Many of us wince a little when we see contemporary Christians attempting more explicitly Christian art. Though it's been done in the past, we rarely see effective and beautiful art consciously submitted to Christ's lordship. This is the trepidtation I had going into Beyond the Summerland, by L.B. Graham, the first in a new fantasy series (Binding of the Blade, I think) published by P&R - not typically known for their fiction.
I happily report that Summerland is a very good and effective book. It resides more in the tradition of Tokien than Lewis, as Graham attempts to create an entirely different world (Lewis & Rowling both used worlds that touched or integrated into our world), the world of Kirthanin. It's a world populated by men, dragons, Great Bears, and Malek (boo, bad guy) and his cronies: Malekim, Black Wolves, Vulsutyrim (giants), & the Grendolai. The hero, Joraiem, is a young member of the ruling class who travels to the Summerland for the purpose of meeting the others of his class from all areas of the land; this group then faces challenges because of the rise of the bad guy and his baddies. The book is suffused with the Christian faith, the good guys speaking often of Allfather's grace & providence, placing hope in His promises of resurrection and restoration, and so on. Malek is clearly a symbolic Satan, one of the Titans who fell from grace when he tried to take more power for himself.
Without going into too much of the story, here are the negatives: the dialogue of the book often feels forced and/or too American and modern (here I was struck with the linguistic genius of Tolkien and the languages he created for Lord of the Rings). The book is also a little slow to get started; but as this is the beginning of a series, that seems okay.
Positives: overall, this is a great read. While it makes me appreciate Tolkien's true genius a little more, Summerland accomplishes what I think it meant to, a Christian fantasy that's a really good story, too. There's a lot of great characters (the bears are cool), some good romance (if you're into that kind of thing), captivating action scenes, and even a surprise ending. Probably the best thing I can say about it is that I plan to buy the next one when it comes out.
This is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend, especially to parents looking for something exciting yet not lascivious for their Potter-passionate kids. If you like Tolkien or Narnia, you'll dig this one.
P.s. - last night, Pastor Long led us in a meditation of Psalm 18. It struck me that this is a great psalm for those who love to read fantasy. It's a great song of victory & deliverance - a great idea would be to read this Psalm after you finish reading Narnia or Tolkien or Summerland to the kiddies.
P.s.s. - Um, just realized that the second in the series (Bringer of Storms or something like that) was released June 1. True to my word, it's on its way.