Friday, June 12, 2009

Nightmare’s Edge

Title: Nightmare’s Edge

Series: Echoes from the Edge

Author: Bryan Davis

Genre: Teen (13-16) Alternate Reality/Sci-fi

Excerpt from “Waking Up Dead,” Chapter 1 of Nightmare’s Edge:

Nathan ducked under a low-hanging branch and pushed a dangling python out of the way with his bandaged hand. The snake hissed, startling him for a moment. With its beady eyes and flicking tongue, it seemed real, as tangible as everything else in this dim, dream-fueled jungle.

Just ahead on the narrow path, Cerulean paid no attention. After all, in the realm of dreams, even the forest was imaginary. To Nathan, however, all the details—from the thick, green foliage of overarching trees darkening their steps to the high humidity dampening his armpits—painted a three-dimensional landscape that felt as real as it looked.

Wiping his brow with a sleeve, Nathan pulled off the gray Iowa sweatshirt he had borrowed from Nathan of Earth Blue and tied the sleeves around his waist. Nathan Blue wouldn’t need the shirt back, since not long ago the murderous vision stalker Mictar had burned his eyes out with a life-absorbing touch.

Nathan peered into the murky jungle. Who could tell if that killer now stalked this dream world, ready to leap out from behind one of the tropical trees and repeat the attack? And—a more immediate problem—with just a slender candle in Cerulean’s grip lighting their way, how could two awake people find another one of their kind in this enormous, dark land?

A teenaged violinist and his friends must stop the imminent collision of three parallel worlds.

The Craft: Another score for Mr. Davis! While the language of Nightmare’s Edge lacks the spark or grace of some other authors I know (Lawhead, Polivka, Overstreet), it tells a great story (far more important, in my opinion). In fact, the simple, straightforward style may be best suited to this breathless adventure through portals and parallel worlds.

And it is a great adventure of rollercoaster drops and turns. Just when you think you’re headed in one direction, you’re pulled back in another. Even when you glimpse the track ahead, like on a real rollercoaster ride, there are only so many ways to prepare and the tale still manages to jerk you around a bit, in a good way.

But most of all, this book ends the trilogy well. Perhaps not to the deep satisfaction that Lawhead did in the King Raven Trilogy. But it’s by far better than most series I read. Loose ends are tied up and enough tension is resolved to release the big, happy sigh of finishing a good book. Readers will not be disappointed, and even those who like a little openness to their conclusions will find sufficient room to daydream of more adventures for the characters.

The Content: As is expected of a final books like this, Nightmare’s Edge carries a darker tone—just not as dark as the title suggests. Typical increasing violence and evil of approaching climax, but also the strongest spiritual threads of the trilogy. In here, the complexity of relationships, the marks of past wrongs, learning forgiveness and the grace we all need colors the pages. Compassion and living rightly meet face to face, and devotion is put to the test. But as it should, God and His light shines the brightest in the end.

Summary: The mind-bender premise and rollercoaster plot makes Nightmare's Edge a great read, especially for those with a bent toward suspense and the out-there what ifs. Great fun and a satisfying end—I can’t ask for much more.

Rating: Craft—4, Content—4, Overall—4.2 out of 5

See reviews for Beyond Reflection's Edge (book 1) and Eternity's Edge (book 2), or order the book (or the whole trilogy!) from Words of Whimsy.

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