CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 3

The Review of Raven’s Ladder

I made it. Almost.

I’ve had a little fun for this blog tour as I’ve tried feverishly to finish Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, the second book we’ve featured this month. Thankfully, I’ve participated in tours for the two prior titles in the series, so I had “content” to offer while I furiously flipped pages.

I actually finished late Wednesday at work, but I couldn’t blog about this until Thursday morning. I guess that’s cheating. Anyway, I can offer my thoughts on Raven’s Ladder for what it’s worth.

The story:
After the fall of House Abascar, the loss of a young woman named Auralia, and the transformation of one savage beastman, the third book in the Auralia’s Thread series focuses on the ragtag survivors of Abascar. They are lead by Cal-raven, considered a dreamer by many of his people for his belief in a mystical Keeper and for his willingness to lead from visions and intuition.

In the land of the Expanse, where four Houses (dynasties) were established long ago, two of them are in serious trouble. House Cent Regus has been transformed into horrible beastmen driven by animal desires. House Abascar suffered the loss of their home territory, and as they huddle in cliff dwellings, they are once again driven from their residence out into the wild.

Cal-raven longs to find a new, permanent home for his people. In his quest, he and his people will be swept up in the politics and intrigue of House Bel Amica, a place of outward beauty with a rotting core, and the challenge of the Cent Regus with their hidden secrets. All the while, the amazing colors that young Auralia introduced in the first book are a recurrent theme that offer a new way to all in the story, if they are willing to have faith.

My review:
The problem with trying to read Raven’s Ladder quickly is that Jeffrey Overstreet writes dense. This is not a bad thing. His books are written with a lyrical quality that makes one stop and pay attention to the figures of speech used to paint a picture with the words chosen. I would prefer a more leisurely read, but deadlines are what they are!

The book continues the interesting tale of the Expanse. There is a lot to comment on, from the “prosperity” focus of the Bel Amican moon spirit religion to the more explicit faith shown in the Keeper. I would not recommend a reader try to pick up Raven and start reading – the prior books are required reading at this point. In fact, it had been long enough since reading Cyndere’s Midnight that I struggled some with keeping  plot and characters straight.

I have said before that this series is an important contribution to Christian (specifically CBA) fiction. Overstreet is trying to paint a beautiful picture, and there are patterns emerging that offer some interesting spiritual insight. He has stated before that he is not trying to push some beliefs, but allow an intriguing story make the reader think. Still, there are pictures coming out that offer a glimpse of where he is coming from.

It is a good fantasy series, but as I read it, there is a distance to the characters that make it hard for me to fully embrace. I can relate better to the noble Abascar captain than the main protagonist King Cal-raven. I have felt the distance throughout the series, but it was a little more noticeable this time, perhaps due to the depth of plot and characters from the prior two books that is hard to keep in mind over two years time.

I recommend the series, but if you are a fan of rapid action and quick moving scenes, this book may not be for you. It is more of a slow burn, requiring time to appreciate the different threads moving through the series (it is the Gold Strand of the Auralia series after all). The books are aiming high – they may not make it all the time, but the goal is lofty enough that even in “missing” it is still an entertaining yet inquisitive examination of beauty, faith, nobility, savagery, and finding what matters most in life.

For other thoughts on Raven’s Ladder, be sure to check out other participants listed at the bottom of Becky Miller’s Day 1 post.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Raven’s Ladder from WaterBrook Press.

CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 3

The Review of Raven’s Ladder

I made it. Almost.

I’ve had a little fun for this blog tour as I’ve tried feverishly to finish Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, the second book we’ve featured this month. Thankfully, I’ve participated in tours for the two prior titles in the series, so I had “content” to offer while I furiously flipped pages.

I actually finished late Wednesday at work, but I couldn’t blog about this until Thursday morning. I guess that’s cheating. Anyway, I can offer my thoughts on Raven’s Ladder for what it’s worth.

The story:
After the fall of House Abascar, the loss of a young woman named Auralia, and the transformation of one savage beastman, the third book in the Auralia’s Thread series focuses on the ragtag survivors of Abascar. They are lead by Cal-raven, considered a dreamer by many of his people for his belief in a mystical Keeper and for his willingness to lead from visions and intuition.

In the land of the Expanse, where four Houses (dynasties) were established long ago, two of them are in serious trouble. House Cent Regus has been transformed into horrible beastmen driven by animal desires. House Abascar suffered the loss of their home territory, and as they huddle in cliff dwellings, they are once again driven from their residence out into the wild.

Cal-raven longs to find a new, permanent home for his people. In his quest, he and his people will be swept up in the politics and intrigue of House Bel Amica, a place of outward beauty with a rotting core, and the challenge of the Cent Regus with their hidden secrets. All the while, the amazing colors that young Auralia introduced in the first book are a recurrent theme that offer a new way to all in the story, if they are willing to have faith.

My review:
The problem with trying to read Raven’s Ladder quickly is that Jeffrey Overstreet writes dense. This is not a bad thing. His books are written with a lyrical quality that makes one stop and pay attention to the figures of speech used to paint a picture with the words chosen. I would prefer a more leisurely read, but deadlines are what they are!

The book continues the interesting tale of the Expanse. There is a lot to comment on, from the “prosperity” focus of the Bel Amican moon spirit religion to the more explicit faith shown in the Keeper. I would not recommend a reader try to pick up Raven and start reading – the prior books are required reading at this point. In fact, it had been long enough since reading Cyndere’s Midnight that I struggled some with keeping  plot and characters straight.

I have said before that this series is an important contribution to Christian (specifically CBA) fiction. Overstreet is trying to paint a beautiful picture, and there are patterns emerging that offer some interesting spiritual insight. He has stated before that he is not trying to push some beliefs, but allow an intriguing story make the reader think. Still, there are pictures coming out that offer a glimpse of where he is coming from.

It is a good fantasy series, but as I read it, there is a distance to the characters that make it hard for me to fully embrace. I can relate better to the noble Abascar captain than the main protagonist King Cal-raven. I have felt the distance throughout the series, but it was a little more noticeable this time, perhaps due to the depth of plot and characters from the prior two books that is hard to keep in mind over two years time.

I recommend the series, but if you are a fan of rapid action and quick moving scenes, this book may not be for you. It is more of a slow burn, requiring time to appreciate the different threads moving through the series (it is the Gold Strand of the Auralia series after all). The books are aiming high – they may not make it all the time, but the goal is lofty enough that even in “missing” it is still an entertaining yet inquisitive examination of beauty, faith, nobility, savagery, and finding what matters most in life.

For other thoughts on Raven’s Ladder, be sure to check out other participants listed at the bottom of Becky Miller’s Day 1 post.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Raven’s Ladder from WaterBrook Press.

CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 2

The race continues – the race to be relevant for the April (part deux) CSFF blog tour, featuring Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet.
While my mad page-turning continues, in “honor” of the recent Earth Day, here are some recycled posts!
Last year’s interview with Jeffrey Overstreet (tried to update it to 3D, didn’t work – but you can put on some red and blue goggles if you want).
Did you notice it placing in this notable list of top books of 2009?

Finally, here’s some people who have finished this race!

We’ll see tomorrow if I make it…

CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 2

The race continues – the race to be relevant for the April (part deux) CSFF blog tour, featuring Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet.
While my mad page-turning continues, in “honor” of the recent Earth Day, here are some recycled posts!
Last year’s interview with Jeffrey Overstreet (tried to update it to 3D, didn’t work – but you can put on some red and blue goggles if you want).
Did you notice it placing in this notable list of top books of 2009?

Finally, here’s some people who have finished this race!

We’ll see tomorrow if I make it…

CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 1

Join me, if you will, in a race.

A race comprised of great hurdles, twists and turns to throw off many a competitor. A race to join my compatriots in joyous celebration of another successful trip.

A race to see if I can finish in time…

Welcome to the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour for April (part deux). We are featuring the latest book in the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet: Raven’s Ladder.

My eyes were too big in picking books for the month of April, and I’m trying to finish Raven for this tour. Forget food, who needs personal hygiene, when I have a book I must finish! (Don’t worry, I’m in a dramatic mode).

Still, I have some tasty morsels to tide you over while my wheels spin furiously.

Curious about the first book in the series, Auralia’s Colors? Then visit here.
What was my review of Auralia?
What were some other thoughts expressed about this book?
And finally, were there any people who managed to do their homework? Check the list below to see!
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)

Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

CSFF Tour – Raven’s Ladder Day 1

Join me, if you will, in a race.

A race comprised of great hurdles, twists and turns to throw off many a competitor. A race to join my compatriots in joyous celebration of another successful trip.

A race to see if I can finish in time…

Welcome to the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy Tour for April (part deux). We are featuring the latest book in the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet: Raven’s Ladder.

My eyes were too big in picking books for the month of April, and I’m trying to finish Raven for this tour. Forget food, who needs personal hygiene, when I have a book I must finish! (Don’t worry, I’m in a dramatic mode).

Still, I have some tasty morsels to tide you over while my wheels spin furiously.

Curious about the first book in the series, Auralia’s Colors? Then visit here.
What was my review of Auralia?
What were some other thoughts expressed about this book?
And finally, were there any people who managed to do their homework? Check the list below to see!
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)

Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

CFBA Tour – Blood Ransom

The CFBA is featuring the new book Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris. She lives in Mozambique where her family works as missionaries, so this story set in the fictional African country of Dhambizao has a real authenticity to it.
Natalie Sinclair is an American working with the health ministry to encourage vaccinations, wellness, and tracking of tribal groups to monitor their health programs. The country is on edge due to an impending election, and even though the UN is monitoring this one, the history of violence in past voting has left its scars.
When young Joseph Komboli escapes from his village with a tale of “Ghost Soldiers” taking all the people, including his family, Natalie is not sure how to get involved. However, Joseph’s explosive pictures force her to find help from Dr. Chad Talcott, another American expatriot who is volunteering at a nearby clinic.
As Natalie, Chad, and Joseph try to get their information into the right hands, there are others in power who will stop at nothing to bury the truth that could change the whole country. Will they succeed in saving Joseph’s family, or will they share a tragic fate as well?
There’s a lot to like about this book. It can be classified as a “romantic suspense,” and Lisa’s knowledge of Africa adds a certain flavor to it. There is plenty of action, and there are a lot of surprises for the main characters. It is easy to get into the story and root for Natalie and Chad.
The plot hinges on the idea of human trafficking, the modern day slave trade. Many people don’t realize there are more slaves in the world RIGHT NOW than at the height of the African slavery during colonial times. This is an issue that is dear to my heart, and I am excited to see entertaining fiction that can also educate about an important issue of justice in our world today.
Blood Ransom has some flaws as well. I never felt that the characters had a distinctive voice – Chad and Natalie act and think alike, as well as other secondary characters. Some of the plot points get a little muddled, as the scope of the book switches from Joseph’s home village to the whole country and an international shadowy corrupt tycoon. It does all tie together in the end, but the premise gets a little strained.
Overall, Blood Ransom is obviously a work of love by Lisa Harris for a continent and people she loves, and issues she is passionate about. It is an enjoyable story that should satisfy fans of romance with suspense or action thrown in. I’ll be interested to see what comes in the future from this author.
If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of Blood Ransom, go HERE.

CFBA Tour – Blood Ransom

The CFBA is featuring the new book Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris. She lives in Mozambique where her family works as missionaries, so this story set in the fictional African country of Dhambizao has a real authenticity to it.
Natalie Sinclair is an American working with the health ministry to encourage vaccinations, wellness, and tracking of tribal groups to monitor their health programs. The country is on edge due to an impending election, and even though the UN is monitoring this one, the history of violence in past voting has left its scars.
When young Joseph Komboli escapes from his village with a tale of “Ghost Soldiers” taking all the people, including his family, Natalie is not sure how to get involved. However, Joseph’s explosive pictures force her to find help from Dr. Chad Talcott, another American expatriot who is volunteering at a nearby clinic.
As Natalie, Chad, and Joseph try to get their information into the right hands, there are others in power who will stop at nothing to bury the truth that could change the whole country. Will they succeed in saving Joseph’s family, or will they share a tragic fate as well?
There’s a lot to like about this book. It can be classified as a “romantic suspense,” and Lisa’s knowledge of Africa adds a certain flavor to it. There is plenty of action, and there are a lot of surprises for the main characters. It is easy to get into the story and root for Natalie and Chad.
The plot hinges on the idea of human trafficking, the modern day slave trade. Many people don’t realize there are more slaves in the world RIGHT NOW than at the height of the African slavery during colonial times. This is an issue that is dear to my heart, and I am excited to see entertaining fiction that can also educate about an important issue of justice in our world today.
Blood Ransom has some flaws as well. I never felt that the characters had a distinctive voice – Chad and Natalie act and think alike, as well as other secondary characters. Some of the plot points get a little muddled, as the scope of the book switches from Joseph’s home village to the whole country and an international shadowy corrupt tycoon. It does all tie together in the end, but the premise gets a little strained.
Overall, Blood Ransom is obviously a work of love by Lisa Harris for a continent and people she loves, and issues she is passionate about. It is an enjoyable story that should satisfy fans of romance with suspense or action thrown in. I’ll be interested to see what comes in the future from this author.
If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter of Blood Ransom, go HERE.

Sanitized Characters

Heya!

If you missed it or didn’t find it interesting, I encourage you to check out last week’s posts on the book Lost Mission. At least for those of us on the blog tour, there was a lot of deep discussion over themes brought up from the book.

A couple of posts got me thinking about our characters when writing fiction. One reviewer didn’t like the book because they thought some characters were promoting paganism. Now, this is more of a thematic issue they had with the book, but I commented on their post that the book wasn’t promoting paganism, but that the characters were acting according to who they were. The blogger didn’t agree with my assessment, and we agreed to disagree.

Another blogger wanted a character to turn to her Bible to get guidance and figure out what should be done. Certainly it would be ideal if everyone did that, and it would have made sense since the character was devout. I know I dive deeper into my Bible when in trouble, but it may not have served the story and the climiax that was building.

After these two comments came up, it got me thinking that perhaps in Christian fiction we subconsciously want the characters we read about to be “sanitized”. I’m not saying these two commenters wanted this specifically, but my impression was maybe we do want this a little more than we realize.

Of course the type of book is going to drive what type of characters populate it. Lost Mission focused on five characters, four of whom would be considered devout, so I wouldn’t expect rough behavior or language. Still, I think authors can struggle with making a character authentic due to a fear of offending a CBA reader.

There’s also been some blog discussion about the homogenized Christianity seen in a lot of Christian fiction. The believers tend to be from a Protestant, non-denominational “Bible” type church, without distinctive doctrines such as speaking in tongues, high liturgical services, or other significant identifiers (that don’t break the core orthodoxy of the Trinity, the Bible, salvation, etc.). Catholics or people who may be a little less mainstream don’t make it as the examples of a Christian character.

I think this goes back to market forces. The CBA market (it used to stand for Christian Booksellers Association, but now is a term for the specific niche fiction one typically finds in an Evangelical bookstore) is particular and doesn’t like certain feathers ruffled. We can have serial killers in CBA fiction, as long as they don’t cuss and sleep around. We also don’t want the Pew Wars extend into our fiction.

Now the clean-mouthed assassin is a blatant example, but I wonder if we expect too much from our CBA characters. Authors know they have a certain audience to please, and perhaps the edges are knocked off a bit. As I flail away at my work in progress, I did a character bio sheet to help me know my heroine better. One questioned asked about sexual experience. My first instinct is to say, “No, she has been chaste.” Unfortunately, in our modern world it would be unrealistic to have an attractive, secular college student be a virgin, so I have to concede that she has had premarital sex. It likely won’t come up in the story, so I get a dodge there, but I think my initial reaction is telling.

What say you?

Sanitized Characters

Heya!

If you missed it or didn’t find it interesting, I encourage you to check out last week’s posts on the book Lost Mission. At least for those of us on the blog tour, there was a lot of deep discussion over themes brought up from the book.

A couple of posts got me thinking about our characters when writing fiction. One reviewer didn’t like the book because they thought some characters were promoting paganism. Now, this is more of a thematic issue they had with the book, but I commented on their post that the book wasn’t promoting paganism, but that the characters were acting according to who they were. The blogger didn’t agree with my assessment, and we agreed to disagree.

Another blogger wanted a character to turn to her Bible to get guidance and figure out what should be done. Certainly it would be ideal if everyone did that, and it would have made sense since the character was devout. I know I dive deeper into my Bible when in trouble, but it may not have served the story and the climiax that was building.

After these two comments came up, it got me thinking that perhaps in Christian fiction we subconsciously want the characters we read about to be “sanitized”. I’m not saying these two commenters wanted this specifically, but my impression was maybe we do want this a little more than we realize.

Of course the type of book is going to drive what type of characters populate it. Lost Mission focused on five characters, four of whom would be considered devout, so I wouldn’t expect rough behavior or language. Still, I think authors can struggle with making a character authentic due to a fear of offending a CBA reader.

There’s also been some blog discussion about the homogenized Christianity seen in a lot of Christian fiction. The believers tend to be from a Protestant, non-denominational “Bible” type church, without distinctive doctrines such as speaking in tongues, high liturgical services, or other significant identifiers (that don’t break the core orthodoxy of the Trinity, the Bible, salvation, etc.). Catholics or people who may be a little less mainstream don’t make it as the examples of a Christian character.

I think this goes back to market forces. The CBA market (it used to stand for Christian Booksellers Association, but now is a term for the specific niche fiction one typically finds in an Evangelical bookstore) is particular and doesn’t like certain feathers ruffled. We can have serial killers in CBA fiction, as long as they don’t cuss and sleep around. We also don’t want the Pew Wars extend into our fiction.

Now the clean-mouthed assassin is a blatant example, but I wonder if we expect too much from our CBA characters. Authors know they have a certain audience to please, and perhaps the edges are knocked off a bit. As I flail away at my work in progress, I did a character bio sheet to help me know my heroine better. One questioned asked about sexual experience. My first instinct is to say, “No, she has been chaste.” Unfortunately, in our modern world it would be unrealistic to have an attractive, secular college student be a virgin, so I have to concede that she has had premarital sex. It likely won’t come up in the story, so I get a dodge there, but I think my initial reaction is telling.

What say you?