Funke), with Gregor’s personality a bit like Farid’s. Only, instead of obsessing over Dustfinger, his eyes were fixated on someone else. Some reviewers likened this book to Harry Potter while others to The Lord Of The Rings. But, magical and elven elements aside, I thought it followed its own path fairly well–standing on its own two feet. If you like a good young adult fantasy, don’t hesitate to give this one a look.

Things to consider:
There is no foul language or sexual situations (considering two teens of the opposite sex live alone together for some time). No excessive violence to speak of, but there are a few scenes regarding death and a few that contain some gory elements. Overall, nothing objectionable that I could detect. I’d recommend this for preteens and older, with a slight emphasis toward girls as the protagonist is female, but boys should also come away feeling significantly satisfied.

Opportunities for discussion:
Like Angel, who dreamed of being in another world, Christians believe that we were created for something better. Something beyond what we see before our eyes. It is this longing that sometimes leads us into obsessing over fictional worlds. We know things have gone wrong, and we know they need to be fixed; therefore, many authors have sought to create environments in which they can express such struggles. Fiction is a wonderful place, a place where we can be more than who we are, and the world can be larger and better than the one we live in now. Yet these are only shadows of the true thing which is to come–as C.S.Lewis speaks to in Narnia’s The Last Battle. Remind your youth that the wonders of fantasy and fiction are an important part of a bigger picture, one with which we can all be a part of in the hereafter.


Wondering what book to read next? Considering a fantasy novel geared toward teens and young adults? Do you like the Harry Potter and Eragon genre? Want something wholesome to read that has a 5-star rating? Well, here’s the book for you, and best of all, today it’s free on the Kindle.

A fifteen-year-old boy is the son of a great and powerful wizard, but for some reason, both parents refuse to let him study the craft. It isn’t until a year after his father’s death that Traphis comes across a secret collection of magic books. While hidden in his cave, Traphis immerses himself into the text. But as soon as he brushes against the two sources of power (one from darkness and one from light), he learns that the path of a true wizard isn’t as safe as he originally thought.

Click here to get your free copy of Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale today »

First of all, unlike the Amulet series, it’s important to note that this book isn’t written by Kazu Kibuishi. He is the editor, not the author (although one of the stories is his). Explorer follows the style of his Flight graphic novel project, which is a collection of short stories written by different authors.

Story overview:
With box as the theme, seven different stories are compiled into this one book. The first (Under the Floorboards, by Emily Carroll) is about a young girl who finds a clay doll in a box that comes to life. The second (Spring Cleaning, by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier) is about a mysterious cube found in a boy’s closet that is apparently coveted by every wizard. The third (The Keeper’s Treasure, by Jason Caffoe) is about a young explorer who seeks for lost treasure.

Then we have The Butter Theif, by Rad Sechrist, which tells the tale of a spirit that tries to capture the thusela–otherwise known as butter–from the house of a young girl. Next is The Soldier’s Daughter (by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez): after her father dies, Clara goes after the evil Captain Vaal to exact revenge.

The sixth story, Watzit (by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham) is about a young alien who sorts a group of boxes containing a complete solar system, but in the process he is ambushed by a dark and troublesome creature. The final story is by Kibuishi (The Escape Option), where a young man is abducted by an alien who says the earth will end someday. He is offered the chance to leave and live on the alien’s home planet or to stay and wait for the destruction of the world.

My thoughts:  
I thought this was much better than Flight. The stories were less works of art and more focused on the tales themselves. The drawings were more cartoonish as well, which better fits the style of the Amulet. I wouldn’t call this a must read for Amulet fans, but it’s a lot closer to it than the Flight books are, and well worth a look.

Things to consider:
This collection is a lot more age appropriate than Flight. No sexual situations, extreme violence, or foul language. I’d recommend it for preteens and older. For those sensitive to references of evolution, in Kibuishi’s story, there is mention of the earth being billions of years old, but otherwise, I didn’t see anything questionable.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s hard to come up with a single point, as each story is very different. But since the theme here is boxes, one can easily relate them to secrets. Boxes can be used for many things, such as transportation and storage, but they can also be used to hide things. Ask your youth if they have ever hidden something in a box, and if so, what. Better yet, tell them if you have ever hidden anything before you ask them (be honest). Share the difference between hiding good things and bad things. Good things like praying to the father in secret (Matthew 6:6) or giving to the needy without recognition (Matthew 6:3-4). Or bad things like hiding sins and lying to cover them up (Proverbs 12:22). God sees everything done in secret, as Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV) says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

On a trip to Chicago, Kingsley took a set of mythology books with her. The stories she read from Jason and the Golden Fleece to The Trolls of Norway were so vivid and beautiful that they inspired her. On New Year’s Day of 2004, she sat down to collect her thoughts of what became Erec Rex. As she plotted the series, bits of mythology wove their way into her ideas, and, on April 7, 2009, the first book was published.

Story overview:
Twelve-year-old Erec Rex lives as one of several adopted children–moving from one place to the next–supported by a woman (who he calls his mother) with little income. His biggest problem is a strange voice that makes him do odd things. Thankfully, so far, the things have all been good.

Shortly after the story begins, the voice sends him out to seek for his mother, who had been missing since the morning. After meeting a strange girl, Bethany, he is lead down a mysterious stairway and into a magical world.

Coming across unusual characters, Erec is directed to a meeting place where a large group of children are preparing to complete in a set of games. The games are being held to determine who will replace the current rulers of Alypium, Ashona, and Aorth. As Erec searches for his mother, he finds himself caught up in the events of this magical world.

My thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book. I know it’s dreadful to say, but I liked it better than Harry Potter. There were a few things borrowed from the Potter world, such as the games (particularly the one which requires an underwater goal), but as many experts say, imitation produces great results. Then again, since the author heavily researched mythology before writing this tale, there’s a good chance she didn’t borrow from Potter at all. Regardless, I highly recommend this story. So far, it’s my best read of the year.

Things to consider:
No sexual or romantic scenes. No foul language that I remember. The action violence is fitting and non-gory. For those who are sensitive to chiromancy, there is an old woman who reads the protagonist’s palm. Personally, I found nothing offensive–it’s a wonderfully creative world. Great for ages 12 and up.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s easy to doubt the ones you love when it appears as if they have been misleading you. But sometimes trusting family is more important than knowing all the facts–Erec learned this lesson when his mother was held captive. On the flip side, sometimes parents need to be more open with their children. Ask your youth if they ever felt like Erec, not knowing certain truths about their lives. If so, ask them what they’d like to know, and then make a decision to share if that’s the right thing to do.

On the long list of British children’s authors is Jenny Nimmo. In 1986, she began The Magician Trilogy, which was completed in 1989. From there she wrote several miscellaneous works before starting The Children of the Red King. This series went on for eight books, beginning in 2002 and ending in 2009, with an extension written in 2011 called The Secret Kingdom.

Story overview:
10-year-old Charlie lives in a house with his mother, two grandmothers, and uncle. His father supposedly died in a car accident when Charlie was still an infant. With his father’s side of the family known for their dark and shady ways, Charlie prefers to be more like his mother.

In fact, Charlie is content with being an average boy. He wants nothing to do with his crazy aunts or their power. But when a magical ability surfaces from within him, he can no longer stay in the background. The label, endowed, is bestowed upon him as his tyrannical grandmother, Grizelda Bone, forces him to attend Bloor’s Academy—a school for the gifted. But not before Charlie learns of a missing baby, now a girl his own age. With determination, Charlie makes it his mission to find her.

At the school, he meets kids who wish to help his cause, while others go out of their way to create obstacles to interrupt his mission. Yet help from unexpected places aids him and his friends as they seek to save the lost girl.

My thoughts:
There are some books where it takes me a few chapters to get interested. Midnight for Charlie Bone wasn’t one of them; I was hooked after the first few pages. The characters are dynamic and believable, the plot development is flawless, and the story itself was an enjoyable read. It’s written in a mixture of third-person omniscient and limited. Where the author does switch character heads during a scene, it happened so smoothly that I didn’t find it jarring like so many other books I’ve read. I look forward to continuing this series down the road, and recommend it [so far] as a great read.

Things to consider:
I found nothing questionable in this story. No foul language or sexual scenes. There are a few violent situations, but not many and nothing I’d consider inappropriate for this age group—9 and up. Good for both boys and girls, but perhaps a little more geared toward boys.

Opportunities for discussion:
Charlie’s uncle, Paton, is a man who kept his head down. In a family with dominating—and wicked—women, all he wanted was to be left alone. It wasn’t until Charlie drew Paton out of his small world that his eyes began to open. And once they were, he finally made a decision to step into action. Ask your children if there was ever a time where a friend or someone they cared about was being mistreated. Find out what they did or didn’t do about it and how it made them feel. There are times when it’s best to leave things alone, but there are other times when one must make a stand against a wrong. Share Paton’s story with them, and remind your children that ignoring problems may seem like a good solution, but in the bigger picture, doing so will only makes matters worse.

As one of my all time favorite animes, I figured it was about time I read the manga version. Instead of reviewing all seven volumes individually, I decided to treat this series as a whole.

Story overview:
A gifted young woman named Nausicaä (Na u shi ka) lives in the distant future. The world has long since survived an apocalyptic massacre called the “Seven Days of Fire.” What’s left of modern civilization and technology consists mostly of a few aircrafts, dug up from deep within the earth.

The creatures that are left have been genetically altered, and a poisonous forest spreads across the land, killing mankind in its wake. As the princess of the Valley of the Wind, and the daughter of a man close to death, Nausicaä takes on the responsibility of representing her people.

Called into war under the Torumekian Empire, Nausicaä deviates from her path by seeking to rescue all life, regardless of ancestry, race, creed, or species. She is driven by her love and compassion, yet brings with her a terror and horror like none other.

My thoughts:
I was thrilled to find so much more to this story than what was in the anime. As stated on Wikipedia, “The tale depicted in the film roughly corresponds to only the first quarter of the manga.” It’s like taking your favorite chocolate bar and adding caramel to it, making it even better than before. As a manga, you do lose the illustrious colors and epic music that was in the anime, but if you use your imagination, you can easily put them back into the manga. If you like one (manga or anime), I strongly recommend you look into the other. My only complaint is that, after the finale, the story came to a quick end (I wanted it to close at a more leisurely pace). Overall: Strong, powerful story. Beautiful, brilliant. A+.

Things to consider:
There are no sexual situations or foul language, however there is very graphic and detailed action violence. It’s done in a way that does not glorify the violence. Rather, the story uses it as a strong anti-violence message: showing the bitter results of war and hatred as it really is. Because of this, I would caution some children and age rate this for teens and older. The protagonist is a girl, but I would equally recommend this for both boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:
The true heart of this tale is about anger and hatred, and the blindness and death that follows in its wake. Anger begets anger, destruction begets destruction, and violence begets violence. Yet there is one girl who stands against this. She takes no sides with quarrels and wars. She only takes the side of love, kindness, compassion, and sacrifice; turning enemies into friends and allies. It reminds me of the second greatest commandment. Mark 12:31 (NIV) “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why is this relevant? Because loving your neighbor fulfills all other commandments. If you love them, you won’t manipulate them, steal from them, or cause them harm. Ask your children when the last time it was they showed love in place of hate. If they say never, tell them it’s a feeling unlike any other, and suggest they try it the next time they find themselves in such a situation.

I am pleased to announce Book For Youth’s first official book release. From the author of The Cat That Made Nothing Something Again comes a new and magical journey.

Story overview:
As the son of a great wizard, Traphis doesn’t understand why his mother and father have forbidden him from learning magic. Raised to tend fields, he often dreams of a bigger life–one in which he performs in front of an awe-stricken crowd.

A year after the death of his father, Traphis, now fifteen years old, spies his mother tossing a collection of magic books into a nearby creek. Unbeknownst to her, he is able to rescue them and read their contents hidden within his secret cave.

Opening himself up to the world of magic, a dark presence surfaces–one which has been seeking to track him down for years. Hidden secrets of the past unfold as Traphis joins with other trainees in hopes of learning the skills necessary to survive. The more answers he uncovers the more mysteries arise, sending him down the path of a true wizard, which is far more dangerous than he ever imagined.

My thoughts:
Ever since I can remember, I have loved the Narnia series, which was read to me at a young age. As I grew older, I was surprised at how little Christian Fantasies there were out there; the Christian bookstores had little to nothing of them. It was disappointing to say the least. Traphis, with a subtle/non-preachy Christian angle, targets fans of series like Narnia as well as secular ones like Harry Potter and Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle). It is not meant to compete with them, but to provide a new fantastical world in which youths can follow and come back holding onto messages of faith, hope, forgiveness, and redemption.

Things to consider:
Since this was written to appeal to teens and young adults, there are a few places that may be considered disturbing to younger children. No foul language or sexual situations, but there is action violence–done to enhance the story rather than shock the reader with sensationalism. Nothing inappropriate for the right ages (preteen and older). This should appeal to boys and girls; there are strong characters representing both genders–though the protagonist is a boy.

Opportunities for discussion:
Forgiveness is one of the leading elements in this story. Traphis’ need to forgive God for taking his father away, and his need to forgive his own failures. Skinny Jack learns he needs to forgive his abusive father, and Falin offers grace to his brother who rebelled many years ago. One thing this story also shows is the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Forgiveness is about releasing the power for vengeance and setting it into the hands of God, but one should not forget the past; we can learn from it and grow stronger as a result. Christians are not blind, they just learn to see with different eyes.

Availability:
Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale is currently available on the Kindle and Nook for $2.99 (which is a good price for a 155k word novel). If you don’t have either a Kindle or Nook eReader, don’t worry, you can download the story and read it on your computer, smartphone, or tablet using the free Kindle software.

Purchase the eBook at:
Amazon (Kindle – $2.99)
Barnes & Noble (Nook – $2.99)

What is an eBook? It’s an electronic book format that can be read on digital devices, removing the need for paper. Learn more about the story at: http://awizardstale.com.

In the first two novels, Emily and Navin lose their father and are forced to move to a mysterious house in a distant town. Emily comes across a magical amulet that opens a door to a new and unusual world. Having taken on the responsibility of the amulet, Emily finds that this new world is in need of her help as a powerful and tyrannical Elf King seeks to make life miserable for the residence of Alledia.

Story overview:
Having gotten her mother back to her old self, Emily is convinced by her fox companion, Leon, to seek out the lost city of the Guardian Council’s Stonekeepers, Cielis.

Learning that Cielis’ possible whereabouts is in the sky (from a book written by Emily’s great-grandfather), Leon seeks out an airship pilot to take them to the center of an unending storm.

With the Elf King’s son as an unusual companion, our group of adventurers seek to locate Cielis before the Elf King can put a stop to it.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed the Star Wars cantina parody. It was obviously intentional, even the reference to the captain’s ship being small and junky, but fast. At the end of the novel, it says that Kibuis finds inspiration in Star Wars and with Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps that’s why I like this story so much; I’m a huge fan of both. The worst part is waiting for the next book to come out to see what will happen next.

Things to consider:
This series remains consistent in its rating. Good for preteens and older. Very little can be considered questionable or inappropriate.

Opportunities for discussion:
There’s a scene where the pilot is forced to land and refuel his airship on a platform owned by a woman he has issues with. After landing, it becomes evident that she too doesn’t want to see him. By the end, however they make up and restore a prior bond. We can take a lesson from them. It doesn’t have to be a thing just between men and women. This goes for relationships of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they suffer for one reason or another, but when given a chance at reconciliation, relationships can be restored and the feelings of relief that follow might surprise you. Consider Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Ask your children if there is anyone they need to work things out with. From there, try to see if there’s hope of reconciliation. Of course, if the relationship is destructive, then sometimes they are better ended than continued. That’s when Matthew 18:15-17 comes into play.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
2) The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet, Book 2)

This is the second book to the Amulet Graphic Novel series. I also plan on reading and reviewing the third book soon, so stay tuned. A fourth book is scheduled for release on September 1, 2011, and I have it on my to-acquire list already. How many total books there will be, I have yet to find out.

Be sure to check out my review of the first book (The Stonekeeper) if you have not done so already.

Story overview:
After having rescued her mother, Emily travels in her great-grandfather’s portable house to a local town. Her aim is to find a doctor that can remove the poison, which put her mother into a coma.

Soon after docking in the waterfall town of Kanalis, the elves track down Emily, Navin, and Miskit. Thankfully, for them, a stranger in the form of a human-like fox comes to their rescue. This fox, Leon Redbeard, safely takes them to the best doctor in town. There they learn that the only antidote for the poison is found in the treacherous Demon’s Head Mountain.

Escaping an elf segue against the hospital, our adventurers come across a secret hidden base for a group of rebels. These rebels were put in place for the day she and her brother arrived. As Emily embarks on a journey to find the cure for her mother, Navin takes on his new position as leader of the rebel army and heads out to recover their house from the elves.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first. Finished it in two sittings, but would have probably done so in one had it not been for the NyQuil I downed an hour before (head cold). I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 in the next week or two.

Things to consider:
Appropriately aged for preteens and older, this book maintains the same standards as the first: no sexual situations, foul language, or gore–there’s no need to shock the audience with these things when there’s enough mystery and adventure to keep the reader going. I can see both girls and boys enjoying this tale.

Opportunities for discussion:
The amulet seeks to consume Emily and take control of her body. It claims that this is for her own good as doing so will give her great power. Yet Emily fights against this desire and demands that she be the one in control, regardless of the consequences. I liken this to anger and rage. There are times where we feel that, if we let go and let our anger take control, it will make us stronger. The problem with this is that, if we do, we more often than not hurt those we care about. Giving in to our rage may provide a temporary satisfaction, but when the dust settles we must face the consequences of our actions. Consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV) “. . . [love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Emily understood that she would lose these things if she gave into the amulet. Help your children to understand that they too will compromise their standings if they give into anger.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

I came across this book on Amazon and thought, wow, a cool looking Graphic Novel that isn’t a manga produced by Japan. After doing a little more research on it, I had to laugh. Where it is true that it was written as an American graphic novel, the author was born in Tokyo.

Note: There also looks to be a Warner Brothers movie adaptation coming in 2012.

Story overview:
Two years after having witnessed the death of her father, Emily, along with her mother and brother (Navin), move to a small town and into a broken-down house (once owned by her great-grandfather). Still dealing with emotions from her father’s death, Emily finds that her mother is also doing all she can to hold herself together.

When rummaging in her great-grandfather’s old room, Emily comes across a mystical-looking amulet. Shortly after putting it around her neck, an otherworldly intruder enters their home and captures her mother. When Emily and Navin chase after the creature, they find themselves transported to a different world.

Now Emily is faced with the burden of losing another parent. Only this time there’s something she can do to stop it. Having met some unlikely friends in this new world, Emily and Navin are given the resources necessary for chasing down their mother’s captor. Having activated the amulet’s power, Emily wonders if the cost of such help might end up costing her more in the end.

My thoughts:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style of drawing. It was, different. But the longer I looked at it, the more it grew on me and I started to appreciate the artistic brilliance, particularly within the scenery–Kibuishi’s use of lighting is clearly his greatest strength. As far as the story goes, it hooked me right away. Heartfelt, mysterious, creative, and gripping are just a few of the words that come to mind. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting; couldn’t put it down.

Things to consider:
It’s marked for grades 4-7 (which is basically children aged nine to thirteen). I can see that; there are a few elements that may be considered too scary for younger children. But, I think 13 is too soon to cut it off; teenagers of all ages and many adults would appreciate this as well (I’m in my 30s, and I loved it). No hit of sexual references. No gore or even blood for that matter. There is action violence, some disturbing scenes involving a spider-like bug creature, and a few deaths (including Emil’s father, which practically had me in tears–thinking as a father myself). This should appeal to both boys and girls alike.

Opportunities for discussion:
The voice of the amulet told Emily that there was no time for faith. Yet her great grandfather did tell her there was another way. As a reader, I’m glad she listened to the amulet; I wanted to see the adventure unfold and to see what would happen with the stone. But as a believer I completely understand the temptation to reach for a quick and easy solution rather than listen to the voice of faith. The author shows us that the amulet might not be in the right, but leaves that thought open–likely to resurface in a later book. Since I don’t know the final outcome, I can’t say if choosing the amulet was a good decision. For all I know the amulet might have brought the creature to capture her mother in the first place. Therefore, with the story, we have yet to see, but for our own lives, let us consider this Bible verse Prov 19:2 (NIV) “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Ask your children about the last time they rushed into something, and what the outcome was. Challenge them to stop and assess the situation before jumping in next time. Sometimes trusting and having faith avoids worse consequences down the road.