The Content: Often when I dislike a Christian novel for its craft, I will find redeeming qualities in the content. Unfortunately, Swipe, Sneak, and Storm fall short even in that arena for me. For while there is some interesting political commentary and some thought-provoking perspectives on Revelation, that is not enough.
In Swipe, there is no spiritual content whatsoever. Okay, so that isn’t entirely surprising, and not even that uncommon for a first book, especially for one that seems intended for a crossover series, so that isn’t a huge problem. But the thematic material fell flat too. For themes are rooted in character development and growth. But what theme do I pull when the growth seems to be from self-serving wimpiness to self-serving bravery?
Sneak felt pretty much the same way, though the Christian elements started to surface and gave me hope. Maybe I would see the characters start to change and the truth would begin to peek between those cracks.
But as with the craft, Storm crashed those hopes. The Bible and spiritual elements did show up more and more, but they felt disconnected from plot and character growth. I think it possible to remove most, if not all, of the elements related to Christianity without it affecting plot or characters. If it is so separated from the story, how is it to have impact? What is the point of having those elements in the first place?
All this is then compounded in all three books by the continuous manipulation, deception, and lack of respect for anything. Everything and everyone seems valued, by both sides, only for their usefulness toward one’s goals. This lack of a clear line between good and evil, right and wrong is difficult to swallow. However, at times it is necessary in some adult and even YA novels—we do live in a fallen world after all. But in a book slanted to tweens (as dictated by the tone, the ages of the main protagonists, their interactions with adults, and how/which growing-up issues are handled), I have to wonder if such a blurring wise for kids at such an impressionable age and who live in a culture steeped in such line-blurring.
Finally, I struggled to glimpse the hand of a Sovereign God anywhere in this series, which so desperately needs that thread of hope. Rather, the events are so human driven that these books read like God has simply turned control over to man. God is not executing His righteous judgments, as Revelation describes; He simply letting man to bring about his own self-destruction.
While I understand there are extra constraints due to the point of views and the characters, I don’t sense anyone working behind the scenes, like I so often find in Christian speculative novels. Rather, man is pointed to as both the focus and foundation of all that is happening. As a result, I ended Storm suffocating from the crushing darkness and despair.
Summary: Swipe, Sneak, and Storm proved to be a long ride I do not want to repeat any time soon. Though the books were well plotted for the most part and offered some interesting insights, I found the characters deceptive, manipulative, and self-serving, with no clear line between good and evil or right and wrong. Add to this minimal spiritual content and a lot of hopelessness, and I must recommend extreme caution and much discernment when considering whether to read these books, especially since most tween readers encounter plenty of this darkness in life and in better written stories from the secular market.
Ratings: Craft—2, Content—2, Overall—2.0 out of 5 stars.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Storm from the publisher in conjunction with the CSFF tour.