Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Annals of Aeliana: Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword

Title: Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword

Series: The Annals of Aeliana #1

Author: Eric Reinhold

Genre: Mid-grade (8-12) Alternate Reality

Excerpt from “The Angel’s Visitation,” Chapter 1 of Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword:

It first appeared as a gentle glow, almost like a child’s night-light. Heavy shadows filled the room as the boy lay face up, covers tucked neatly under his arms. A slight smile on his face hinted that he was in the midst of a pleasant dream.

Ryann Watters, who had just celebrated his twelfth birthday, rolled lazily onto his side, his blond hair matted into the pillow, unaware of the glow as it began to intensify. Shadows searched for hiding places throughout the room as the glow transformed from a pale yellow hue to brilliant white.

Ryann’s eyelids fluttered briefly and then flickered at the glare reflecting off his pale blue bedroom walls. Drowsily, he turned toward the light expecting to see one of his parents coming in to check on him. “What’s going on?” his voice cracked as he reached up to rub the rusty sleep from his eyes.

The angel Gabriel presents special gifts to a twelve-year-old boy for a special mission to find the King’s Sword.

The Writing: The craft of Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword is okay, having both good and bad qualities.

The plot is interesting and well-tensioned, though contrived in a couple places. The characters, when not being use to moralize, can be fun and quirky. The writing is clear and straightforward, but the descriptions often seem long, wordy and unnecessary, slowing the pace and likely to lose the attention of many readers.

Unfortunately, most of the best traits—the humor, character quirkiness, moments of tension—are buried. The story is superseded by the content; the story seems to exist to make a point or teach a lesson.

The Story: Ever heard of political correctness? Evangelical Christians have their own variation, which I’ll call here the spiritually correct.

The spiritually correct are those Sunday-school, super-pious answers. They apply quick, theological-sounding fixes to deep problems, place band-aids on gaping wounds, and leave no room for doubt, anger, sorrow, or questioning—especially of God. But they sound good, even right: “God works everything for good.” “I can do all thing through Christ.” “God is love.” “His grace is sufficient for me.”

Each of these is true and rooted in Scripture. However, we often fling them about thoughtlessly, using them as catch phrases to avoid the more uncomfortable questions or emotions. I know I’ve done it and will probably do it again.

While Ryann Watters isn't quite to that extreme, this story places a spiritual veneer on everything. Bible verses seem to be used as quick fixes, God answers all the questions, characters are rarely allowed to struggle for any length of time, and the fantastical elements are explained to the point they almost lose their fantastical nature. That said, the story does contain many good truths, such as the need for the study of Scripture, dealing with bullies and unfair punishment, and seeking parental guidance.

Summary: Ryann Watters is about as “safe” as Christian fantasy can get—perhaps too safe. In the attempt to make this palatable to the strictest of parents, I wonder if this book does a disservice to its child readers by making it appear the only good story is the moral one and by leaving a wrong impression of God and His work that may disillusion later in life.

Rating: Writing--2.0, Content--3.0, Overall--2.7

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