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!

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