Sunday 28 January 2018

Better Things Ahead (The Faceless Future Trilogy Book 2) by Nate Allen

Better Things Ahead

Better things ahead? If you ever want to reach heights where you can fish disease from family members—if you ever want to step into the next stage of evolution, we must be united. United in how we think. United in what we believe. And united in cultivating a future that our closed-minded ancestors never could have dreamed of. 

A tragic trinity of losses weighing heavily on Ken, he has only just begun to trudge through his endless field of grief. But, time stops for no man. In less than six months, the Credit Chip will be the only form of currency accepted. He can either prepare for what’s to come or suffer the consequences of having the rug pulled out from beneath him.

Pastor John and the Matthews girls have more than enough money to prepare for the coming cashless society. But, life has a tendency to throw curveballs. In order to be prepared for what’s to come, they will have to decide what they are willing to lose.

Successful in a business she never wanted, fishing cancer from animals with her mind was always supposed to just be a stepping stone to President Pummel’s heart; instead, Margaret is stuck in a niche, her popularity never higher. But, it isn’t high enough. Time to move onto the next stage…

A man in the middle of an infuriating infestation of Christians, The President needs to take some anger out on the stragglers as he works to dismantle them from the inside out. Able to kill from a distance and in secret, he finds that the high from it fades too quickly. With a new and far more volatile power branching forth, he has found a way to have his cake and eat it too.

The Guru's Review:

I was asked by the author to review this new episode. Like the previous one, it is just over 100 pages. And like the previous one, it is action-packed and Allen has packed a lot in this page length.

This episode is definitely darker than its predecessor. Not surprisingly seeing the first one set the stage for what is to come, introducing the characters, the spiritual themes, spiritual warfare and the evil scheme behind the Chip and the demonic control it exposes the recipient to.

This novella revves up everything on all levels. It will definitely be the springboard for more plot and characterisation and darker elements that Allen has in store. Readers of the initial episode will love this one.

You hit the ground running from page one. The cliffhanger plot arc from the previous continues where this left off. We are introduced to a new plot arc that of The Holy Army who is comprised of Christians who exist to resist the efforts and effects of the Chip and the President who has set up this demonic dominion while parading as an angel of light. We don't hear much of this group until the very end which sets up as another cliffhanger for two characters from the previous instalment. It seems this group will be dominant in the next instalment from the involvement of these two characters.

The spiritual journey of Ken continues as he strives to know God and Jesus more. I love the honesty he shows to God in admitting that he does not know Him and how does he apply Him to his life. Just as in real life, God will answer questions like this when they are based on an earnest and honest heart. This reminded me of the verse in Hebrews 11:6, 
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We may not get a tangible answer like Ken received, with a direct answer such as "Know Me", but He does answer us in many other ways that we know are directly from Him. I appreciated Ken standing up to another character who tried to encourage him to accept the Chip and rather than give in, stood firm in his conviction that the Chip was not for the good of mankind but is of demonic origin leading to eternal damnation. This plot point raises a confronting question for us Christians. Will we be prepared to do the same as Ken here? Taken to the worst case scenario are we going to be prepared to be tortured/killed/murdered if we refuse to accept this Mark of the Beast as outlined in this novel and representative of the same as described in Revelation? Will we stand firm in our faith, knowing that God will be on the other side to accept us into His Kingdom or will we give into the pressure put on us by society and the ruling authorities to accept this? Are we certain that this Mark is demonic and lead to Hell?

I do like the plot arc concerning him at the end of the novella. It will good to read what happens to him from this in the next episode. The same can be said for his mother, Deborah.

Allen develops further the previous plot arcs from the previous novella. Margaret Still's desire to secure the affections of the President lead her more into the demonic as she deceives the masses into healing that comes at a price, that of demonic bondage but for one person, he pays the ultimate price. I found that the consequences of what she has allowed are all too real. These consequences begin to take us over and change us. In this novella, it is a combination of the effects of the Chip but it is also due to the effects of the sin that so easily ensnares us, as the Bible puts it. This also happens to another main character that leaves the novel on yet another cliffhanger and an even more dramatic one than the last. I can see readers cheering at what happens to this character but if the reader knows anything about demonic possession, it does not end the way Allen has depicted it for this character. I can only say that Allen had not left this next novella too long with this cliffhanger the way it is!

Allen likes to depict flawed characters and this includes his Christian ones as well. Even more so for these! One example is the crisis of faith Pastor John has when someone close to him has a life-threatening event. He nearly journeys down the wrong path but like Ken, God looks after His own and restores John to Him. I panicked with this plot arc as I did not want to see John make the wrong decision based on an easy, tempting solution that has a hidden price tag with eternal negative outcome. The turmoil that John goes through shows how easy it is, even with a deeply grounded faith in God, to be tempted for other solutions that are not in the perfect will of God when the situation gets dire, any immediate action from God is not forthcoming but we feel something must be done immediately. But what peace and security occur when we realise that God will intervene in His timing and His outcome that is the best for the situation we are in and that the battle belongs to the Lord and not us!. I rejoiced when John found this peace and security again albeit when God spoke directly to him. But John's answer was one of obedience and submission. That is the important thing when we respond to God. Obedience and submission. Such a hard lesson for us to learn when we fight against our fallen nature which pulls us in the opposite direction to this.

Getting back to Ken in his flawed state, I was a little concerned as to why Allen had depicted him falling so easily into sexual sin when he seemed to be seeking God and even recognised Him as Lord and Saviour. I spoke to the author about this, as I could see that this could be a stumbling block for both Christian and non-Christian readers. Allen replied, 
Even though he is technically saved, I tried to convey that it was more done out of obligation. His whole arc, along with Willow's, is finding a point of entrance with Jesus. In many ways he was trying to return to the Ken before he came to Christ. I appreciate you pointing that out for me. I like writing characters that are flawed and I'll keep that in mind when finishing off the series. 
His spiritual growth has only just started......Do you think Ken's situation, having lost three people pretty suddenly, will help readers understand his distraction with Katie? (into sexual sin?) 
I also have found that we don't always ask for forgiveness until convicted by the Holy Spirit. I will definitely address this in part three. The pacing didn't really allow for it in book 2 (Better Things Ahead), considering how much information comes to light in Ken's final part.
An author's insight into a character's motive and behaviour is always beneficial and feedback can help them clarify issues in future works and help them to become better authors. When this is achieved, readers know exactly where the author is going with a plot arc and can better understand and relate to the character(s) and their situation. It also shows why the author included this issue in the plot. In this case, it was not to show sex for entertainment or promote society's attitude towards this and there are no graphic accounts or titillation. I understood to a point why Ken acted as he did, it was just not as clear as it could have been depicted. 

Allen has also shown more of the spiritual journeys of Willow, Lily and Deborah since Book 1. All of these plot arcs show more of the redemptive power of God and how some Christians will submit themselves to God as the events leading up to His Second Coming draw close and how some of those who do not believe will come to know Him. This is absorbing reading and is an essential element of Christian/Evangelistic fiction. 

All these plot arcs are contrasted with the darker elements of the spiritual deception that affects Margaret and President Pummel. Both reach new heights of darkness and demonic possession and I must say, I found some of it difficult reading. Of note is that of the President. Allen shows the conflict he has as his own desires for domination and control of the world conflicts with that of the demonic spirit that possesses him. The consequences are not just dramatic but far-reaching and Allen leaves the reader with a cliffhanger that is swaying in the wind. 

If there is one thing that Allen has succeeded in depicting in these books (that will make up this full-length novel) is that the Chip, Mark of the Beast, or whatever it is being called worldwide, or will be called, is not just a physical addition to control whether we buy or sell, but one that will control every aspect of our lives on every level, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Total control and submission to the controlling power that is behind this Chip/Mark. This will connect mankind to satan in a way that those deceived and who take this Mark will not be able to return from it. God makes that very clear in the Bible. Allen shows why this is so through the demise of Ken's brother, Kyle, who was not just deceived by the promises of what the Chip/Mark offered but was totally taken over by it on every level so described resulting in demon possession and death.  

All the events in this novella set the stage for more action-packed plot arcs and deepening character developments. This is gearing up to be one explosive good versus evil story but if Allen continues to expand on the redemptive elements and adherence to biblical principles, he will be on a winner with this series. 

Highly Recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5 

Overall Rating 4.8/5 Stars

To buy or preview this novella, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icon on the image below:

Friday 26 January 2018

Guest Post: Michael Boncher And His Akiniwazi Saga Series

I came across novelist Michael Boncher in an author's Facebook group where he was seeking advice from fellow authors relating to the covers of his novel, A Light Rises in a Dark World. I checked it out and was impressed with the evidence of detailed world building and an epic fantasy plot. I bought this book straight away and decided to invite Michael to talk about this trilogy and its worldbuilding. 

So sit back and let Michael guide you through his trilogy and how he has woven a Christian worldview into it. 

Over to you, Michael!

Thank you, Peter for allowing me the opportunity to share the creative foundations that you will discover in the setting of "Akiniwazi Saga: A Light Rises in a Dark World".

Hello, I'm M.D. Boncher, an aspiring writer from Green Bay, Wisconsin. To pay the daily bills, I am a Night Logistics Admin for now. I have been steeped in the storytelling tradition since I rolled up my first character for Basic Dungeons &Dragons, thirty-eight years ago. I have written off and on for decades, everything from comic books and RPG manuals, Action/Adventure to Horror, to Cyberpunk and Space Opera short stories and novellas. The Akiniwazisaga is my first published work.

Now let's have a look at the first novel in the Akiniwazi Saga:

A rejected boy who only desires his father's approval.

A band of children sold by their parents for food.

A disgraced monk and his dog sent on one last quest.

A Faith ready for revolution.

Two civilizations of spirits and steam trapped in a war they cannot end.

In Akiniwazi, the Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas, the war between Heaven and Hell is joined, and all souls hang in the balance.

I asked Michael what type of Christian themes are in "A Light Rises in a Dark World"?

At first, I was inspired by what I could not have. I love fantasy, but even then I have to be very careful about it because certain themes and subjects are not spiritually healthy to me due to my walk with God. That means lots of popular fantasy subjects and stories are off limits if I pay attention in the spirit. 

Most fantasy is now off limits to me and began to upset me for it seemed all the games and books or movies I wanted to experience turned out to have such a foundation. I was not familiar with the amount of Christian fantasy so much and what I did find often preached a sermon before getting to the story. That was not what I wanted. This is what drove me to consider writing Christian Fantasy.

My central themes run around redemption, hope and following your individual walk with God. My characters are broken, defeated characters that need to come to terms with their situation and see how God can use these and how it is all part of a greater plan. Reimar and Finn are in many ways flip sides of the same walk of faith. One just starting out, and the other deep into his journey. 

This theme of redemption includes the land of Akiniwazi as a whole. From the individual to the nations of Forsamling and Skaerslinger who are trapped together and are struggling to survive the other. 

Originally, this was going to be only a trilogy, but it now looks as if it will become a nonology (nine book series) to cover the story arc of not only my main character but an epoch of history in a land undergoing a great transformation. You won't see all of this in just one book, mind you. It is an evolving thing that will connect all the upcoming books as well

Four thought experiments became the core philosophies of the world I created.

1. How can literal Christianity be used as a spiritual basis for fantasy?

The first hurdle for me was that I wanted literal Christianity in my fantasy. After 30 years of playing role-playing games, I knew the conventions of the genre. Monsters, unknown lands, ancient mysteries, "magic systems"... all the tropes. Most of which are antithetical to Bible. I also wanted to use actual scripture from time to time, particularly in spiritual battles that would be part of the setting instead of making up gibberish or pagan mantras I would use scripture. That required Israel, Judea, Babylon and Rome to be as we knew them in the real world.

The answer came with the realization that till around 800AD, the entire western hemisphere was "off the map". That fitted perfectly for my needs. If I wanted to make a fantasy world, that was where I could play! I could create new continents and leave Asia, Europe and Africa as we knew them! Tada! Literal Christianity and a fantasy land that nobody knew. I then isolated them behind a sea of ice thanks to a geological disaster tied into the same period as the "Little Ice Age". This allowed their society to grow independently and gave me much more flexibility while preserving the history of the Old World.

The problem then rose of what would a "Magic System" look like? The D&D mindset is a hard thing to get around. Readers expect it. On the other hand, we have Spiritual Warfare/Deliverance Ministry/Exorcism. The key to reconciling this was to give the Gifts of the Spirit the "This is Spinal Tap" treatment and turn the special effects "up to 11". This would make them more dramatic and more akin to trope appropriate fantasy magic more palatable to the public.

All things supernatural in Akiniwazi are based on a relationship with the divine/demonic. If something impossible is happening, there is a demon or angel doing it. I knew that people who would play the setting wanted "Magic like coal" as I thought of it. Akiniwazi does not do 

2. What if the Vikings colonized North America?

Once freed from North and South America as is in the real world. The Vikings, being the first discoverers from the "Old World" who came to the land became my focus and worked out very well historically. This is where history in the setting changes from our literal past to the fantasy. I did research on the era the Viking era and their Christianization, the Monastic orders that would have done most of the missionary work of the Church during that era. Blending in other trends of the era helped to create the Forsamling, who are the Viking descendants of the setting was a lot of fun.

3. How does Great Lakes/ Lumberjack Lore, myth and mystery lend itself to fantasy?

I also love my local history. I'm a Wisconsinite. "A Cheesehead, born and bred" I like to joke. I love reading about the history of the upper midwest, and realized that there were great resources to be mined for an atypical fantasy setting. I deliberately looked up old Indian tales and myths as well as the lumberjack lore. I found a Bestiary of forgotten folklore creatures you never see in fantasy novels. Creatures people do not consider because they are too modern despite having long histories, or just like Paul Bunyan, silly tall tales. They became the basis for fantastical monsters I use from time to time. Never expect a dragon, goblin or elf in this setting. Nor will you see the usual old world traditional Viking fairies and trolls which may be explained some book in the future. Get ready for Draugr, Manitou and Thunderbirds.

This also lead to the creation of the map being a re-envisioning of the upper midwest of the US and Canada with the Great Lakes as its center. The Name Akiniwazi came from a corruption of the Ojibwae terms for "Land of the Seven Freshwater Seas". 

4. What if a society discovered steam power without discovering gunpowder?

I blame Sid Meier for this one. While playing a game of Civilization a decade ago, I managed to discover steam power before getting gunpowder. There was the map. Ironclads and pikemen side by side with railroads soon to come. That made me wonder what a society with steam and sword would look like, so I coined the term "Fantasteam". But when it comes to steampunk styling, I demanded realism. With the supernatural always attached to a spirit, I decided that all steam creations must be grounded in realism. Therefore you get steamships and primitive railroads, but no "Steamboy" or "Wild Wild West" super steam creations that could never exist in the real world. This was an area I decided must be "hard science" once you get around the fact they discovered this technological leap about four centuries early. 

I spent years cobbling together the names of the setting, its map and features. I took inspiration from Old Norse, Norwegian, Icelandic, Inuit, Finnish, Swedish, Danish to create flavor of the setting for the Forsamling Vikings (The name means "Congregation"), and named their language "Noerrent" which some of my research said was a common name used in the language of that era. For this reason, I provide what I'm now starting to call my "Encyclopedia Akiniwazi" in the back of the book to help pars the terms, meanings and pronunciations of the book. It his constantly being referred to by myself for names as well as reminding me pronunciations. I erred on the side of historical adherence rather than convenience of American readers.

I also had the natives who lived here before the Viking's arrival to create with. I decided to mash together several aboriginal cultures but centered mostly on the woodland tribes as a model, but included inspiration for the Incas, Mayans, Carib, Sami, Hopi, Huron, Inuit, Aborigine, Picts and others from around the world who were encountered by emigrating cultures. Ojibwe was chosen as the basis for the languages of this fantasy tribe who I called "Skaerslinger". Ironically, years after I named them, I came across the name "Skraeling", which was the term given to the Inuits by Greenland Vikings. The term roughly means "Rough" or "Rude" fellows. Funny how that all works out?

To present the world that was stuck in my head, I decided the only way left to share the world was to follow the life of two characters, a ten-year-old boy named Reimar and his unlikely mentor, Brother Finn. Together they provide a view of the world both innocent and cynical, and how their trials help them to heal their own wounds as well as the others.

The following excerpt is one of my favorite scenes that I wrote early on. It touches on many things that make the scenario different (You will notice there are no horses as one detail!) The scene blends the Fantasteam elements and the nature of the supernatural throughout the setting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~Start of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bright light blasted Reimar awake as another train thundered by. He gasped and jerked back from the sight. Once it was past and he could think again, he saw another train behind them stopped on a siding. Dawn's dim light was just coloring the eastern edge of the sky a pale blue. Their train crawled alongside a slow-moving river. It was wide and shallow, thick with reeds and mud bars. Fishing boats were casting nets out on the water while other fishermen dug for clams on the shores. A steam knarr trailed a plume of thick black smoke and hugged the far shore while pulling a barge, her decks piled high with cargo between a pair of huge arches that followed the length of the shallow drafted boat. The fore and aft figureheads were flanked by long raised gangplanks. Its center mast was replaced by a tall smokestack which belched sparks to the waning night.

The train was travelling down a long gentle slope to the water's edge. In the distance ahead the first hints of a town could be seen. Overhead seagulls circled and headed out over the lake to fish. Off to the east, huge back-lit clouds could be seen. As winter approached, storms were frequent and powerful. Reimar wondered if this was a storm on the way or just an unseasonably warm day.

The forest had been thick, tight up against the ribbon road, with branches hanging over the tracks from the land side, but the trees and brush on the shore side were cut back sharply as they came closer to a town. Fisherman's shanties and farmer's sod houses were now scattered through the thinned pinery with slices of cleared land that up came to the ribbon road.

As they approached the port of Meidrhvall, the temperature began a noticeable drop. The boundless waters of Lake Neezhoday controlled the weather around its shores for many miles inland. A narrow road came out of the thinning forest and wove through the trees next to the train. Farmer's carts, piled high with harvest goods, were going into town as morning brightened. Some kusken had teams of oxen that were pulling very large dray wagons, but most were carts drawn by two or four llamas, and a post rider trotted along on a caribou. Some animals baulked at the train's passing, but most ignored it, content to keep plodding along.

The Port of Meidrhvall was the largest city the children had ever been to. Only a few hundred souls resided there but that was more people than they had ever seen in one place. A handful of tall chimneys produced smoke as the boilers of the mills, workshops, and ships came to life. A tattoo of quick whistle blasts startled the brakemen awake, moving them into position to slow the train. Then a strange bell began to rattle a warning. The train lurched as it slowed. Lethargic Huskarls sprang forth and made ready for dangers to appear. Brakemen rushed to their places and the train was abuzz with excitement. Brother Finn stood up and looked at the bleary-eyed children around him.

"Do not fear. We are coming into town and must go through the gate, but the warning flags are flying on the stockade. Skaerslinger are near!" That familiar tingle of fear flew down their nerves and made eyes sharp, their ears straining to hear anything over the slowing train. Squealing brakes, banging carriages and loud chugging made it impossible. The road next to the tracks was so close the two almost merged. On a thin strip between the road and ribbons, there were pikes taller than the train, topped with the heads of the executed. The image shocked the children, and Anja began to cry.

"What is that?" Talo asked.

"They are the heads of those who were either criminals caught by the local borgvordr or Skaerslinger killed in a raid against the local lands."

"Why do they cut them off and put them so high up?"

"To show that to kill or try to harm any Forsamling, you must pay a terrible price in return. They keep the heads and secure them high up, just in case a manitou tries to animate them into Draugr. That is why Gallows are so rarely used or are quickly emptied. Those spirits have terrible strength and could rend the bars if the bodies were kept whole. It does not happen often, but occasionally an unclean spirit will take up residence in a head and torment those passing by." Brother Finn pointed to one of the fresher heads on a pole, "If you will notice though, many have had their mouths sewn shut and packed with salt just in case."

"Why salt?" Liesl asked. The idea giving her some discomforting ideas.

"An old custom that some practice. It is a superstition of course, for the salt does nothing, and a determined manitou could break any threads or sinew used to close the mouths. Other heads might be bound by an oil seal made upon it by a priest. Those never come back. After all, what is bound in Heaven will also be bound here on Earth."

A commotion began on the road ahead. The train slowed to the pace of a walking llama. The rising light revealed the remains of a Skaerslinger attack on a kusk. The oxen lay dead and the wagon was on fire. Around it, a few dead bodies of both Skaerslinger and a kusk. Meiderhvall's borgvordr were already attending the scene, tossing the bodies onto the burning cart.

As one corpse was being grasped by the arms and legs, it spasmed to life with a green light that came from the soil below! The borgvordr cursed as the corpse grasped at them looking to free itself and rend them with its dead hands. The corpse screamed an unearthly language and began clawing and kicking its captors. Shouts of alarm came from the train's passengers as they rolled by. The engine shrieked the whistle in alarm but kept moving. On the last car, a Huskarl took aim with a massive springbow. The borgvordr at the head of the animated body let go and tried to step back as the possessed corpse grasped at his Gambeson sleeves. His axe tangled in its holster while the other borgvordr at the body's feet fought to pull him free. A loud metallic snap was heard and a bolt the size of a javelin rocketed out from the last springbow. It struck the no longer human creature in the chest, tore it free from the borgvordr, and pinned it to the damp earth with enough force to tear it loose from the town guard it had assaulted. A third borgvordr rushed in with the opportunity, and with his glaive swung at the pelvis of the thing. The blade chopped through its target in one swift motion. A chilling scream went out from the creature.

Brother Finn, who had remained still in all this stood up and shouted.

"In the Name of our Lord Jesus, silence, foul spirit!" From his mouth, a thin shock wave of breath came out, glowing in the dim morning. "I command thee bound. Come out of there! Obey and be gone!"

Angels appeared.

They appeared like figures of mist on a pond out of the morning light. Delicate as frost.

A chill went through Reimar at seeing the divine for the first time. Their wings spread and towered over the men and the fire that burned there. The fell creature inhabiting the body turned to see the angels, its expression now one of awe and terror. Their beauty and grace washed over the fetid scene and the two divine figures stepped between the borgvordr, grabbed hold of the horrible manitou, and tore it from the dismembered but still fighting corpse. Like a flash of blue and white lightning, the angels and captive demon vanished. The body tensed and then became still as death lay claim again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~End of Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael can found at the following social media platforms: 

If your interest has been piqued from Michael's account of the Akiniwazi Saga series, this can be bought from Amazon in either individual volumes: 

or as Book 1 which comprises these 3 volumes:

Thank you, Michael, for giving us an insight into your writer's mind and passion for writing for God's Glory and using the talent He has given you to do so. I am looking forward to reading the Akiniwazi Saga and I pray others will also. It has been a pleasure having you as a guest blogger on this blog. Please consider visiting again! 

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian inspirational, science fiction and fantasy, to consider reading the Akiniwazi Saga and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Sunday 14 January 2018

The Æglet's Answer (Book Two in the Kinsman's Tree Series) by Timothy Michael Hurst

The Æglet's Answer 

Introducing The Æglet’s Answer, the second novel in the epic adventure series from Timothy Michael Hurst. 

Return to a land full of supernatural wonder. Return to the world of The Kinsman’s Tree.

Their mission to locate the Kinsman thwarted, Company Jasper yet languishes in the clutches of the perverse Doctor Scarsburrow.

Meanwhile, Nat’s discovery of the Kinsman’s Tree brings him into contact with friends old and new. Employing mysterious abilities and the aid of an unlikely ally, Nat plans his return to Sakkan with hopes of rescuing his mother and friends from captivity. 
But little does the young Etom know that his involvement with the Kinsman’s Tree will call down unwanted attention on his friends back in Endego, placing them in danger.
The Guru's Review:

I was asked by the author to review this novel pre-release. I am so glad he did. 

All I can say is that this novel is beautiful and tender! 

I have not read a novel that is so infused with the Spirit of God, not only from the Spirit's inspiration to the author but also in the novel itself, as a character! But not as a physical character but as He is in reality and as we know and experience Him, as a Spirit. He talks to the main characters, with words of instruction, encouragement, guidance and even firmness bordering on discipline, He acts in their lives supernaturally with signs and wonders. In other such novels, the Spirit's presence may be only a few times, but in this novel, it is very frequent. And it is such a joy to behold and to read. I found this to be very uplifting and satisfying.

Hurst has created an unforgettable story here. His imagination is very complex and detailed (as shown in the previous debut novel in this series, The Kinsman's Tree, but also in this one). His world-building is excellent, and reflects his imagination, and is solid with depth and many layers. I mentioned about this in my review of the previous novel. This provides a firm foundation for the characters and plot arcs. But in this novel what enhances all this and takes this to the next level is the inclusion of the Spirit of God and many biblical aspects that God desires us to live by in order to be heirs and children of God. All this adds wonderful layers of spiritual depth and insight. 

We have water baptism, healing of the Stain and Blight (the former a physical sign of sin and the latter where it proliferates into major body systems and causes death), manna in the form of a Rhema, tongues of fire on the characters head, (akin to being filled with the Spirit), living in the Vine, (being connected to each other through the Spirit of God), Resonance (detecting the will of the Spirit and other spiritual attributes towards living in the Spirit and with each other), the many fruits of the Spirit, Asteri, (messenger angel from the first book) providing physical and spiritual assistance and instruction to the main characters and others. Reading more of these in-depth in an absolute joy and pleasure to read. The chapters relating to Nat in the Sanctuary where he experiences all of the above-mentioned aspects and the life they live there is just another uplifting experience and filled me with peace, serenity and appreciation for who my Creator and God is and what He has done for me on every level. It is enough to make to you worship Him while you are reading this! 

What I found very clever and very effective is the way Hurst integrated the biblical and supernatural aspects of these concepts into the various story arcs and character conversations. In doing so, he has avoided coming across as preachy or these concepts sticking out like a sore thumb and not seeming to fit into the story. This integration is seamless and does not appear to have come from the Bible at all but from the world building or the theology he has created for the world of the Etom, Men and every other creature. Christians will identify this and realise how poetic he has achieved this integration. I chuckled as well as appreciated the inclusion of actual Bible verses in the story or conversation from either Miyam, Asteri or Nat and again these did not stick out as obvious unless you have read these from the Bible. The other aspect of this is that these verses have been placed very appropriately to either highlight these aforementioned aspects or to reinforce them. 

I highlighted most of these aspects in the ebook edition and in looking back on them, it seems to show that these are all how we should be living as Christians, how we are to regard and treat each other, how to have a right relationship with God via the Spirit, how to deal with conflict and deal with our negative emotions and nature. All these based on submission to the Spirit and allowing Him to have His way in the situation we are in. This is very evident through Nat and Sayah. Having both of these characters willingly and immediately seek the Spirit for guidance, repentance and instruction is such a breath of fresh air in a novel such as this. It definitely highlights an important discipline for Christians. Why do we need to battle in our own strength when the battle belongs to the Lord? It is Him, through His Spirit that battles this for us when we allow Him to. No wonder the Bible says in Zechariah 4:5-7, 
Then he replied, “This is the word the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel: You won’t succeed by might or by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Armies.
The gap in time from when the first novel, The Kingsman's Tree, was released and now has worked against me in truly appreciating this novel for its beauty and tenderness. I wanted to read this first novel before this new one, but time and life events prevented me from doing so. Now having finished this new novel, I can now see that any reader who attempts to read this novel must first do themselves a favour and read the first one again. They will then fully appreciate the flow from the first and see how all the spiritual aspects fit in so well with each other, and how the worldbuilding from the first strengthens and reinforces that of this novel. I plan to do this with the third novel, read from the first and continue on to fully appreciate not only the third novel but this trilogy in its entirety. Such is the craftsmanship of an author that Hurst has developed into. If the reader is unable to read Book 1 first, then I feel that they should reread the last chapter or two of Book 1 as this will assist with chapter 2 of The Æglet's Answer.

Hurst definitely lives up to what he says in his Bio: 
I am a writer who believes that the life lived best is lived in service to God and that only under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit one might produce a worthwhile work. I seek to craft entertaining, enriching, and inspiring tales that glorify the Lord in confidence that the Holy Spirit will use them to change and draw people closer to Jesus Christ. 
In simply offering myself in surrender to the Spirit, I have discovered the satisfaction of worshipping the Lord as an instrument of the writing process. I believe my experience be confirmation of God's calling on my life, and pray for every person is as deeply transformed in reading these stories as I was in writing them. To Him alone be the glory.
 After reading this novel, I did wonder if Hurst lives out what he has so masterfully depicted in relation to the spiritual aspects of this novel. His Bio above gives clues to this so I am not surprised. It is a great asset to novels like with its author well experienced in spirituality to write such novels like this with convincing spiritual aspects. 

I must make mention of Hurst's description of the Passion (of Christ). I must confess that it must be very daunting for any Christian writer to write about the crucifixion of Christ. I can imagine all the mixed feelings they have about this, do they feel worthy to do it justice, will it lead the reader astray, will they capture the Biblical essence and honour it as well as God? The list must go on! But Hurst has depicted a very God and Bible honouring account. He has paid careful attention to the reader being a spectator here but for me, it was more, it was as if I was there with Nat, Sayah and Asteri but felt the emotions strongly as Nat did as if I was connected to Nat in some way. It is one of the best accounts of the Crucifixion I have read in a Christian novel and one I won't forget. Hurst's account had me in tears! Why does this always happen when I am on public transport!

Authors love to include subplots that are intertwined in the main story. This is not different here. I wondered what a Æglet in this novel had to do with Book 1, and what this answer was referring to. This novel opens with the introduction of the hatching of two aeglets and their subsequent early life. We witness the bullying from the female aeglet towards her brother and how the parents favour their female offspring (Gael) and are almost dismissive of their male offspring (Sayah) for not living up to the aegle standard and behaviour. Hurst establishes these dynamics and other aspects of the aeglets lives over one long chapter. Just when you think you have had enough of this plot line and start wondering where Hurst is going with this, he commences Chapter 2 simultaneously joining this plot line with that of Nat's continuing journey from Book 1. I won't spoil it for the reader but this introduction is very clever and it from this point on that you hit the road running and cannot put the novel down. 

I can see that readers will become fond of the new characters of Miyam, Sayah and many others. They may even despise Gael for her self-centred arrogance and pity towards Sayah. They will love being reunited with the many characters from Book 1, Nida, Shoym, Asteri, Demsey, Rae and many others. I was very impressed with the maturity that he exhibited responding to the situations he is involved in this novel but especially as he responded to the Spirit's call and the transformation that the Spirit made in him. It was just like 2 Corinthians 5: 17, 
Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life]. (Amplified Bible)
The same can be said for many others including Sayah, and characters from Book 1. I have made mention of the life that Nat lived in Sanctuary and when this is reproduced in Endego this life is very reminiscent of the early Christian church after Pentecost. It is a great allegory and fits in very well with this storyline. This reproduction of Sanctuary in Endego sets up the ending of this novel in one spectacular way and brings all the spiritual aspects together for one explosive and climatic ending. It gets back to what I mentioned before in that the battle belongs to the Lord. I found this final confrontation one that is very spiritually uplifting and I pray that readers both Christian and non-Christian alike will see that despite their circumstances, God is there to battle for them as long as they remain faithful to Him and allow Him to have His way in their circumstance knowing that whatever the outcome, this is the perfect will of God. This confrontation definitely shows how Sovereign God is and all powerful. I found it a huge booster to my faith, but then again, this entire novel is a boost to one's faith! It shows there is always hope while God is Sovereign and in control.

However, just when you think Hurst has tied up all the loose ends nicely, you are reminded of one unfinished plot arc (that has been a thorn in the side of Nat and Endego community) and this is now tied with one almost forgotten character from the first book. And it is in this setting that sets the scene for the final novel. And you leave the novel wondering where this is going to go in the final novel. A cliffhanger of sorts but it definitely has your curiosity piqued and the anticipation high. 

I finished this novel with one word in my mind, "WOW!" This is a great novel and one I won't forget in a hurry. It has entertained me greatly, it has uplifted and challenged my faith, it has drawn me closer to God, and it has encouraged me to be more discerning of the Spirit (Resonance in this novel). 

If Hurst continues to write novels with such depth of imagination, worldbuilding and so Biblically and spiritually in tune with the Spirit of God, then both Christian and non-Christian alike are going to be fed spiritually and challenged. The former as an encouragement to have a better relationship with God and to appreciate who He is, while the latter to see that there is hope from the world we live in and that God is seeking them to be restored to Him. As Hurst says, 
I believe my experience be confirmation of God's calling on my life, and pray for every person is as deeply transformed in reading these stories as I was in writing them. To Him alone be the glory.
Highly recommended. 

World building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

The Spiritual level rating below is based on the following book that I use: 

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5 

Overall Rating 4.8/5 Stars
Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Æglet's Answer contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, together with David Bergsland we award Timothy Michael Hurst with

The Reality Calling Spirit-filled Fiction Award

Congratulations, Timothy!

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons on the image below: 

Saturday 6 January 2018

His Sign: The Wait Is Over: A Paranormal Urban Fantasy by Mary C. Findley

His Sign: The Wait Is Over: A Paranormal Urban Fantasy

Drew Goddard's war against evil began long before someone tried to shoot him and he got a strange, lighted symbol bursting from his chest. Blacklisted from his intelligence contracting career, he thought paranoia or insanity explained his ruined life until a golden-eyed woman with tattered wings and interdimensional powers helped open his eyes to a spiritual battle raging over him. 

A discouraged minister, a handful of manna, and a trip to Abraham's Bosom convince him that Christians waiting for a sign need to wake up and acknowledge God's working in the life they live every moment. Drew's world fills with powerful enemies and unlikely allies. 

Who or what are the Sethites and why (and from what) do they protect him? Why is a farm producing a miraculous bumper crop for the first time in years? Can he trust the person he suspects most of wanting him dead and solve a puzzle that may save people marked for genocide from physical and spiritual foes?

The Guru's Review: 

Really loved this one! And it is so good to have this one being her first novel in 2 years! I loved her description of how this novel came about. All inspired by the covers she received as a gift, as she explains, 
Many people know that I’ve spent the last two years not writing much of anything. A few blog posts, some editing work, but the only publications in those two years have been volume 5 of our homeschool curriculum, Conflict of the Ages V: The Ancient World, Student and Teacher Editions and the summary version, Under the Sun: A Traditional View of Ancient History. That’s not much production for two years. I plinked away at some works in progress, but accomplished very little.
In October, however, I received as a gift some great images from a stock image site called Neostock, and got inspired to create an urban fantasy cover, possibly to sell as a premade, since I’m also a designer. Three Neostock images appear on this cover. The more I talked about the idea behind it with author friends, the more inspired I got to write the story myself. 
So I began to work on that story, with the working title, His Sign, and by the end of October I had over 10,000 words. I was very excited to be writing again. How many believers are “waiting for a sign” about how to serve God? This is the story, partly allegory, partly urban fantasy, of one man’s journey after getting a sign he couldn’t ignore. You’ll find a pinch of C.S. Lewis, a sprinkling of Frank Peretti, a dash of Pilgrim’s Progress, and a lot of intent to be faithful to the Scriptures rolled into an offering to readers looking for something different in Christian books.
I love authors backstories to why they write the fiction they do and Findley's backstory is unique. This was one of the reasons I chose to buy this book. She does not disappoint in the elements she has mentioned above. This is one engaging and fast-paced novel that you will want to read in one sitting as I wanted to. Life, however, had other ideas and I finished it in two days. But that was a great two days!

I was impressed with Mary's message in this novel about waiting for a sign about how to serve God. I can relate to this. I don't believe God has made this a minefield but for us, we tend to make it such. Hence, her message. Serving God can be in the most practical way where we are with what we are doing or as diverse as using our talents He gave us to do this in specific ways. I regard reviewing Christian fiction as a way of serving Him and using the talent He gave me to do so. Writers do the same.

In this novel, Drew is given one very specific and unique sign of what his calling is. He cannot ignore it and get away with not using it. And he can only use it for God's purposes. Only when he submits to this calling and uses it for God's purposes does he find fulfilment and peace. In the process, he transformed more into the likeness of God's character and less of his own. Is Findley trying to tell us something here? You betcha! And I applaud her for doing so! As Mary quotes in the "Author's Note",

God may not give us a sign as tangible as those given to Drew Goddard and his friends, but that does not excuse us. We were never supposed to be sitting around waiting for a sign, anyway.
I love the other message Findley included in that as Christians we should also be concerned about our fellow Christians who have lost their way and not just those people who do not know Jesus yet. I can relate to the former. I have seen so many of my fellow Christians stop going to church or abandon their relationship with Christ for many and varied reasons then are left alone by the Church. Is this because Christians/the Church find it easier to witness to the unsaved rather than to those who are saved but have fallen away? It was very refreshing having the character of Jonas have as his mandate from God to minister and harvest those who have fallen away from Christ. Findley makes the point here that we as Christians interpret seeking after lost sheep as described in the Word as those who do not know Him yet but as she illustrates in this novel, the lost sheep includes those who have had a relationship with Jesus but have lost their way for many reasons. These like the unsaved still need reconciliation to God. I almost cried out, "Preach it, Sister!"

Mentioning issues like this and having Findley address them in her novels, shows the extent of her knowledge and understanding of the Word, its application and power when applied to the Christian life. There are many examples in this novel with the Christian characters herein, where she shows her expertise here. For the discerning and receptive Christian reader, this is such a joy to read and be ministered to. Findley includes this as part of the developing plot and characterisation without it coming across as preaching to the choir or the unsaved. To achieve that is a talent and a very effective outcome.

One of the other drawcards that drew me to this novel was the Sethites. I pricked my ears at this as the mere mention of these people inevitably leads to a discussion (or sadly, argument!) about who were the Sons of God were. Were they the sons (descendants) of Seth (who coupled with the daughters of men/Cain) or were they the fallen angels who had sexual relations with human women and created the hybrids known as the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4? Findley has chosen the former based on the book her husband and herself wrote (The Conflict of the Ages Part 2, Teacher Edition, The Origin of Evil in the World that Was). I bought this book to investigate their reasoning and to see how compelling a case one of the authors who they quote makes as indicated in the Author's Note at the beginning of the novel.

This works well in this novel and lends itself to the world building she has created. She describes them through Hass one of the Sethites, 
Sethites.....means descended from Seth, the son of Adam and Eve who started the line of men who called on the Name of the Lord. His descendants were powerful for God until they interbred with Cainites - descendants of Cain who stayed in rebellion. Sethites corrupted the powers they were given and made monsters.
Despite the effects of the curse from this, they are protectors of the ordinaries (humans such as Drew). Hass and the other Sethites are sent to be guardian and protector of Drew, Jonas, his wife, and Nomie. Findley uses this to develop unity, team building and camaraderie between the Sethites and the ordinaries. It from this aspect that Findley introduces many of the supernatural and spiritual warfare elements of this novel and this adds yet another layer of action, intrigue and suspense and also gives Findley another avenue to expound more spiritual wisdom and knowledge of the Bible, and how the Christian characters learn to trust God and rely on His Word and its application. This is a great part of this novel and forms part of the glue that cements this novel together. The deliverance from demonic oppression is a bit simplistic but fit in well with the story and most importantly still show the power of God over the power of satan and his minions. In this novel, there is also monster type entities and a Qareen (a type of creature, similar to a genie, that can be controlled to do the bidding of a master, who is in possession of their heart. Qareens are shapeshifters and will take on the form of a person's deepest, darkest desire to seduce and then kill the victim).

I am so glad this novel is not a standalone as I feel Findley is on a winner with this new novel. The only aspect I stumbled on was the ending. It ends very suddenly and I wondered if there were some pages missing. I contacted the author and discovered that this novel is a serial so this ending is planned and meant to be like this. Findley has definitely ended this with plot lines that need to be resolved so this will obviously be the focus on the next novel and I can see that there will be some great plot lines in this next and subsequent novels. Again, I say Findley has a winner with this series. I am waiting in anticipation and dare I say impatience for this next instalment.

As a result of my concerns over the abrupt ending, the author contacted me asking if I would like an amended ending that rounds off the plot ready for the next instalment but does not change the original plot arcs at the end. I have read it and it is much better. It prepares the way for this next instalment and leaves the reader satisfied with this novel's events. Kindle buyers should be notified via Amazon of this update and if anyone else would like to receive this update in ePub or mobi format, the author can be contacted on

Highly recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5 

Overall Rating 4.6/5 Stars 

Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that His Sign contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, together with David Bergsland we award Mary Campagna Findley with

The Reality Calling Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Mary!

To buy or preview this novel, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons on the image below: