Monday, August 20, 2012

Eye of the Sword

Title: Eye of the Sword

Series: Angelaeon Circle #2

Author: Karyn Henley

Genre: Adult Supernatural Fantasy

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Eye of the Sword:

As Trevin stepped into the seedy tavern at Drywell, his hand instinctively slid toward his dagger. Not that he was daft enough to challenge the three well-muscled strangers who had cornered his younger brother. Nor did Dwin look as if he wanted to be rescued. He laughed like a madman, his dark curls matted to his forehead, his hands around a mug. One of the three men pushed another mug his way.

A stringy-haired tavern maid sidled up to Trevin. He shook his head and watched her swish away. Maybe he was the mad one, tracking Dwin to Drywell when he should be at Redcliff preparing for the banquet being given in his honor that night. He fought the urge to throttle his little brother. 

Melaia’s name blurted from Dwin’s mouth. His shoulders bounced as he chuckled. 

“Dwin!” barked Trevin, striding to the table. His brother spewed barley beer, guffawing as if “Dwin” were the funniest name he had ever heard. 

The three strangers eyed Trevin with expressions ranging from amusement to disdain.

A swordsman of dubious past quests for the king’s missing captains and enchanted harps in order to earn a princess’s hand and find himself.

Craft: As with Breath of Angel, Eye of the Sword offers a thrilling adventure with colorful settings and a diverse cast.

On these pages, the ordinary mixes effortlessly with the extraordinary while only paragraphs separated cryptic oracles from calculating villains, and rogues, warriors, spies, and jesters tumble about the plot. Increasing dangers and rising stakes keep tension building, while sparks of humor prevent the somber from completely dominating.

The result is a tale enchanting and engaging.

Content: However, like Breath of Angel, Eye of the Sword seems plagued with concerning content.

On the positive side, the main theme circles around forgiveness. This time it’s the forgiveness of self, which is a nice complement to the main theme of book one. The theme could have been explored with a little more depth, but I also appreciate how it was interwoven so it didn’t hit me in the face like Rapunzel’s or Samwise’s frying pan.

That said, many aspects of the book troubled me. One was its portrayal of angels. However, I’ve already comment at length about this in the content section of Breath of Angel, so I won’t repeat it here.

But as I noted then, I have a second area of concern, one that covers both Breath of Angel and Eye of the Sword. This concern is the greater one of the two—and perhaps the harder one to explain.

In Christian fantasy, it is not unusual for God to take on a shadow role, more like the subtle references in Esther than the bold declarations of the prophets. Most of the time I am fine with that. The truth must be presented in many ways to reach a wide variety of readers. However, I am distressed by Angelaeon Circle’s depiction of the Most High—or rather the lack thereof.

Despite Melaia being a “priestess of the Most High” and dozens of characters who once passed in and out of the Most High’s presence regularly, He appears to be a non-entity most of the time. He is rarely mentioned. When He is, it’s usually in passing, such as in “Thank the Most High” when a dire situation is diverted. Yet don’t even non-Christians say “Thank God” under similar circumstances in our world?

Yes, I understand that the premise’s stairway to heaven has been destroyed so that the angels and the spirit can no longer more freely between heaven and earth. But there’s no indication that the stairway’s destruction erased the memories or knowledge of the angels. Why do they act as if they’ve never had much connection to the Most High at all? Nor would such a cosmic severing limit the Creator, though it might hinder the created. Yet He seems completely absent, like He has, as charged with in the book, abandoned this world—or is not great enough to bridge this gap. In fact, didn’t it take the Most High, not humanity, to bridge the gap when a similar rift occurred in this world?

Add to this the reference to the Most High as the “father-mother of the universe,” and the true nature of this God seems to enter even shakier territory. Yes, God is spirit and therefore genderless. Yes, He carries attributes that we, from a human perspective, call “masculine” and “feminine.” But when God chose to reveal Himself in Scripture, He always chose to call Himself by the masculine like “Father,” “Bridegroom,” “Husband,” and “King.” The feminine is kept to analogies: “like a mother.”

We do not call Jesus the son-daughter of God, though He lamented that he longed to gather Jerusalem’s children like a hen gathers her chicks (Luke 13:34). Such a statement would be heresy. What is the difference between that and calling the Most High, a clear reference to the God of Scripture, “father-mother”? Do we really have the right to contradict how God has chosen to reveal Himself, no matter the world in which we write about Him?

The end result, no matter the author’s intention, is a world where nothing sets apart a servant of the Most High from just a “good” person; where the nature of God Himself is brought into question; and where supernatural beings have been so divorced from their Source that their power, at times, seems to be little more than Christianized magic.

So while I hope many of these problems might be corrected with a third book, the fact that the problems exist at all—leading to the possibility of incorrect theology—remains vastly perturbing to me.

Summary: Eye of the Sword, though enjoyable from a story perspective, is troubling when you consider what the story seems to be proposing about Who God is and the world He has created. For ultimately no world, however fantastical, can be completely severed from the realities of this one, much less a world with so many blatant ties/references to this world’s actual spiritual realm.

Therefore, I must recommend extreme caution for the Eye of the Sword, best reserved for those with good discernment and solid biblical knowledge.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—1.5, Overall—2.5 out of 5 stars.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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