Friday, February 4, 2011

Between Two Kingdoms

Title: Between Two Kingdoms

Series: Stand-alone

Author: Joe Boyd

Genre: Allegory

Excerpt from “The Upper Kingdom,” Chapter 1 of Between Two Kingdoms:

Mount Basilea pierced the highest clouds in the sky, rising up sharply from the center of a large island in the middle of a vast ocean. The edge of the island was ringed all around with low, rocky hills and cliffs, which made the lower valley regions of the island impossible to see and barely approachable by any seafaring travelers, had any dared venture that way. On one side of the mountain, the thick, dense forest that began somewhere in the clouds gave way about two-thirds of the way down to barren lands and the harsh, angular shard of an obsidian landscape. But on the other side of the mountain, fertile foothills with quilted croplands hinted at civilization somewhere behind the rocky ring. And above the lush forest, glittering like a rare jewel set upon a velvet pillow, shone the crystal towers and golden walls of the Palace of the Great King.

The palace marked the heart of this mountain kingdom—the Upper Kingdom, which had no beginning, but always was. The Great King, whose name was ancient and unpronounceable, ruled the entire expanse of the Upper Kingdom—every tree and animal, every stream and pathway. His son, the Good Prince, faithfully served his father with eternal devotion. The King and Prince had justly and lovingly ruled their subjects for as long as anyone could remember.

The children of the King descend to the dark, lower kingdom to warn of approaching destruction.

Craft: I am not a big fan of hard-core allegory. Never have been. Probably never will be. Allegory simply requires too delicate of a balance between story and the allegorical elements, and though employed frequently enough by Christian writers, it is rarely done well.

It is not that Between Two Kingdoms is poorly written. Though the beginning takes a long while to gain momentum, the story eventually develops some nice plot tensions. The characters are likeable, and the writing itself captures the world in vivid and concrete detail.

Nonetheless, the allegorical elements dominate this story, giving it the appearance that it was written to teach first of all. Stories written mainly teach often lose the entertainment factor that makes story such a powerful conveyor of truth. So it is in Between Two Kingdoms, and as a result, the allegory smoothers many of the positive craft elements.

Content: Like with the craft, content carries the extra burden of added expectation when heavy allegory is employed. So on one hand, Between Two Kingdoms captures some good thematic material about using our gifts, the difference between humility and pride, and learning to serve the King.

But the more allegory is applied, the greater the danger of allegory carrying wrong implication. For when the reader realizes a story uses allegory, he starts looking for allegory, often reading further into the text, applying symbols where there may be none (and should not be), and generally taking the allegory to conclusions never intended.

For example, the concept of the eternally seven-year-old child could be misconstrued that this is the ideal of the Christian faith. But while Scripture commands us to “become like a little child” to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:15), we aren’t to remain there, but are to “in all things grow up into…Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

So the result is a mixed-bag content with some connotations (probably unintended) that could be considered dubious.

Summary: Between Two Kingdoms has both good and bad. Personally, I would skip it—I don’t think it’s worth the time and effort. But on the other hand, if you are a fan of the hard-core allegory, you might find this an interesting one-time read.

Ratings: Craft—3, Content—3, Overall—3.2 out of 5 stars

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