Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book #24

The Sword, by Bryan Litfin. Paperback.

This is Litfin's first novel, but as a college professor he is certainly not new to writing. It doesn't always read like a first novel, and there are more than a few moments of skillful writing.

This is the first volume of a planned trilogy, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth of approximately 2400. Many things from the Old World, including technology and religion, have been lost in the last few centuries. This allows Litfin to cobble his land of Chiveis from aspects of ancient, medeival and prairie cultures. This gives us a unique world that nonetheless has a familiar feel that allows us to fully enter the narrative as readers.

The core relationship of the novel is between manly man Teofil and womanly woman Anastasia. They rescue each other regularly, and (this is not a spoiler) they fall in love by the end of the novel. The crux of the story is Teo's discovery of an ancient scroll, which is in fact an Old Testament. He, Anastasia, and a small group of others begin to study the work, realizing that the religion of the land is very different from this ancient religion. This group comes to believe in the truth of the religion of Deu, the one true God.

The powers that be, most notably the High Priestess of the land's religion, knows of the religion of the cross, and has made it her mission to make sure it does not take root in the realm. As is typical of Christan novels, the villain's motivations lack subtlety.

When word comes to her that the scrolls have been recovered and a group is studying them, she demands that the young new King outlaw the religion, and has empowered her forces to execute followers of Deu. The book ends with the small group in hiding, and Teo & Ana riding into the unknown borders of the land.

The world-building aspects of The Sword have some strengths, although every character who becomes a follower of Deu seems to adopt the beliefs and practices of modern American evangelicals. I understand the marketing aspects of knowing who your audience is, but this does seem unlikley. I am encouraged by the few hints that the greater believing community has a more diverse history, and certainly hope Litfin develops this in the series' remaining two novels.

Christian novels often follow predictable paths, and this one certainly treads much familiar ground. Little new or unexpected happened here, but the characters and setting were strong enough to convince me to read book #2 in the series.

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