Sunday 31 January 2016

The Dragon King: First Emperor of China (Chronicles of the Watchers Book 1) by Brian Godawa

Book Description: 

Two Epic Storytellers and a Clash of Ancient Cultures

Brian Godawa, best-selling author of ancient historical fantasy, teams up with Charlie Wen, the past visual director of Marvel Studios, to tell an action-adventure romance rooted in the ancient history and spiritual reality of China.

Written through the Watcher paradigm that was familiar to readers of Chronicles of the Nephilim.

East Eats West

Antiochus takes with him his longtime friend, Balthazar, a member of the Magi order of Babylon, responsible for both the religion and science of the empire. But Balthazar also carries with him a dangerous secret that could destroy Antiochus’ plans and plunge the world into chaos.

They sail beyond their maps into the mysterious and uncharted Eastern Orient. They are discovered and escorted inland to the empire of Ch’in (now known as China), ruled by the first emperor, Ch’in Shi Huang Di. The emperor is a brutal ruler and is on the edge of insanity in a mad quest to find the elixir of immortality.

Antiochus meets and falls in forbidden love with a beautiful concubine of the emperor, Mei Li. But she also harbors a secret that can bring down the mad emperor. It’s the truth of China’s spiritual past that is mysteriously connected to the ancient Hebrews and the Tower of Babel.

And there are spiritual principalities and powers who seek to stop them all. These are the Watchers, who have their own plans to rule the world. Finding and capturing a dragon is the least of Antiochus’ difficulties in this action-adventure clash of cultures and war of gods.

Part of the Historical Fantasy Series Chronicles of the Watchers

The Dragon King is the first book of the Historical Fantasy Series, Chronicles of the Watchers, that charts the influence of spiritual principalities and powers over the course of human history. The kingdoms of man in service to the gods of the nations at war. Completely based on ancient historical and mythological research.

The Guru's Review:   

I could not resist accepting the author's offer of an advanced reader's copy on condition for an honest review. This is my first reading of Godawa's novels. I have all his Chronicles of the Nephilim series and have not read them yet much to my frustration of having too many books to read and my passion for reviewing new authors novels and specific genres in Christian fiction! So in this situation, The Dragon King is one very good introduction to the writing and creativity of Brain Godawa.

Godawa writes very well, specific, not too descriptive, no excessive difficult words. You know exactly what he is describing and depicting. I felt like I was in a Greek culture despite not being in Greece (but in Mesopotamia instead), as well as China, especially the latter, as this culture and environment were created very life like. I guess what helped me in this was the list of the English pronunciation of the Pinyin translation of Chinese words and of the English translation of Greek words used in the text. This is also an example of the research and creativity to make this novel realistic and credible. Godawa has joined the dots in his research of the Watchers and the Nephilim and how these are is connected to the Bible and virtually every culture and it is very consistent with much of the research and reading I have conducted myself concerning these topics. I had not specifically joined the dots myself with these and the Tower of Babel, and I loved how the Chinese have characters in their language that specifically relate to this biblical account and also that there was a Greek alternative of this as well. I loved the action and adventure that is very much interspersed throughout the plot especially where it takes place in the East, in the region of Ch'in, which we now know as China. Godawa seems to be quite a master at pace, characterization, and action. There was no slowness of pace or troughs in the plot. I would love to see this as a movie. It would translate well and I am not surprised at this given Godawa's background.

I must say that another construct I loved was the depiction of the Magi that we know from the Bible, even though their names as given in this novel are not mentioned in the Bible but whose names we know from other non-biblical sources as Balthazar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Interestingly, that we tend to think that there were three Magi (wise men) in the Biblical account because there were three gifts presented to Jesus, but the Bible it says that either wise men or Magi came from the east to worship Him, not three wise men or Magi. However, Godawa runs with these three Magi and has them as the ones who mention the coming Messiah from their prophecies in the beginning of the novel and who pursue this prophecy at its end. I loved this poetic license and look forward to seeing further pursuance of this plot line in future novels in this series if that is planned by Godawa. I really enjoyed the banter/bickering and competing with each other for the position of high priest between Gaspar and Melchior, these two were a bit of comic relief for the novel but had great respect for each other and submitted to each other as well as to Balthazar who appeared to be the elder type figure of the three. 

I am not one for romance taking over the plot or it being the main genre of the novel but really enjoy it when it is part of the plot and I love how Godawa has developed this between Antiochus and Mei Li. It is not sugary sweet or all consuming but just in the right balance. I appreciate in a Christian novel like this that Godawa has not overemphasized or included for that matter occurrences of lust; yes, there was a mention of desire but that can be very normal in its rightful place and Godawa has this in balance. He has included here a Godly romance that is based on their new found faith in Shang Di (God). I am not sure if the next novel concerns these characters or not, but I would love to see the relationship develop more between these two. I just felt that their relationship was left a bit short at the end of the novel. 

Godawa has created a well relatable character in Antiochus. As the main character and protagonist, Godawa places the reader right next to him from the first page. I was attached to this General. I can see that this was because of the opening scene showing the concern that Antiochus expresses towards his King and sets the scenes for secrets from both his and the King's past. From here, this novel becomes all about these secrets and how they are intertwined with the rest of the plot. Despite all the action, and subplots, spiritual elements, warfare, the reader never loses sight of Antiochus, he is centre stage even when he is not included in the scene at the time.

I loved the spiritual elements that Godawa has developed. He ties in very well those elements from the bible relating to the Nephilim, the Tower of Babel, and how this has created the mythology of the gods of every culture, in this tale it is of a demonic entity called The Dragon, known in Ch'in culture as Yu Huang, or the Jade Emperor, while Antiochus sees parallels from this to his own culture. I loved how Godawa showed the power of Shang Di and how this was the final piece in the attainment of Antiochus' faith and of Mei Li and those of the rebels. Very nice example of redemptive fiction here. 

I am very pleased with this novel being my introduction to Godawa's novels and I look immensely forward to reading the series Chronicles Of The Nephilim as well as the ones to follow in The Chronicles of the Watchers.

Highly Recommended. (5/5 Stars)

Thursday 28 January 2016

Author/Novel Spotlight: Michael Bergman

I first met Michael Bergman when he chose to "Follow" me on Twitter. I checked out his profile and discovered his novel, The Kingdom of Arke: Fading Light. Being a debut Christian author, I wanted to help him so I offered to review his novel, but seeing I am not able to at this time, I offered Michael an Author/Novel Spotlight post.

So sit back and let Michael talk about this intriguing novel, its background and Christian themes, and himself as an author.

However, to whet your appetite and pique your interest, here is the book cover and its description:

In the midst of a vast sea, there lies an island. There, the inhabitants of a kingdom have forgotten and forsaken their King. Light begins to fade over the island; darkness threatens to completely consume it. The fate of the kingdom resides in the actions of a boy who will go through a dark and perilous road that could easily consume him. Yet, only he can shed the light so desperately needed on the Kingdom of Arke.

Now a few words about Michael Bergman:

Hi, I'm Michael Bergman, an aspiring young author from western Kentucky. I work full time as a marine technician and electrician. My family operates an orphanage located in Hinche, Haiti, which currently provides for thirty-five children. While growing up, I was an avid reader who hoped to someday become an author. I was especially inspired by the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. I reside in Eddyville, Kentucky, with my beautiful wife, Marissa.

When I asked Michael about the background behind his novel, this is what he had to say:

The kingdom we live in now has forgotten and forsaken our great and mighty God and His Son, Jesus. Our world began in much the same way that Arke did, but acts of human selfishness took us further away from the light of the King. I believe that God helped me to create the Kingdom of Arke to tell the story of His infinite love toward His creation. 

We cannot fathom how desperately God loves us. He loves all of us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to dwell among us and teach us how to serve Him and shed light on the world. Jesus took on the darkness of sin itself for all of us, and He destroyed it at the cross with His crucifixion. With the darkness destroyed, Jesus rose from the grave and poured out His spirit of light for each and every one of us.

I hope that this story will reveal to others the light that I have found. I want everyone to see the terrible contrast between light and dark within this world. I believe there is a darkness that is consuming all of us, one that we don’t even see, that we are not even aware of. 

I believe we are allowing sin’s shadow to suffocate us and blind us from the beautiful light of God’s love. 

There is hope. The light shall come forth and consume all shadow of sorrow and fear. It will rise like the dawn, evaporating the cold and bitterness of night, bringing a glorious new day.

With all my heart, I hope the words you have read have helped you to see the light to see it for the first time or to see it anew. I hope these words speak into your heart, speaking life over death and joy over sorrow. I pray that you will draw closer to the light.

Let us become citizens of the light, keepers of its infinite glow. Let us rid this world of all shadow. Let us shine forth until all might see His light through us.

Michael states the following about the Christian themes in Fading Light: 

I have written Arke is to include every bit of the Bible I can without bluntly shoving the gospel down people's throats. I love a good story and from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John I believe Jesus did too. The way He taught and spoke was always with a good story, with the Gospel just under the surface. In my story, I speak about the King (God) and His son, Jesus, and His light and power, the Holy Spirit. The main antagonist was once a warrior for the King but has succumbed to the king of darkness, Lucifer. The book truly is full of the Biblical story. One of the main reasons I'm writing the book is to bring those who do not know Christ or have wandered away from him to return to His glorious light. There are many books out there filled with this kind of fantasy material and my prayer is that a large audience of readers will pick up this book just to read an interesting story but will finish the book realizing the glorious light and love of Christ.

In case this has further piqued your interest, I asked Michael if could provide an excerpt. But first, he explains why he chose this excerpt: 

I chose this because it's the first chapter and the beginning of the story. I love it when books, movies, and TV shows throw you right into the story at an intense scene so that is what I did with chapter one. I wrote the book in a way that you learn things about the world along with the main character and his background as the story progresses.

~~~~~~~~Start Excerpt~~~~~~~~~

Straining, Ryker pulled himself onto the flat rooftop of the house he had just climbed. He now stood high above the streets of Tervan. Ryker cautiously peered over the edge of the roof to search the empty roofs nearby. When he had first seen it staring at him, he had been startled. When it had followed him as he ran, he had begun to grow afraid. Now, after two hours of fleeing over the rooftops, he was terrified.

Wiping the sweat out of his eyes, he smoothed back his hair and took in a deep breath of the night air. Whatever was chasing him was fast and knew how to maneuver up here with speed and skill. Whatever the thing that chased him, it was much faster than any of the Gaur he had run from in the past.

He hadn’t gotten a good look at whatever was following him. The first and only thing he’d seen were red eyes. They had looked down at him from another rooftop high above. They’d almost looked like they were glowing, like lanterns in the night. Then, as if a shadow had passed by, the eyes had been gone. Chills ran across the back of his neck as fear of whatever that thing came over him.

So he ran, not knowing or caring what it was he ran from, and he didn’t look back. Leaving the tall rooftop, he continued to run over roofs and leap across gaps between houses. He wasn’t completely convinced that this shadowy pursuer really was tailing him.

And suddenly he saw them again, the red eyes ahead of him and higher up on another roof. The creature was swift to already be ahead and so high up. He quickly changed direction away from the figure watching him. Increasing his speed, he leaped from one rooftop to another, desperate to flee from his frightening pursuer.

A summer breeze blew through the night sky. A storm was coming up the river from Teerah Bay; he could vaguely smell the salt in the wind, bringing up memories of his past that he quickly pushed aside. It was exceptionally warm for early summer. The storm could get bad. Ryker needed to get back to his hideout before the storm began. He didn’t want to lead whoever was following him to his hideout. Many other boys lived with him, and he didn’t want to put them in danger as well. He had to lose his pursuer somehow.

Using the great tower that loomed over the entire Shuul as a guide, he started for the river. The tower had been built at the center of the Shuul to watch over and protect it. Ryker often used it as a mark to know where he was as he traveled the rooftops. If he could make it to the river, he could dive into the water and maybe hide on the banks under the brush that grew there, until his pursuer gave up.

He had made the jump many times. The first few occasions had been just for fun. The last time he’d jumped, a Shafel Gaur had caught him stealing a bag of coins off a merchant’s belt. Ryker had jumped, and the Shafel Gaur, who wore armor, hadn’t. He would have sunk like a rock if he had. Ryker had gotten away with enough gold to feed him and the boys he lived with for months. That day, he had run for gold; tonight he ran for his life.

As he ran on the roofs, he looked for the edge of the Shuul. He knew he was close, but how close could mean the difference between escape and … whatever would happen if he was caught. He didn’t know what would happen if this thing with red eyes caught up to him. He had heard of people seeing shadowy figures in the night recently. He had thought they were just seeing things or had spent too much time in the tavern. They’d said they had seen dark figures moving swiftly on the rooftops in the small hours of the night. One person swore he saw one of these figures chase a young boy down an alley. When he’d gone to investigate, there had been no sign of them. Both had disappeared. Ryker hoped the man had only been seeing things. It was indeed late in the night, and he was, in fact, an orphan.

“There!” he said aloud, relieved at the sight of the flowing water. In the moonlight, he could see the river. The moon shone on its dark waters as it flowed steadily south to fill up Teerah Bay.

He was near the spot where he knew it was deep enough, so he picked up his speed. In a sprint, he saw his mark on the peak of a roof and headed for it. Two flat roofs lay between him and the point where he would jump. If he leaped from the chimney of the second flat roof, it would give him enough height to reach the peak of the house he would use to dive into the river. He needed to time the jump perfectly to give him enough momentum to continue on into the river far below.

The wind picked up and moved thick clouds above to conceal the moon’s light. A fell voice was heard in the wind’s breath. As he leaped to the next roof, his body moving fast, expecting to dive in a matter of seconds, something suddenly held him in place. Ryker didn’t know if it was fear or an unseen force that held him, but to stop so abruptly was impossible. He couldn’t move a muscle. He was locked in a running posture but couldn’t get away.

A dark ominous cloud appeared out of the night air before him. It was unlike anything he had ever seen. In the cloud rose the figure that had been chasing him. The red eyes were the only things to be seen under a black hood. The dark cloud evaporated, revealing the rest of his features, which were few. He seemed like a darker shadow in the blackness of night.

“You’re quite the little rabbit up here, Ryker.” A hissing voice beneath the hood paused as if to let sink in the fact that he knew Ryker’s name.
His voice sounded almost like a snake the way it hissed. How did this … thing know his name? Why was he after him? And how was he frozen like this? Ryker shuddered. He had no idea and wasn’t sure he wanted to find out.

“My master wishes to extend his hospitality to you,” the dark figure continued. The way he spoke was disturbing. His presence made Ryker’s insides tremble. The figure clothed in black paced slowing around Ryker, circling him.

Ryker struggled to free himself from whatever unseen force held him immobile. The figure must have seen the expression on Ryker’s face change from fear to panic as he struggled to break free. No matter how much he fought it, the unseen force seized him.

“You still have fight in you? Good, good,” the stranger said with a wicked laugh. “You will serve the master of darkness well. You should realize now that you have no hope of escaping. Your future has already been sealed.” His voice grew louder and more threatening as he spoke. His wicked tongue twisted every word into a cruel, hissing version.

The clouds above exposed the moon to shine down on them, and Ryker got a better look at the shadowy figure. He was tall and lean. The hilt of a sword could be seen behind his shoulder. He wore a long black coat down to his shins. His armor beneath the coat was detailed with many markings and symbols. From his hood to his boots, the only color to be seen was black. Even under the moonlight, the shadow still clung to him save only for his red eyes, which indeed shone with an unearthly light. A dark mist seemed to linger around his eyes, concealing his face further. He turned his back to Ryker, looked up at the moon, and spoke to it, almost like he was speaking to Ryker.

“My master will cover Arke with a darkness that will swallow all light. Even the moon will no longer curse the night sky. No one can escape the fate that will come. He turned around to face Ryker and said directly to him, “Lucky for you, you will be among us as we drive the light away that blinds this land.” He stretched out his long arms. “Come, you must meet your new master!” he finished abruptly, his voice hissing long after the last word.

Another dark cloud appeared and surrounded the dark figure. For a moment, Ryker felt himself freed from the unseen force that had held him motionless. He quickly unwrapped his ever-present sling from around his waist and grabbed a stone from his pocket. In one fluid motion, he spun the stone and slung it toward the figure.

Whether it hit its mark or not, Ryker didn’t wait to find out. The moment the stone left the sling, he was already on the sloped roof, running along its peak. He planted both of his feet at its edge and leaped. He sailed through the air toward the river. He managed to turn, midair, to see if the figure was still on the roof. He was nowhere to be seen. His black clothes and red eyes were gone. Not having time to straighten his body, Ryker hit the water on the flat of his back, smacking it hard. It stung, but it was well worth it. He had escaped from his dark pursuer. 
~~~~~~~End Excerpt~~~~~~~

If you want to investigate more about Michael, he can be found here: 

Instagram @mbergman531

Twitter @mbergman90

After all this, if you want to buy The Kingdom of Arke, Book I: Fading Light, it is now available from Amazon:

Will also be available from Barnes and Noble and other online and bricks and mortar bookstores.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Optimus 4 by Ross G. Gaehring

In the year 2063, Earth is dying, beset by the geopolitical and ecological disasters of the Great Tribulation. Isolationist America is under the iron-fisted rule of General George Brinton Mclellan, a tyrannical century-old right wing dictator, obsessed with 1970s pop music, Busby Berkeley musicals and Ronald Reagan. Two Special Forces Troopers are assigned the unpleasant task of entering the “Dead City” of Detroit to retrieve a Christian radical and former war hero, Commander Rance Edwards. Descended from a famous African American, an aristocratic Wehrmacht General, a legendary Native American, a Jewish freedom fighter and European Royalty, Edwards became a member of the despised Christian sect after being wounded in the disastrous Euro-American War. A gifted fighter pilot, he is needed for the Dictator’s last desperate gamble to save America; the invasion of another planet. Rance soon finds himself tempted by a burning love for his former fiancĂ©e Christine St. James, newly married to another man. He’s also about to face his greatest challenge… preparing his fellow fighter pilots for the imminent climactic battle in space.

The Guru's Review:

When this book showed up in my Recommended for You feed on Amazon, I remembered that I had bought this in 2014. I checked Amazon to see how the reviews were tracking and was surprised to see that there was only one review and it consisted of two words: "Great read". Only one review and such a short one pushes my buttons! I really feel for an author when this happens. I also noticed that this book is now out of print.

I decided that seeing I had bought this book due to its plot and that there was only one review, I would read it now seeing I was taking a break over the Christmas/New Year period from reviewing author requested reviews. I am glad I did as this is an excellent debut novel by Gaehring.

The first impression I had was that Gaehring writes well and this novel is a joy to read. He has a confident use of the English language and I found myself looking up some words that I had not seen before and others that I had very little understanding of. I enjoy doing this in a novel as this challenges my understanding of the English language, I learn more words and I love seeing how the word fits in with the context of the sentence structure and paragraph. The dictionary feature of the Kindle comes in very handy here and encourages me to do this.  

The next thing I noticed is that Gaehring knows how to research and construct a novel with his plot well supported from this and integrated well in the same. This makes the novel very credible and realistic and adds depth to the warfare and science fiction elements. It also aids in the cohesivity of the overall novel. 

This is the only novel I have read where each chapter is broken into segments. Each chapter has three of these. The first is a paragraph that has a holographic disc jockey announcing the songs of the 1970s that is pumped all over the USA. Reminds me very much of the DJ in Good Morning Vietnam, the role played so memorably by the Robin Williams. In this segment, our DJ, Jazzy, mentions the songs that America's dictator, the Great General George Brinton McLellan, favours and other songs that are mentioned in the narrative of the novel that later follows in the chapter. I laughed at this as there were so many of these 70s songs that I knew and had them playing in my head as I was reading. Really enjoyed this! That was a very clever and creative effect by Gaehring and balanced out the drama of the plot and its dramatic and suspenseful events. Gaehring has an extensive knowledge of the songs of this decade as evidenced in the Sources and Notes section at the back of the novel, which is very impressive, where all the songs are listed over 10 pages of the Kindle version. Five hymns are also included but these are not mentioned by Jazzy but rather sung by Rance's Christian community. 

The next segment of each chapter is a running account of the upbringing and background information to General McLellan's life leading to how he became this General and dictator. It does provide a detailed account of his character and the events that influenced him to seek dominance and dictatorship but I am not sure why Gaehring included this to the extent that he has (in every chapter) as despite him being one of the main character's, I would have preferred the author to have treated Rance, the major character with this treatment as I felt that Rance needed more development as what development Gaehring has given him is very effective, but it would have given Rance even more credibility in his rank as Commander and as a Christian, seeing Rance is the protagonist and one the reader endears themselves to.

On this latter position, Gaehring has depicted Rance as one self-confident and self-assured Christian who knows who he is in Christ, is well grounded and founded in the Bible and lives this out in every aspect of his life as the Bible instructs Christians to do. He also has a tender heart towards God and is in tune with the Spirit in all he does as evidenced by the many mini prayers of repentance, intercession, and supplication that he offers to God during the course of each day in the various duties, events that he is involved in, and interaction with Christians and non-Christians while also experiencing the direction and presence of the Spirit as well during these times. This latter interaction with the Spirit is rare in Christian fiction today, and I and another reviewer, call this genre, Spirit-filled fiction. It is defined as follows, 
(These books) are focused upon characters with (or who develop) an intimate relationship with the Lord. They talk with Him all the time, day in and day out, hour by hour, minute by minute. It can be very potent in a first-person account told by a character. 
The result of this type of relationship is that the Lord moves much more obviously and powerfully in the lives of the characters. The Lord heals people, and gives miraculous resources and solutions to characters—both the believers and non-believing characters. The Lord becomes an active character in these books. It’s a wonderful thing to read and experience. When it is done well, we finish the book in an attitude of worship—built up and empowered by what we have experienced in the lives of the characters.
Gaehring has depicted Rance as not being afraid of the Gospel of Christ, providing a defense of the Gospel when he meets resistance against it, ridicule, humiliation for being a Christian in this post-rapture world where Christianity is banned and those penalized/banished by identifying as such. I found this depiction of Rance as a Christian very encouraging and uplifting to my faith, and I can see that this could be a valid witness to a reader who does not yet believe in Christ and see what Christianity can be like and that there is no valid grounding in being an atheist or humanist.

It was again encouraging that Gaehring depicted the redemptive nature of the Gospel and of the Spirit where two characters accepted God's gift of salvation, where the plan of salvation as presented was not preachy or overdone. Again, I adhere to a specific new genre of fiction and it is classified as redemptive fiction
These books offer standard rebirth scenarios where a person accepts the Savior as their Lord. They give their life to serve Him and their lives are transformed—sometimes almost violently, often slowly and gently. They show a realistic look of the daily walk of faith for a believer. A clear Messiah is revealed who died for our sins. Through repentance and baptism, a person is forgiven and cleansed, beginning a new life in the Kingdom of God.
The last segment of each chapter is the continuation of the plot. It is here of course that all the action, suspense, battle scenes in the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars takes place but not to any great detail as we are used to in these movies; this novel is only 242 pages so length limits this, but it still gives a good picture of the battle between the Greys of Optimus 4 and the human invaders. Most of the plot takes place aboard the spaceship USS Hornet showing the raving machinations of General McLellan who is so obsessed with eradicating and exacting revenge on the Greys for what they had done to Earth and being the supreme autocrat for the Earth, despite its dying status and this new planet, Optimus 4, that he seeks to colonise as Earth dies. It is here where Rance and the General clash and Gaehring shows the true nature of how a Christian should treat conflict without compromising their faith or actually sinning in the process. To me, this shows the depth of Gaehring's relationship with Christ and it is again, encouraging and uplifting to my faith.

I also liked the example of how Rance dealt with sexual temptation from his ex-girlfriend and this is portrayed exactly as it needs to be dealt with, knowing where you stand in Christ, not compromising your faith or relationship with Christ, stopping the advances before arousal and desire are sparked in the Christian and in the scene, being firm and forceful in asking her to leave. Rance's mini sermon about sexual purity to his small Christian community was also a breath of fresh air and I applaud Gaehring for not holding back in the depiction of this biblical truth. 

The only reason I gave this novel a 4/5 star rating (Strongly Recommended is my equivalent) is that as stated previously, I cannot see why Gaehring provided such a detailed account of McLellan's life as he is not the only main character. Also, I felt the novel ended abruptly, leaving a few plot lines unresolved such as what becomes of the human survivors and the relationship between Rance and his ex-girlfriend? What happened to the remaining Greys? I can only surmise that these will be addressed in a sequel as this novel screams out for one, but by the title it does not imply that this is a series. For all the positive elements I have outlined in this review, I would love to see this story continue and the author provide more of these spiritual/biblical/Spirit-filled themes. 

Strongly Recommended (4/5 Stars)

Sunday 10 January 2016

DARK LIAISON: A Christian Suspense Novel (COIL Book 1) by D. I. Telbat

In DARK LIAISON, A Christian Suspense Novel, Book One in the COIL Series by D.I. Telbat, we jump into an intense scene where things are not as they seem for Memphis as he is unknowingly tested. And then we meet protagonist Corban Dowler.

It is an age of prophetic strife when spiritual darkness collides with servants of the Cross. Christians worldwide are persecuted on a heightened level, and while no safety seems to exist, one man steps forward to lend a hand to the defenseless laborers.

Corban Dowler is an old-school spy. Six years ago, he accepted Christ's gift of salvation and then resigned from the morally compromising C.I.A. As Corban desires to fulfill God's Great Commission, he builds an organization called the Commission of International Laborers, (COIL), where he devotes his skills and resources to assist persecuted or kidnapped Christian servants in the most dangerous environments worldwide.

There are times in this age when Corban Dowler must hastily extract missionary families and Christian workers from danger zones before death steals them from their righteous work. For these operations, Corban has developed commando-style teams using non-lethal weapons to extract the threatened or persecuted servants of the Lord.

These covert multiethnic teams are ex-military or ex-CIA, and all believers in Christ.

Satan is every bit the adversary as he operates through his demonic workers of iniquity. They are set on claiming the lives of the righteous that stand for Truth. While COIL is working tirelessly to rescue Christians in need, Satan's followers are placing roadblocks, destroying, and kidnapping believers in Christ to thwart the efforts of COIL. The operatives find themselves prey to the very wickedness that they are committed to fighting, and a battle between good and evil emerges.

With a new cover by Streetlight Graphics, Dark Liaison is an 83,000-word Christian action-suspense novel of espionage and spiritual warfare. This Book One in the COIL Series contrasts the lives of satanic antagonists bent on hatred with the COIL laborers who protect the Christian men and women servants standing for righteousness. And we learn that…there is no redemption without sacrifice.

The Guru's Review:

DARK EDGE: Prequel to the COIL Series whetted my appetite for this series and now Dark Liaison has more than satiated this appetite! As with any satisfying meal that is also delicious and tasty, you want more of this meal. So with the C.O.I.L series. I want more and am so glad that there are 4 more books to continue to more than satisfy me! 

This is one action packed, engaging series that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and one you cannot put down. Telbat definitely has the imagination and writing expertise to transport the reader to a world of rogue, covert, special ops involving spiritual warfare, demon possession, physical imprisonment and torture of the persecuted Christian church and individual Christians.

In this novel, and I presume continued in the following novels in the series, we are introduced to the demonic forces and entity known as Abaddon who is motivated through hate to destroy 
C.O.I.L, especially Corbin Dowler, so that he can continue to persecute the Christian church and Christians, and promote his rule and oppression and control of the human race. As in all demonic possessions/oppression, these entities promise their human subjects the things that they desire and more, but, in reality, they are lies with the end result of spiritual entrapment and bondage. I find it very interesting that those who do not have a relationship with Christ do not seem to question why it is that Christians and the Christian church are the only faith/denomination being persecuted? No other is  targeted. I know why, but it astounds me that those not of the faith do not question why this is or the motives of the persecutors or investigate what is it about Christianity and the Bible that motivates governments, and individuals to persecute to the extent of imprisonment, torture and brutal death of Christians and their Church? Maybe it comes down to satan's most cunning trick in deceiving the population that he does not exist and feeds their selfish desires on many levels, encouraging them to live any lie or behavior that will keep them from knowing God without them knowing that this is what is happening. Living in spiritual blindness. I also feel that our fallen/sinful nature motivates us to seek what we want, let alone admit that God exists and we have a need for him and submit to His Lordship.

Against this backdrop does Telbat excel in this storytelling. His passion for the persecuted Christians and the church is very evident, very encouraging and very inspiring and forms a solid foundation for the plot and worldbuilding of the C.O.I.L infrastructure, how they operate, their covert practices, technology and non-lethal weapons. 

It would not surprise me that Telbat has either based Corban Dowler on himself or that he would like to be Dowler doing ever so well in being used by God to rescue persecuted Christians and thwart the evil schemes of satan and his demonic and human minions. Telbat has developed well the character of Corban Dowler and it is this plus his personality and committed relationship with God that makes him very endearing to readers. He is quite the leader. Telbat has depicted with two keys qualities that I see are essential in being a leader, being a people person and showing you care for your team and their needs while still having their respect and loyalty. 

This factor is another strength of this novel and forms part of the cohesiveness of the C.O.I.L team, however, the main cohesive factor being their relationship with God and being in His will as being part of the C.O.I.L organization knowing full well that they could be persecuted and tortured to death as a result of their faith. This truly shows them living out the Bible as it says we need to and that persecution is to be expected if we love Jesus and take a stand for Him. This team support each other, pray for each other, keep the lines of communication open and deal biblically when conflict occurs. I can see cynical readers scoffing at this team being so perfect despite conflict between members but all I see is that Telbat has shown how this is possible where you have a team, or group of people, who have a relationship with Him and acting specifically in His given purpose, acting and behaving how the Word instructs us to.

I found the reality of being persecuted because of my faith in Christ confronting as it sparked in me the question, "Am I prepared to be persecuted they way Christians are in these situations and countries that hate Christianity and the God of the Bible?" The more I think about how to prepare myself for this on any level, to any degree, I am always brought back to the fact that the only way to prepare myself is to pray more, read the Word more and live it in my life, especially being conversant and active in spiritual warfare practices. From this angle, I applaud Telbat for creating this series on this reality as it acts as a sobering force to not only bring to the reader's attention the extent of this reality but to help prepare them for this if it ever happens to them, which the Bible states it will, especially in the Latter Days before Christ returns.

I state in the "Why Christian Fiction?" page of this blog that, at the end of the novel, I expect that, 

  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 
Well, I can definitely say that this novel achieves the above criteria and this impresses me greatly and it seems from this being the second novel I have read of Telbat's that I presume this continues in all his novels. It also continues in the redemptive fiction criteria that I outlined in my review of Dark Edge. I can really see how novels of this construction from what Telbat has included, and the two main elements listed from my POV, could very easily water the seeds of faith in a reader who is searching for God or who God needs to challenge in their faith and relationship with Him. 

I look forward to the rest of the C.O.I.L series and other novels of Telbat. I could even go as far as say that his novels need to be essential reading for every Christian as they contain realities that are vital for the Christian's relationship with God in dealing with the spiritual warfare elements of persecution and in praying for the persecuted church. 

Highly Recommended. 

Saturday 2 January 2016

Chadash Chronicles Omnibus Edition by David G. Johnson

All the excitement and adventure of Chadash Chronicles trilogy now in one Omnibus Edition. Follow the Heroes of Dragon Pass through the adventures of Fool's Errand, Mystic's Mayhem, and Paryn's Gold. As a special bonus, the prequel novella, Saga of the Everking, is included where you can get a sneak peek at one of our heroes, Goldain, set eight years before the events of the Chadash Chronicles trilogy. Fans of the series will enjoy all their favorite heroes gathered in a single e-book volume. This Omnibus Edition is also a great way to give the gift of adventure to friends and family in time for Christmas.

The hook that cemented me in reading this series and its prequel was the Prologue in Fool's Errand. I was very impressed with this on its own and it could be read and considered a standalone short story. This forms the basis of the world building that Johnson is well known for. Throughout the Chadash Chronicles, Johnson takes us back to these roots in the various plots twists and turns and this forms a solid anchor from which the entire series is secured. The same can be said for Saga of the Everking. This is a great standalone novella and there are traces of this story scattered throughout the Chadash Chronicles which further builds upon this world building and supports and enhances that which is outlined in the Prologue.

Even in each of the three books of The Chadash Chronicles, Johnston builds upon the previous installment's worldbuilding so as the reader progresses in each story, they are being treated to a richness of this world that just gets deeper and more layered.

The same can be said for his plot structure and characterization. This series is one where you become extremely lost in both these structures and find it hard to return to the reality of life. Johnson's plot developments, twists, and turns not only keep you reading, but are constructed to provide a very detailed story line. This together with his characterisations forms a closely knitted fabric throughout the entire series. You become so endeared to the characters that you feel you are with them, you laugh with them and at their antics, you experience their joy, their pain, their disappointments, their despair, you are fighting alongside them, you might even feel a bruise or two! But above all, there are many characters that you learn to love, respect, admire, tolerate, hate even, so relational are the characters of Chadash. One of them even has a cult type following!

The spiritual elements are very powerful and based on those of Bible and Johnson's own personal experience before and after he became a Christian. His testimony at the end of each book of the trilogy is powerful and shows the depth of his commitment to represent the God of the Bible and the God of his life. It also shows his author's heart for a great story and his passion for creating the same. However, if there is one thing that Johnson shines in and is an expert in, is the integration of the foundational Bible tenets into his story creating without it being obvious and again forms the basis of a deep and rich spiritual world building. Many readers who are not Christian or have any religious upbringing have stated in their reviews or in correspondence to the author that they loved the spiritual themes, did not feel they were being preached to, or bible bashed.

Although Johnson ends the series well, I was left with the feeling that there should be or could be more in the future. It is comforting to know that the author is planning more. I am looking forward to this.

All in all, one memorable and cleverly constructed fantasy world. If a reader was new to fantasy, this would be more than a good introduction to this genre; this would one of the best introductions and one to keep you searching for more like this.

Highly Recommended.