Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Top Twelve Books of 2022

I'm officially making this a "top twelve" thing now because I'm just that kind of reader who can't narrow down favorites very well. It's been a long, kind of rough year (I'll get into that in my year in review post), and I wasn't sure based on my slow reading lately if I'd have a good list...but I read a lot of great stuff before this semester, and a few things since. 

Before I get into my list for the year, I have to mention my notable rereads/relistens because they don't qualify for the list, but y'all, Blood of Kings is even better the second time around! And so is Blades of Acktar. Such great stories, and they got me through a very rough semester for sure. Even while I'm sick, Vrell and Achan still make me so happy. And it's even better that I got most of them on sale via Chirp Audiobooks!

12. The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I really wouldn't have thought I'd want to put this on my list. When I first started it, I was extremely underwhelmed. It's basically a dystopian The Bachelor with a prince and at first I found it rather eyeroll worthy. When I got to the end of the first one, I still didn't think it was that great, but strangely wanted to know how it played out. And then book two happened. I'd been listening to it, but I got to a certain part where things were going crazy, so I got the kindle version from the library, read during dinner, and less than 24 hours later, I'd finished the initial trilogy. As I was going into finals week with a lot of homework to do. And then the next week read the two books about the next generation. 

America Singer doesn't actually want to compete for Prince Maxon's hand in the Selection, but she enters anyway, and leaves behind her boyfriend (who I don't like anyway) for the palace. Where she challenges their caste system, causes all sorts of trouble, and ends up falling in love. And Maxon is the kind of guy that once you learn about his backstory, you want to wrap in bubble wrap. Such a fun series.

11. The Betrothed duology by Kiera Cass

Had to put this on too because I actually liked it better than The Selection. I checked the first one out from the library on a whim because I'd enjoyed The Selection, didn't get around to it until it was almost due, then read it in basically one night and decided it was a good thing the library didn't have the second one on kindle because I would have gotten no sleep. Hollis Brite is the king's love and is looking forward to being queen. But when a family from a neighboring country arrives as refugees, everything changes, true natures begin to be revealed, and deadly secrets are shared. Lots of political intrigue, and holy cow, the way the first book ended! No spoilers, but I was in shock. I had to wait a few days for the second book to come in at the library, but I read the entire thing in the car on the way to Disney and loved every bit of it.

10. Olivia Twist by Laurie Langdon

This one caught my attention years ago while browsing my library's ebook collection. Then I saw it on Kirk DuPonce's banner at Realm Makers (he did the cover). Then I got into an Oliver Twist mood and decided to rewatch the musical. And then saw Kara Swanson mention Laurie Langdon as one of her author friends and requested it from the library. Finally, I read it just the other day. I kind of feel like this book is for a particular audience, but I also feel that I fit that audience to a T. Like the author, I fell in love with the musical as a child (only unlike her, I was in a local production, I didn't just go see it), and then read the book later. And so I loved all the nods to the musical and the original book. 

Olivia Brownlow was disguised as a boy from birth to protect her, going by the name Oliver Twist, but when she was taken in by her uncle Brownlow after the Artful Dodger picked his pocket, she learned how to be a lady. Well, sort of. Ollie the street kid isn't totally gone, even though she's grown and expected to find a match. She still sneaks out in disguise to help street kids, and while she is technically engaged to a respectable young man, she's actually in love with Dodger, who is now going by his real first name of Jack (though not his real last name). And Monks is out there and dangerous, especially where Olivia is concerned.

9. The Wonderland Trials by Sara Ella

For this one, I actually got an ARC, and I really very much enjoyed it. It's sort of a dystopian Alice in Wonderland where those with the Wonder gene can access the Wonderland Reality. Alice's sister disappears and Alice herself receives a cryptic invitation to compete in the dangerous Wonderland Trials, during which many players go missing every year. I hadn't thought I was super familiar with the original before I read this, but I kept picking up different references and ways she wove in elements of the original that just made me appreciate it more. But it was still a very unique and original take on Wonderland and, as a nearsighted person myself, I loved that Alice wears glasses. And then the end leaves you hanging and ready for the Looking Glass!

8. The Secret Letters by Margaret Peterson Haddix 

As always, when a new Haddix book is released, it makes my favorites list. (There were actually two this year, both really good, but I decided to put the other on honorable mentions.) I'd been sick and overworked and barely reading, but one Sunday I read this entire book. And it felt great to read a book in a day, especially when it's as good as this one. Colin's mom helps people get rid of their junk. Neveah's dad sells people's junk. And when Colin finds old letters in an attic he and his mom are cleaning out, he sets out to unravel a decades old mystery and find out why two children from the past ended a friendship. And what that means for the future. It's just a really, really good story and I enjoyed it immensely.

7. Wishtress by Nadine Brandes

I preordered this and then got sick the day it came out, so it was a good while before I managed to actually read it. But I finally did and it was so good! Myrthe's tears grant wishes, but then she is cursed that her next tear will kill her. Bastiaan can stop time with a snap of his fingers, but in doing so he was responsible for the king's death. Myrthe wants to break the curse and Bastiaan wants to get rid of the Trials protecting the Well that gives people talents. And danger and deception and all kinds of great stuff. And the themes that came out in the end really made me think. I always love Nadine's books, and this one is definitely no exception. Plus it's a cool concept with intriguing worldbuilding. 

6. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis Majors

This one I got on audio at a library book sale. It had a few scratches but was mostly intact, and wow did it make me cry. Like, a lot. But it's so good. This is Katie's story about how God called her to move to Uganda when she finished high school and all about her ministry there and the girls she adopted. It's very inspirational, very God-focused, and honestly heartbreaking seeing the poverty some people live in. But it's so wonderful seeing her testimony, how God can use anyone to touch people's lives, help them, and share His love. It's beautiful, but definitely prepare to cry. 

5. Single Isn't Second-Best by C.E. White and Philip Wilder 

Okay, technically I haven't quite finished it because I had a couple chapters left when I got sick and all my reading was derailed, and then my sister took it to read and I just got it back from her. But I've read most of it and it's really good and important (and not just because I'm quoted it it). Most Christian books about singleness are focused on "until you get married." The church seems to perpetuate this, and it's not really uncommon for singles to feel invisible and to get sick of well meaning people making suggestions about how they can find a spouse. Single Isn't Second-Best takes a very different angle to singleness, addressing the trials of singleness, acknowledging that singles often feel like second-class citizens even though we're not, addressing marriage myths, exploring what the Bible actually says about singleness, explaining the worth singles have in the body of Christ, and really shifting the perspective on singleness. An important read for singles and people who know singles (which pretty much comes down to everyone).

4. Heirs of Neverland duology by Kara Swanson

I actually went to the launch party for the second book, Shadow, at Realm Makers 2021 before I'd read either of them. But I fully intended to read them. And finally did read the first book on our Disney trip in August. And I have to say, it was an interesting experience reading it at Disney surrounded by Peter Pan stuff. And goodness, I loved them both so much! I love Claire and Peter, and Peter is such a mess but he has such a wonderful character arc, and so much danger and traumatic pasts and bad choices and sacrificial love and it's just so good! I read Shadow in pretty much one day once we got back from Disney and I was able to get a copy from the library and I had such a book hangover. Kara did a great job of continuing the story of Peter Pan while both honoring the original and making it unique. And now I want to go reread them both.

3. Shield Band by Tara Grayce 

New Elven Alliance book? Of course it's on my list! Now, naturally I assume Tara Grayce books are going to be good. Not just because she's my friend, but because she's a great writer with books that I always love. But I wasn't sure how invested I'd be in this one since Essie and Farrendel are no longer POV characters and it's focused on Essie's brother Julien and his intended troll bride Vriska. There was no reason to have any doubts. I came to love Julien and Vriska very much and they're just adorable and she's a great fighter but does actually have a soft side. And there's a deadly illness and suspicions of traitors and fighting and danger and romantic fluff and they're just so well suited for each other. I just love their story, and maybe I don't love them quite as much as Essie and Farrendel, but I still love them dearly. And seriously, if you haven't read Elven Alliance yet, DO IT NOW!

2. Daican's Heir by Jaye L. Knight

I debated how to rank these last two, almost decided to put them in a tie, but then decided to put the one you can actually read now first and the one you have to preorder second. And that's literally how I made the decision because they're both such amazing books that I love so much and have waited literal YEARS for.

Ahem. I FINALLY GOT TO READ THE ILYON CHRONICLES FINALE!!! Y'all. This book is amazing and so worth the wait. So much Jayrin fluff, and also danger and fighting and injuries (is this a theme in my favorite books? maybe?) and so many things brought full circle and Davira is scary evil and it's time for her to go DOWN and I just don't know how to be coherent right now. They're ready to go head to head with Davira for Arcacia, but of course things can't possibly go smoothly. I don't want to spoil anything, but you should definitely go reread the previous books so you can experience the full glory of this amazing book. Plenty of action and danger and torture, but also plenty of fluff and lots of time to wrap up all the story threads and I just can't wait for it to be released so y'all can read it! (The kindle version is available for preorder, but if you want a paperback like I do, you'll have to wait for the actual release to purchase.)

1. Eleftheria by J. Grace Pennington

This is the book I waited literally almost nine years for. Not a joke, not an exaggeration. My beloved Elasson was introduced in In His Image which I read on Christmas 2013 and now in 2022 I FINALLY got to read the book wherein he returns! And it was everything I could have hoped for and more. Well, I still don't have confirmation of my ship, but I'm still pretty sure I'm right. Most of my favorite things about this book are spoilers, but I'll say this: The Surveyor finally gets to return to Kainus Ge while Andi's life is being turned upside down by an attorney who's calling them out for infractions of policies and such (like Andi helping in medbay even though she doesn't have official medical training), and they get to see Elasson again and things go crazy and Elasson is as adorable as ever and I just want to unleash the fangirl squealing. Definitely worth the nine year wait and I'm even more excited about future installments than I was before. Such a fabulous series and it's another one of those that if you haven't read it yet, I don't know what you're doing with your life. So good!

And for honorable mentions: The School For Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock, Talking Back to Purity Culture by Rachel Welcher, Elite by Kristen Young, and The Stern Chase by John Flanagan.

What are your favorite reads of 2022?

Friday, December 2, 2022

Daican's Heir Cover Reveal

The Daican's Heir cover is here!

I had the great privilege of reading an early version of this book a few months ago, and let me tell you, this book is FANTASTIC!!! I CANNOT WAIT to read the final version. It's been a good while since we got new Ilyon, and this book is so totally worth the wait. All the angst and danger and also fluffiness, and Jace and Kyrin are just SOOOO ADORABLE. So many things to bring the series full circle, again, so much angst and so much fluff too. I can't wait for y'all to get to read it.

And now.

Yes, I'm trying to make you have to scroll down to see the cover.

Here it is.

Don't you just love it? Davira is just...she's so evil and it's time to take her DOWN.


Here's the description, and make sure you check out the preorder!

For three years, the Resistance has suffered under oppression—first from Emperor Daican and now from his daughter. In her quest for vengeance, Davira has ripped Arcacia apart, and more blood is spilled every day. Newly married, all Jace and Kyrin want is to be able to live their lives in peace. In order to do that, they must help restore the rightful heir to Arcacia’s throne.

Carrying the weight of everyone’s hopes for the future, Daniel works every day to be the leader and king they have all fought so hard to see him become. With the Resistance and their allies from all across Ilyon united behind him, he prepares for a final confrontation with Davira. But to do so will require facing the full might of Arcacia’s military and Davira’s wrath.

When Jace and Kyrin become the primary targets of her ravenous hatred, Daniel finds himself in a race against time to stop his sister and avoid the bloodbath she is determined to unleash. Can he find a way to protect his loved ones and bring peace to Ilyon or will Davira succeed in bringing them all to their knees and destroying everything they hold dear?

And an excerpt from chapter 1!

Jace didn’t like ships.

His stomach had threatened to heave itself up his throat since he’d re-boarded the talcrin vessel an hour ago. So far he’d managed to keep it in place, but Holden wasn’t so lucky. He had already lost what remained of his supper over the edge and now leaned heavily on the railing. Clearly, it would take a lot more than the two days they’d previously spent on board, sneaking the Militia into Samara, for their stomachs to get used to the sea.

A low groan rumbled from Holden’s hunched form. “Remind me never to set foot on a ship again after this. I’ll happily stick to dragons.”

Jace had to agree with him there. As much as he hated heights, he’d far rather fly with Gem right now. And it wasn’t just his churning gut that bothered him. Despite only small waves rippling the sea, each dip and tilt of the ship robbed him of balance. The lack of solid footing left him feeling vulnerable. Not that he had any threats to worry about just yet. Those awaited him on shore.

Footsteps passed behind him, and he looked over his shoulder. Though pre-dawn darkness cloaked the ship, and they’d forgone any lanterns that could give away their position, General Torva strode across the deck with a confident stride. He made an impressive figure, as most talcrins did. He reminded Jace of Sam, especially in stature, though his hair was long and gathered into small braids, and his eyes flashed a cunning copper.

Their talcrin allies were obviously masters of the sea. Jace hadn’t seen any of them on the verge of losing their stomach contents, though maybe that had not been the case when they’d first left Arda a few weeks ago. Somehow, Rayad and Trask didn’t seem affected either.

Torva stopped at the railing a couple yards away, feet planted and fists on his hips as he stared out over the dark sea. His bronze scale-mail glinted faintly like dragon scales. Jace had never seen armor quite like it.

“We should be nearing the city.”

Jace scanned the horizon. He could barely make out the shore from this distance—just a black line against the indigo water and sky. No signs of a city, but the talcrins would know better how far they had traveled.

Someone else drew near. Jace shifted, and Rayad put his hand on his shoulder.

“How are you doing?”

Jace wasn’t sure if the question was in regards to his queasiness or what lay ahead. He shrugged. He still thought Balen should have chosen someone other than him to lead this mission. Someone with actual leadership skills and experience. But then, he was the one who could see in the dark, and their plan to take back Samara’s capital depended on infiltrating the city undetected. Logically, he offered the greatest chance of success.

Rayad gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll be right behind you.”

It'll be here before we know it! 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Firmament: Eleftheria Review

They're finally going back.

Several months after the discovery of Kainus Ge, the Surveyor's crew has a new mission – to gather more information about the planet and try to negotiate a treaty with its ruler. Andi is excited at the prospect of seeing Elasson again, but the arrival of a legalistic attorney on the ship threatens to once again turn her way of life upside down.

How has Elasson fared on the treacherous desert planet in their absence? Can the crew find a way to help the people of Kainus Ge, or will their presence throw the civilization into chaos? And with loved ones absent and rules and regulations forcing unwanted change on her home, how can Andi find her place in the world?


*cue the fangirl squealing*

Seriously, though, I'm not sure how I can make it through this review without dissolving into a puddle of fangirly happiness and totally spoiling the whole book.



I waited almost nine years for this book and IT WAS WORTH EVERY SECOND. See, I got book 2, In His Image, for Christmas in 2013 and proceeded to devour it, fall in love with Elasson (who I still 100% ship with Andi), and proceed to pester Grace for, well, the next nearly nine years about when I was going to see Elasson again and by the way, is my ship canon? Well, I still don't know if my ship is canon though there were moments that (okay, maaaaaaybe I'm just seeing what I want to see, but I don't think so) had my sister and me squealing and speculating. Even though Andi's still super annoyed with the Captain not so subtly trying to set her up—

Aaaanyway, trying to not be spoilery but ELASSON IS BAAAAAACK. Or rather, the crew of the Surveyor gets to go back to Kainus Ge and see Elasson again. *big cheesy grin* 

Why is it so hard to not spoil the whole thing?

It's just SO GOOD. 

But it's not all sunshine and roses getting to go back to Kainus Ge. A legalistic attorney is pointing out all the violations that are just a normal way of life on the Surveyor—like Andi working in medbay with the Doctor—and that's just the beginning. Helping the people of Kainus Ge with Basilius, Elasson's brother, being just as unfriendly as ever while not violating the rules and causing total upheaval to their way of life is hard enough...and then things go crazy and I had so many emotions, from anger to shock to elation to, well, fangirl squealing...

And oh, why are the things I love the most about this book spoilers?

I love seeing my Firmament family again, I LOVED revisiting Kainus Ge, I loved the roller coaster of emotions I went on as I read it in a matter of hours, and after this one, I am beyond excited for upcoming books. 

I really cannot express how much I loved this book, though if I admit that at 26 years old, thinking about certain elements of the story make me squeal and actually literally jump up and down, that might give you something of an idea.

Go read the Firmament series. I know I've said that many times over. But really, truly, I love it so much and I want y'all to experience the awesomeness too.

And we got to see Elasson again!

Monday, September 26, 2022

"Don't Like, Don't Read"

"Don't like, don't read" is a tag/disclaimer I've seen used a number of times on fanfiction sites. It makes me sad that people feel like they need to state that, but...I've seen the comments left on certain fics.

But I've been thinking about that tag lately beyond the context of fanfiction. Because it really applies to so much more.

I don't think you have to spend much time on the internet to see the fandoms getting stirred up, to see people tearing apart franchises they supposedly love, rage/hate watching things for the express purpose of trashing it publicly. I can't say I've never watched something I knew I wasn't going to like for the purpose of seeing how bad it was. I can only think of one time I did it purposely, but I did do it once. I can't say I've never publicly stated that I didn't like X for Y reasons. I did try to be dispassionate, but I did it, and now I question the wisdom of it.

Because if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. And you don't really need to talk other people into hating it either.

It's something I do struggle with. I'll admit to telling people the reasons I disliked Harry Potter or the Star Wars sequel trilogy in the hopes that they'll come around to my point of view. But really, what difference does it make to me if someone else likes something I consider to be poorly written? What difference does it make to other people if I do enjoy something that other people think is full of plot holes or clunky dialogue?

It doesn't.

There are plenty of things I've decided not to read or watch, or decided I didn't like for reasons pertaining to worldview, writing craft, and personal taste. But does it really do any good to argue with strangers on the internet about it? Not really.

I'm not saying to compromise your convictions. And I'm not saying not to talk about it to anyone either. If there's a good reason to have a civil, productive conversation with someone you actually know about it, by all means, do it. You might both come out of it with a new perspective, and pending the story, reasons, and audience, you might have a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel in a relevant, impactful, loving way. 

But if you're just yelling at people that they're stupid if they think X was a good movie, or that their kids are going to become devil worshippers if they let them read Y, then all you're really trying to do is pick a fight.

Let people have their preferences. And if you don't like it, you don't have to read/watch it.

There's another reason I think you don't really need to give any time or attention to movies and books that aren't very good. Think about this: How many mediocre movies have come out in the last decade that people are still talking about? Thought of any? I haven't. Because reality is, if the movie isn't very good, unless there's a big internet explosion over it, people tend to just forget about it. If no one cares, it usually ends there. If a movie bombs at the box office and does just as poorly in whatever the current equivalent of home video sales is, it's unlikely to get a sequel. If a TV show doesn't get good enough ratings for the advertisers, the network cancels it. If a book sells poorly, it goes out of print. 

On the other hand, rage views still count as views. Going to the movie to see how bad it is still results in a ticket sale. Buying a book and throwing it in the trash because you hated it that much is still a sale. And bad press is still press. You can't pay me to believe that no director has "leaked" something about a project known to trigger certain groups to get people talking about it and buying tickets to see if it's really what people say it is. It gets people talking, it gets people curious, it gets people watching. And that's all they really want. Because views/sales equal money, whatever the reason people are watching or buying.

Full disclosure: This post is largely prompted by the constant fighting in the Star Wars fandom and the months-long complaining over Rings of Power. And I don't think it's hard to figure out that I've liked some of what's come out of Disney Star Wars and some of it I haven't. And that I do like Lord of the Rings. But I've come to realize that not only do I not have to watch everything from franchises I like, I don't have to convince others that certain things are bad or not worth watching either. If they ask, sure, I'll say, but that doesn't mean I have to convince them of my point of view either.

I'm not watching Andor. I watched the trailer and it didn't excite me, so I decided not to bother. Is it good? I legitimately don't know. Will I change my mind later and decide to watch it after all? I also don't know. But it doesn't really matter. If you want to watch it, you can, and we don't have to try to convince each other that the other is wrong. And if you're not bothered that they pushed back Bad Batch season 2 from September 28 to January 4 the way I am, that's also okay. I can be disappointed and you can not care.

Same goes for Rings of Power. Is it good? I don't know, I've heard very mixed reviews. I'm not watching it myself because I don't care. Maybe I'll have to turn in my fantasy-lover card for admitting this, but I'm not what you would call a Tolkien fanatic. I love watching the Lord of the Rings movies and I prefer the extended edition to theatrical, I mostly enjoyed the books when I read them, and I think the music from the movies is amazing. But took me a year to read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings back when I was a young teen, and I only started reading it because my mom made me. She convinced me to read The Hobbit by telling me Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis, and had to literally make me read Fellowship of the Ring until they got to Moria. Also, I totally missed the fact that Frodo went into the west at the end because my sisters were watching Up in the same room where I was reading, and I didn't get very far in The Silmarillion before I quit—that was over a decade ago and while I've since acquired my own copy I've yet to feel compelled to pick it back up. This is as much to say, I don't really care enough to have an opinion on Rings of Power. You can watch it or not watch it, like it or not like it, and we really don't have to argue about it. If you think you won't like it, you really don't have to watch it, and you don't have to convince people your position is the better one either. 

So if you don't like something, you don't have to read or watch it. If you get a little ways in and realize you don't care for it, you can stop and move on with your life. None of us really need to waste time and energy antagonizing each other over stories we do and don't like. It's not worth it, and it's only serving to add even more nastiness to an already sinful and fallen world. Let's not waste our limited time here on earth rage watching and picking fights about things that don't really matter. And above all,

"Be ye kind, one to another." —Ephesians 4:32a

Monday, July 11, 2022

How to Get Professors to Like You

1. Come to class regularly. They know when you're absent.

2. Participate meaningfully in class discussions. Professors don't really like acting like Dora the Explorer.

3. Show genuine interest in the subject. They don't like blank stares either.

4. Turn in assignments on time. Who really likes constantly nagging people who don't turn in work?

5. Put effort into your assignments. Professors can usually tell when you wrote your whole paper in less than an hour before the due date.

6. Be respectful. No one likes a jerk.

7. If you're struggling with the material, seek out help in the way suggested by the professor. They (well, some of them, anyway) do want you to succeed.

And if you do these things, chances are your professor will like you.

Note: This post is meant to be (somewhat) humorous, but seriously, if you're nice and respectful and apply yourself, you're much more likely to be liked by your professor than if you're a rude slacker.

Anyway, this is what comes out when I run out of prewritten posts and I still have homework. But I am dabbling here and there at Acktorek. See y'all...sometime!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories

Sometimes fairy stories may say best what’s to be said.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 45)

It often happens that theology in ordinary settings becomes meaningless through over familiarity. Being preached at often raises defenses. Yet experiencing a gripping, imaginative story with relatable characters, vivid imagery, and settings that are out of this world makes faith new, more palatable, more beautiful.

I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralysed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. . . . But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 47)

The trappings of church can obscure the wonder of the Gospel. The infighting in many congregations can disgust even true Christians. The hypocrisy of many prominent leaders can turn people away, even when they are seeking that purpose beyond this world. But speculative fiction breaks free of the stuffiness, the infighting, the hypocrisy. It goes beyond the preconceived notions we all have and shares with us the effects of faith, the heart of the Gospel, the nature and power of God in a way we cannot otherwise experience.

At times I have felt distant from God. The circumstances of life press down, I see the evil in the world increase, and it becomes difficult to remember that God is still here and in control even throughout all of these pains and sorrows. During these moments of hopelessness, I remember a passage from Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy:

I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” (164-165)

God is here. He is with us all the time, even when we do not realize it. And fantasy stories can remind us of that. 

Certainly one must be careful when writing stories of science fiction and fantasy. There are pitfalls that must be avoided and these tropes and plot devices must be used intentionally and within biblical parameters. However, these genres truly are powerful vessels for exploring truth. They present the Gospel in new ways. They make faith real in ways that nothing else can. 

Therefore, far from being instruments of harm to Christians, speculative fiction is of great benefit and ought to be welcomed as a creative expression that glorifies God and furthers His kingdom.


Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy. Scholastic, 1995.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...

We have seen throughout this series that stories of imagination and wonder need not be inherently harmful and that Christians who write in these genres have no intention of leading their readers astray. But are these stories simply neutral or can they have a greater purpose? Could they possibly further God’s kingdom, spread the Gospel, and enhance Christian faith?

Many believe that rather than obscuring truth, these stories actually illuminate truth, give us a better picture of reality (Ryken), and artistically represent truth: “Yes, these tales are intended to reflect and embody many important Christian ideas. But they do it thematically, symbolically, and imaginatively, somewhat in the style of the parables of Jesus” (Focus on the Family).

J.R.R. Tolkien expressed a similar sentiment: “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker” (52). Furthermore, he explains that fantasy used properly evokes a joy that reflects the same joy and picture of reality of the Gospel story (64-66). Creativity and imagination reflect aspects of God’s nature and present metaphors that can aid in understanding of Scripture and show readers the wonder of God in a new way.

One method that has long been used in Christian fantasy is that of allegory. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was a very strict allegory and has come to define the method of writing for Christians. Every character, every place in Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, was a strict metaphor for some element of the journey that is the Christian life.

Personally, I believe this method is too on the nose. Authors of allegories run the risk of focusing so hard on their allegorical message they neglect to develop their characters—such as occurred in Chuck Black’s Kingdom series—and thus end by diminishing the ability of the reader to simply enjoy a good book, reducing the overall impact of the allegory. That said, Pilgrim’s Progress style allegories have their place in the canon of Christian fantasy. For instance, when read in conjunction with his partial autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress is a fascinating allegorical exploration of his conversion. Still, there is a more effective and enthralling use of speculative fiction in regard to faith.

“Suppose there was a world like Narnia and it needed rescuing and the Son of God (or the ‘Great Emperor oversea’) went to redeem it, as He came to redeem ours, what might it, in that world, all have been like?” (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 92)

What, indeed, could spiritual truths look like in fantastical worlds far different from our own? This question of what if?—commonly referred to as a supposal, based upon Lewis’s explanation—forms the basis of the majority of Christian fantasy in the modern era. Where this differs from the allegory is that allegory originates from a message and builds a story around it, causing every element to directly represent something else. A supposal begins with a story and the biblical worldview of the author naturally informs the what ifs to create a story that is far more powerful, universal, and accessible to the masses than allegory. 

Ilyon Chronicles by Jaye L. Knight is a supposal in a similar vein to Narnia. Narnia “began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood” then grew to contain the supposal and Christian themes when “suddenly Aslan came bounding into it” (Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, 53). Ilyon began with the concept of a half-blood in a world where half-bloods are unaccepted and grew into a series with parallels to Ancient Rome and Christian persecution, centered around substitutional atonement when Elon, the Son of God in Ilyon terms, sacrifices himself for the protagonist Jace, assuring him of his worth and the existence of his soul. 

Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings trilogy may not contain substitutionary atonement, but it nonetheless contains strong themes of following God and using gifts for Him. Half of the country of Er’Rets is covered in darkness, and Achan must learn to use his bloodvoicing ability—which incidentally includes telepathy among other spiritual abilities—given to those of royal blood by the true God Arman, to fight against evil in dedication to Arman in order to banish darkness from Er’Rets, thus providing a parallel of spiritual warfare among other things. 

Additionally, these kinds of biblical themes and parallels can be found even in secular works (Greisinger). For instance, the BBC series Merlin shows numerable instances of Arthur being willing to sacrifice his own life for those of his people, which is a beautiful picture of how Christ—our King—sacrificed His life for us on the cross. Also, my favorite episode, “A Servant of Two Masters,” illustrates Matthew 6:24 perfectly by showing that Merlin cannot serve two masters. Either he serves his king unreservedly or—under the enchantment of Morgana—he works actively against him, attempting to kill him. He cannot do both.

Seeing these pictures of biblical truths in these stories of wonder and magic and imagination, as well as in stories of space travel and technological advancement, casts them into a new light, causing them to resonate with us in entirely new and powerful ways.

Speculative Fiction: The Truth About Fairy Stories


Focus on the Family. “Questions about Christian Fantasy/Fiction.” Focus on the Family, Focus on the Family, 7 Jan. 2011, Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Griesinger, Emily. “Why Read Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling and the Christian Debate.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2003, pp. 297-314,314-316. ProQuest, Accessed 21 September 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

Lewis, C. S. On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, edited by Walter Hooper, Harvest / HBJ, San Diego, CA, 1982.

Ryken, Leland. “In Defense of Fiction Christian Love For Great Literature.” Desiring God, John Piper, 10 Aug. 2021, Accessed 9 September 2021.

Tolkien, J. R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” Tree and Leaf, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 1988, pp. 9–73.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Is Science Fiction Inherently Humanistic?

Science fiction. A genre in which I freely admit it is difficult to find quality works that are not totally incompatible with Christianity. In fact, it's super easy to rank in Amazon's top 100 Teen and Young Adult Christian Science Fiction category. But does that mean it's all bad and must inevitably turn readers away from God?

What I found in my research is that many object to science fiction on the basis that it promotes humanistic ideals and elevates both man and science to the level of God, thus replacing Him. Science fiction is often based upon Darwinism, excludes God from the narrative, promotes the idea that our salvation rests in the technology and inventions of man, and encourages moral relativism, as well as building its pseudoscience upon ideas easily disproven by true and commonly accepted science—some prominent examples of such an attitude being the works of Arthur C. Clarke and certain episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Laughlin, Manlove).

Yet a predisposition towards humanism is not a necessity in science fiction: “Typically, science fiction and faith are circles that don’t intersect. In the instances when they do meet, however, it is usually one throwing stones at the other . . . . Bradbury’s stories weren’t like that, though. He wasn’t afraid to revere the Bible in his seminal work Fahrenheit 451, or to allegorize man’s search for a savior (whether on this planet or the next) in short stories like The Man. Rather than despising faith, he often embraced it, and sometimes—horror of horrors—even glorified it” (Nietz).

Furthermore, there is nothing inherently wrong with pseudoscience. Sure, hard sci-fi readers won't appreciate it, but if you're writing pseudosciencey stuff, are they really your readers? Pseudoscience and technobabble are plot devices and elements of worldbuilding, just like magic can be. They're ways to tell stories. They're methods by which to explore themes. They're a manner in which writers warn people about future dangers of many kinds. Is it evil to use FTL travel in your book when it will probably never actually exist? Will it damage people's faith to write about time travel? I certainly don't think so. They're stories and stories that can be used for amazing purposes.

Science fiction can and has been used to explore faith rather than to elevate humans above God. It is a creative way to explore creation and an apt genre for exploring the dangers of technological and social ills. For instance, Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands trilogy explores the vices of ancient Babylon in a futuristic setting, speculating about the evils Christians would face when trapped in a city ravaged by STDs and filled with debauchery, forced to reproduce to maintain the population because they are the only ones uninfected. Kathy Tyers’s Firebird series takes a different path by imagining what would have happened had humans gone to space prior to the arrival of the Messiah. 

These writers may be few and far between, but truly, science fiction can explore themes of faith, God, ethics, humanity, the dangers of trying to play God, and much more. It does not have to promote anti-Christian ideals and can indeed do quite the opposite.

Besides, sciencey things and pseudosciencey things are fun and cool and just one of many ways to use our God-given imaginations.

Speculative Fiction: Suppose There Was a World...


Laughlin, David. “Science Fiction: A Biblical Perspective.” Answers in Genesis, Answers In Genesis, 1 Aug. 2001, Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Manlove, Colin N. Christian Fantasy from 1200 to the Present. Macmillan, 1992.

Nietz, Kerry. “What I Learned From Ray Bradbury.” Enclave Publishing, 9 June 2012, Accessed 30 Sept. 2021.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Speculative Fiction: Real or Not Real?

"In the quiet that follows, I try to imagine not being able to tell illusion from reality. Not knowing if Prim or my mother loved me. If Snow was my enemy. If the person across the heater saved or sacrificed me. With very little effort, my life rapidly morphs into a nightmare."

 —Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

Upon one occasion, I spoke with a library patron regarding her concern with allowing her upper elementary-aged son to read Percy Jackson. She was worried that it would cause her son to believe in mythology, thus causing problems with his Christian upbringing. I assured her that he was more than capable of understanding that Percy Jackson and Greek mythology is fiction, and she can simply tell him that it is imaginary. Children understand.

As I researched objections to Harry Potter as a part of my English paper, I came to see that this is not an uncommon concern. Parents are afraid their children are unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.

While in the early 20th century it was believed that children as old as preteens “struggle with this confusion” between reality and imagination, more recent studies indicate that children as young as three have a good sense of what is real and what isn’t (Taub and Sevarty, 57-62). There certainly may be children who have difficulties distinguishing fantasy from reality, but in most cases, a simple statement from a trusted adult that a particular thing is not real or is imaginary is enough to set the child straight. 

Truly, the only situation in which I can ever remember being confused as to the difference between fiction and reality was Little House. It's a fictionalized account of real people and events, and in any such based-on-a-true-story book or movie it is difficult to discern what is real and what isn't without thorough knowledge of the true events. But I never believed Oz was a real place, or that I could get to Narnia, or that I could tesser across the universe. I never thought I was really in an Annie-like orphanage, or that I lived on the frontier, or that my Barbies were sentient, whether they were running for public office or trekking to Oregon in covered wagons. Nor have I ever interacted with a child—either as a child myself or while babysitting—who appeared to believe their imaginings were real either. In fact, when playing we lived during the American Revolution with a battle raging outside with some friends, one little girl, under five at the time, appeared to be genuinely scared. Slightly worried about it, I asked her if she was really scared or just pretending. She instantly snapped out of it, said "just pretending," then went back to acting terrified.

Imagination is a wonderful thing. Yet some people simply don't see it as such. In fact, there are people who—apparently discounting the creative ability of children—believe that imaginary friends are actually demonic in origin. I had imaginary friends as a two-year-old (I credit Barney with the early development of my imagination; I read in a book once that children don't typically have imaginary friends until they are a year or two older). My sister and real-life friends have had imaginary friends and imaginary adventures. I still in a way have imaginary friends. They're called fictional characters. But I'm fairly certain none of us ever believed that the things we pretended were reality.

Certainly there are mental conditions that can cause people to believe things exist that are not real, but that is not the average child, and not the average speculative fiction reader. I may have enjoyed playing Jedi Temple training, having lightsaber battles, pretending to go on rescue missions chasing down bounty hunters, and wishing there was a live-action series based on Jedi Quest wherein I played Darra Thel-Tanis, but I never once actually thought Jedi were real or that I could use the Force.

So this is as much to say, parents may very well be concerned about their child's ability to distinguish fantasy from reality, but I believe that except in rare cases, they need not worry. And this concern from parents is simply a perfect opportunity to discuss literature and truth and philosophy and much more with their children, something that is beneficial to the building of a worldview regardless of the strength of the child’s grasp on reality and rather increases the benefits gained from speculative fiction.


Taub, Deborah J, and Heather L Servaty. “Controversial Content in Children's Literature: Is Harry Potter Harmful to Children?” Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Heilman, RoutledgeFalmer, 2003, pp. 54–57.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Matter of Mythology

Confession: I have never been a big fan of mythology. I've just always thought it was kind of dumb. People really believed in those stories? How is that possible?

But I still read Greek myths, and I never batted an eye at the mythological creatures that inhabit Narnia. Furthermore, I very much enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, and was super excited when the official greenlight on the Disney+ adaptation was announced.

I do see why someone would be concerned about the inclusion of elements of mythology: mythology is inherently anti-biblical, presenting a view of the world that is based upon false gods and imaginary spirituality. Some have asserted that such use of mythology—particularly in Christian stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia—distorts the truth and causes readers to become dangerously comfortable with alternate worldviews and religions, that even Christ-figures such as Aslan are problematic and draw readers away from the truth (Kjos). 

Certainly stories that assert as their premise that mythology and false gods are real—the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, for example—could be challenging for young readers and readers with little discernment, though I would suggest that mature, discerning readers can enjoy these tales simply as entertaining fiction. Yet it is possible to include mythological creatures and even gods in a way that is not inconsistent with Christianity. 

In Narnia, for instance, fauns, centaurs, dryads, and even Bacchus and Silenus are created beings subject to Aslan just as much as the Talking Beasts are—simply a part of the worldbuilding. Indeed, leading children astray by familiarizing them with myths and setting up false pictures of Christ was not Lewis’s intention, nor is it the intention of any writers of Christian fantasy I have encountered. Rather, Lewis’s intention was to enhance rather than destroy children’s faith as is evident from the letter he wrote to the mother of Lawrence Krieg. 

Lawrence was concerned that he was “loving Aslan more than Jesus” but Lewis asserted that “the things he loves Aslan for doing and saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Lawrence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before” and then suggested a prayer for Lawrence to pray that further exemplifies this intention (C. S. Lewis Letters to Children, 52-53). Like magic, mythology and symbolism must be used wisely and with caveats, not elevating these mythological figures to a status that replaces God, but within a proper framework, it too can be a powerful storytelling and worldbuilding tool even in Christian speculative fiction.

Besides, even though mythology was created as an alternative explanation for the universe, the stories and creatures are often highly creative and perfectly useful to fantasy writers. Certainly, deep worldbuilders may look down on you for not inventing something entirely new, but there is nothing new under the sun and I see no less reason to incorporate fauns and centaurs into your worldbuilding than elves. Though one must naturally take care to put one's own twist on things. While straight-up copying out of copyright things may not technically be illegal, it's still lazy. And there's so much that can be done with mythological creatures and tales.

Speculative Fiction: Real or Not Real?


Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 1: Blending Truth and Myth.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 2: A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 3: Christian allegory + Mythical gods = Deception.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 4: Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Lewis, C. S. C.S. Lewis Letters to Children. Edited by Lyle W. Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead, Macmillan, 1985.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Speculative Fiction: The Question of Magic

Magic. Ah, for the most controversial aspect of fantasy.

It's understandable why people are so concerned. Witchcraft is a very real and very dangerous thing. And it has often been asserted that fantasy magic inevitably promotes witchcraft and other aspects of occultism. Most notably, the Harry Potter series has come under fire for purportedly containing “actual beliefs and practices associated with witchcraft and paganism including: divination, astrology, numerology, familiars, pagan gods/goddesses, spellcasting, potions, necromancy (i.e. communication with the dead/ghosts), mediumship/channeling, crystal gazing, palmistry, charms, arithmancy and magick” (Abanes, 173). Even some of those Christians who find Rowling’s brand of magic to be imaginary are still concerned that the positive portrayal of witchcraft and wizardry in Harry Potter will lead children into the discovery of real witchcraft and other occult practices (Greisinger). I'm not a big fan of Harry Potter for reasons I'm not going to get into here (you can read my Goodreads review if you're curious), but I'm personally not in the Harry Potter is real witchcraft camp. 

Furthermore, even books such as The Chronicles of Narnia have been accused of containing potentially harmful positive depictions of divination, astrology, and magic (Kjos). Yes, Narnia, with it's suppositional portrayal of Christ's sacrifice, with its positive impact on Christians.

I do not believe this concern should be taken lightly, and indeed there are fantasies that truly do promote occultism and witchcraft. Yet including magic in a story does not inevitably cause the book to be harmful and evil. It must be handled carefully, for the biblical prohibition of witchcraft is a serious one, but it can be handled in a way that does not violate biblical principles. 

Considering the source of the power and making it clear that purportedly good magic does not come from evil sources is essential. Supernatural power may very well originate with demons, thus constituting evil magic, but supernatural power can also originate with God, as evidenced by the biblical story of Moses versus Pharaoh’s sorcerers, and in many fantasies and science fictions, abilities that seem supernatural to humans are simply inherent abilities of fictional species. 

There is so much room for creativity, even within boundaries. Certainly, a Christian writer should never condone a protagonist using actual occultish magic for evil purposes, or indeed, using it with good intentions, for such a thing would promote end justifies the means philosophy. I would even venture to say that it's unwise to go into the details of bad guys doing actual occultish magic. But not all magic falls into real-world practices. For example, Cinderella's fairy godmother waving a wand and singing "Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo" isn't going to conjure up demonic power. Neither is Elsa's ice magic.

What I have come to love in recent years is magical/supernatural abilities that are either gifts of God (e.g. bloodvoicing in Blood of Kings) or inherent abilities of species or characters (e.g. elven magic in Elven Alliance, Merlin's magic in BBC Merlin). There's so much you can do with that as a writer, and in those cases, it's evident the characters aren't calling on demons for their power. And the interesting thing is, even with things such as that, the characters aren't always going to use it for good purposes, which can make for some interesting and powerful themes. Human nature twists even things that are meant to be good. For instance, in Blood of Kings, bloodvoicing is an ability given by Arman to those of royal blood, and some use it to fight for good, some to enact evil. It's the same thing in Merlin. Merlin tries to use his magic for good (and when he uses it for selfish or stupid reasons, it always ends badly), but there are also lots of bad guys using magic to try to kill Arthur and/or Uther. Therefore, it is not even necessary to have bad guys calling on demonic power to create magic-related conflict. After all, evil is in the hearts of men, not necessarily the tools they are using. People have even twisted Scripture to justify and promote various forms of abuse.

Additionally, as Lewis and Tolkien did, confining good magic to entirely imaginary sorts used in other worlds by characters who are not the protagonists is a potential way to handle magic well. This article was foundational in my formation of my beliefs surrounding fantasy magic and, though long, is well worth the read. Used thoughtfully with caveats, magic and superpowers need not be harmful and can add great value and potentially allegorical meaning to a story.

Though perhaps less prominent than the attacks on fantasy, science fiction has also come under fire for promoting anti-Christian ideals. It has been said that common science fiction elements such as telekinesis and telepathy are occult, New Age, Eastern Mysticism concepts masquerading under supposedly “ ‘scientific’ terms”, the Force in Star Wars being a prime example of this occultism and Eastern Mysticism brought into a futuristic setting (Laughlin). Yet it is not impossible to see unintended faith metaphors in secular fiction, as Star Wars author Kathy Tyers stated in an interview with TheForce.Net. Certainly one must approach these scenarios with caution because they tend to mix in elements that are not strictly Christian, but if one views science fiction through the lens of a biblical worldview, it is just as possible to see limited elements of Christian spirituality in the Jedi, particularly as written by authors such as Tyers, as it is to see a picture of spiritual rebirth in the regeneration of Time Lords in Doctor Who. They may be imperfect pictures, but a proper perspective can see value in these purportedly occultish and New Age science fiction elements. 

Furthermore, these sorts of plot and worldbuilding elements can be used in purposely Christian science fiction stories. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has often been accused of promoting occultism and “New Age spirituality,” though it is full of Scripture quotations and written as a way of exploring the author’s faith through science (Bailey). She had no intention of promoting evil by including telepathic abilities and other strange elements such as tessering and kything in her stories—rather, she was writing about defeating the darkness with the light of love, and science fiction and fantasy elements provided a perfect storyworld for this message. Besides the fact that kything is just plain cool, and so is tessering.

Speculative Fiction: The Matter of Mythology


Abanes, Richard. Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick. Horizon Books, 2001.

Bailey, Sarah P. “Publishers Rejected Her, Christians Attacked Her: The Deep Faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Author Madeleine L’Engle: Her Famous Book is Sprinkled with Scriptural References” WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post, Washington, 2018. ProQuest, Accessed 21 September 2021.

Greydanus, Steven D. “Harry Potter vs. Gandalf.” Decent Films, 2001, Accessed 31 Oct. 2021

Griesinger, Emily. “Why Read Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling and the Christian Debate.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2003, pp. 297-314,314-316. ProQuest, Accessed 21 September 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 1: Blending Truth and Myth.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 2: A Four-legged Creator of Many Worlds.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 3: Christian allegory + Mythical gods = Deception.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Kjos, Berit. “Narnia Part 4: Awakening Narnia with Bacchanalian Feasts.” Crossroad, Kjos Ministries, Dec. 2005, Accessed 1 Oct. 2021.

Potts, Michael, and Kathy Tyers. “Jedi Council - Interviews: Kathy Tyers.” TheForce.Net - Your Daily Dose of Star Wars, The Force.Net, Nov. 2000, Accessed 7 Nov. 2021

Taub, Deborah J, and Heather L Servaty. “Controversial Content in Children's Literature: Is Harry Potter Harmful to Children?” Harry Potter's World: Multidisciplinary Critical Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth Heilman, RoutledgeFalmer, 2003, pp. 54–57.