Sunday 30 December 2018

The Epic of Marindel: Chosen by Nathan Keys


Long ago, the Kingdom of Marindel governed the realm with justice and harmony. But when a great evil was unleashed, the Era of Peace came to a tragic end. Thousands of years passed, and Marindel was all but forgotten. Conner, a young farmer with a wild imagination, always longed for adventure. When strange events cause him to realize his role in the greatest story of all, Connor embarks on a quest to rescue the Great King's daughter for a wicked sorcerer whose darkness grows with every passing day.

Connor is joined by Tarento the Samurai, and a company of colorful characters. Together they will travel across the realm, uncover the mysteries of Marindel, and face unimaginable odds as they fight to survive. Will they discover the hope of redemption before it's too late? 

The Guru's Review: 

I discovered this author and his novel from his GoFundMe advert on my Facebook feed. When I read the campaign, the blurb for the novel, and the Vision he has for it, I was very impressed. This encouraged me to review it for him so I contacted him for a review copy. 

I am so glad I volunteered to do this. After reading this novel, I am more than impressed. It is described as epic fantasy and it definitely lives up to this description. It is one of those novels where you become so engrossed you are lost to reality and have a hard time returning to this.

The more I read this novel, the more it reinforced the first impression I had and that was WOW! I was hooked and immersed in this world Keys creates. It became a highlight of my day to return to reading it.

For a debut author, this is novel is very well constructed. Not perfect (no novel is), but has a solid foundation. At the time of writing this review, Keys' manuscript needs a professional edit, hence the GoFundMe campaign. This will no doubt improve the manuscript and enable a much-improved and enjoyable reading experience. 

It does not take you long to become immersed in the plot, the characters and the action. All are firmly intertwined. Connor, the main character, is one you centre on and become endeared to. And I guess, you should as he is the main character and everything centres on him until at least he is introduced to his quest of finding Melody and helping her be restored to the Great King. Then everything is expanded and the reader gets a wider view of the plot, much like a camera pans out during a movie shoot and the viewer sees a much wider view.

It is from here that this novel really takes off. And it is here that Keys introduces more of the superb world building of the realm this novel is set in. Fantasy and science fiction will fall flat if there is not any depth and a firm foundation for the world-building to manifest as credible and realistic. Keys have mastered this well. Even if part of his inspiration has come from The Lord of the Rings, he has done it well and it undergirds this novel well and for the rest of the series.

This world-building consists of a pronunciation of the many names of the various parts of the realm, the character names, and those of the various events and histories. There is a map of the realm which I found very beneficial. A timeline is explained and applied to each chapter. The prologue sets the stage at the beginning of the novel where Connor is introduced to his quest to restore Melody to the Great King. Keys shines describing the history of the Great King, His undersea world, his son Eli, the special powers and gifts He has bestowed on Melody. Keys describes the various histories of the different kingdoms outlining their origin and the characteristics of their people including any special powers they have. It is a good depiction here that Keys has a member from each of these kingdoms as part of the team the Great King assembles to restore Melody to Him, defeat the Serpent and evangelise the realm about the Great King and His Son, Eli and restoring the Kingdom of Marindel. This means that each of the team has a special ability, talent or power to be used in the quest. It becomes clear that as the Great King has brought them together for this, these attributes are not based on the dark arts or originate from the Serpent but as a normal part of the creation of these people by the Great King. The only exception is the Offspring of Sisesa as these originate from the Serpent.

Another part of this world building is the histories of the kingdoms in this realm. This is explained in the accounts of how the Great King led each team member to become part of Connor's company. While this adds length to the novel (it is 500 plus pages), it does also add depth and much-needed background to the plot and to what defines these characters and what they contribute to the King's quest to restore Marindel and Melody.

The account of The Great Story is another important history. This describes the kingdom of Rhema set up by Melody as a utopia but became corrupted by her pride leading to her pronouncing herself as its Queen. It is here that the Great King sends Eli to this kingdom and it is a wonderful allegory of the Gospel message including the Crucifixion and God's plan of salvation. Keys has depicted this beautifully and his writing of it is superb. Despite its length, it is a necessary part of the plot and placed in the second half of the novel, it builds and adds to the finale of this instalment, laying important themes that will be developed and explored in future instalments of this series. It here in this account that Keys shines in the use of allegory but this is also evident in many other parts of the novel. Keys has definitely depicted Eli as the Jesus of the Bible and for me, this was very convincing. Keys has portrayed the Jesus I have read and experienced from the bible. I imagine that any author depicting Jesus in their novel would find this a challenging feat. Keys has succeeded well here and has done this with ease!

The spiritual aspects of this novel are very unique. I have not read a novel where there is a direct interaction from God to the characters. The Great King speaks directly into the minds of his followers and even to those who do not know Him yet. With the former, it is to give further instruction to thwart the attempts of the various antagonists, namely the Serpent and those under his control and to encourage, uplift their faith and relationship with Him and with the latter, it is to draw them to Him. Keys also has the believers respond freely to the Great King's interaction. I found this direct interaction between the Great King and His followers a breath of fresh air. It resonated with me that this is how our relationship with God should be. We should be and need to be free with Him in our prayer and relationship with Him. We are encouraged as Christians in our prayer relationship to speak to God as if we are talking to a fellow human, so Keys does this well here. How many times do we complicate this by thinking and speaking to impress Him or to hide what we are really feeling, the good, the bad and the ugly? This is not what we should be doing or need to be doing.

Keys has included two members of the Trinity, the Great King as God the Father, and Eli as God the Son. I at first considered that the Spirit of God could be construed as the voice of the Great King speaking in the minds of the "Christian" characters but the more I read these instances, the more it is apparent that it is the voice of the Great King and not of the Spirit of God. I hope that the Spirit of God is included in future novels in this series. So far we have the allegory of these two members of the Trinity so it would seem appropriate to have the third as we have in real life. 

For those characters who have accepted Him as their King and Saviour, there is no sinner's prayer that so many of us are used to in our conversion. Keys has made it so simple that they just need to believe Him to be who He says He is and call on Him or his name for salvation. This is similar to the many Bible references that support this that to be saved, you need to call on the name of the Lord and to believe He is who He is. In this novel, this is tied back to the Great Story that outlines Eli's mission to draw Melody to Himself and was willing to die for her, despite her many flaws and rebellion through her disobedience to the King. Here Keys' allegory has Melody's rebellion representing sin and Melody representing fallen/sinful mankind. When Eli died and was resurrected He then extended this saving grace to everyone and not just Melody. 

These redemptive features are counterbalanced by the allegorical symbolism of evilness so well described and depicted through the character of the Serpent. I am sure readers will grow to despise and dislike him and the level of his despicableness, evilness and deceitfulness. Keys has done a great job here seeing as the Serpent represents Satan and his rebellion against God. What Keys has not shown is the backstory as to why the Serpent was imprisoned in the area of the Castle that we are introduced to at the beginning of the novel. This needs to be explained and will make a great plotline in a future instalment. It is the only plot line that is left undone.  

One other aspect that Keys has done well is the characterisation. These are characters that you can relate to and become endeared to including rooting for them in their quest. Keys successfully develops this team not only through the events and obstacles they have to overcome but through their interactions and how they get to know each other that then develops into their relationships. Keys have depicted the team with diverse personalities, each with different gifts and abilities and this adds to the team building and dynamics.

These characters are very memorable. I am looking forward to journeying with them in future novels in this series and seeing how they all develop further as a team and individually and how the Great King will transform them more into His likeness as the Bible instructs. There is already the beginnings of this in this volume.

This novel is yet another that has a profound effect on me and meets the criteria I like to see in Christian fiction. This is from the "Why Christian Fiction?" tab of this blog: 

Generally, I hope at the end of the novel: 

  • 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). 
I applaud Keys for including all the elements in this novel that I have mentioned throughout this review. It is such a joy to read! For a debut novel, he has done well in all its aspects and allowed the Spirit to be present.

I pray that Nathan will succeed in his GoFundMe campaign to have this novel edited to a professional level and a suitable publisher. This novel needs to be published and for its message to be delivered as the Spirit sees fit.

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 3/5

Overall Rating: 4.6/5


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

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Epic of Marindel: Chosen contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I bestow unto Nathan Keys with the

Reality Calling Christian Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Nathan!

If this review and description have piqued your interest in this novel, please consider contributing to the GoFundMe campaign so it can be professionally edited and published for you to be blessed on many levels like I have. I have contributed to this campaign.

Click on the link below: 

Sunday 16 December 2018

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor by Patrick Higgins

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor

What if angels really did come from the most unlikely of places? That’s exactly what happens in this heartwarming story, set in a homeless community in Anywhere USA. Sent to Planet Earth by his Maker, disguised as a homeless person, Enoch was on a mission: to rescue a man whose life was slowly but steadily spiralling out of control. Inspired by Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it,” this story will stir your soul like never before, guaranteed!

The Guru's Review: 

I bought this novel two years ago after the author recommending it to me after reading one of his other novels. The description inspired me to not only buy it but start my own Christmas fiction "collection" and that I would read in this genre during December every year. I have read in many genres and this was one that I had not. For the past two years, I had intended to read during December and every year I mentioned to the author that I would do so! But as we all experience, our plans get re-directed or changed. Life gets in the way! This is the third December that I have only read Christmas fiction during this month. This year, I was determined to read the novel that started this new trend in my reading.

Since then, I have read some wonderful, inspiring, uplifting and award-winning Christmas fiction. And I applaud the Christian authors who write in this genre. I have never been blessed so much regarding the true meaning of Christmas and the Gospel and it has definitely challenged and strengthened my faith in God. 

The Unannounced Christmas Visitor is now the novel that has challenged me and blessed me the most out of all the Christmas fiction I have read over the last 2 years. 

This is a truly Spirit-filled story! It is powerful on many levels. The reader will be challenged, convicted, outraged, disgusted and infuriated. This is written by one author who is very much focused on God and is under His direction and guidance. Higgins shows an in-depth understanding of what it means to be homeless and society's attitude and behaviour towards it and to those who are. Maybe what is more shocking in this regard is how some Christians take this attitude to the next level of judgement and disapproval and appear worse than those who do not know Jesus. It was here and the scenes that depicted this that both challenged and infuriated me. I have seen similar in my church life in both these two areas. And it is here that Higgins allows the Spirit of God to challenge the reader, especially those who are Christian to check their attitude and see in what areas of their mind and heart they need to change and have it replaced with the heart of God.

Higgins depicts the various aspects of the Christian's attitude and behaviour through the members of the Jensen family and their church family. Lydia, the mother is the one who shows more of the heart of God in her discernment of the attitude towards Enoch, the homeless man who attends church and of those in the Church who display such a judgemental and disapproved attitude towards him. What struck me here, with Lydia's character was that this is reflective of the fact that women are more spiritually sensitive to men so it did not surprise me that Higgins depicted her this way seeing that her husband had lost his focus on God and had allowed himself to be spiritually oppressed by humanistic attitudes of those around him and the influence of his upbringing.

We have one of Lydia's friends who has no direct contact with Enoch but who shy away from her because of her interaction with Enoch and how this makes her feel uncomfortable. We have the couple who contribute large sums of money to this megachurch who "evict" Enoch from the front row of the church solely due to their exaggerated importance and the fact that they believe vagrants have no place in the church. We have the ushers who are seemingly powerless to act on their own and follow the "orders" of this couple in placing Enoch at the back of the church. I related to Lydia's reaction to these people and events as she questions if she was really in the House of God and that her church family were not behaving as if they have the heart of God towards Enoch. I was saddened, disappointed, and infuriated here more than she was!

This novel has been criticised for its long sections of preaching by the character Enoch. I have come across this many times in novels, but I cannot understand the validity of this criticism. If the reader, Christian or not, wants to be just entertained, then they have chosen the wrong novel. Not all Christian novels solely entertain. Most Christian authors write because they have a message from God that He has encouraged them to include into their novels. This novel is a classic example.

I found these "long" sections of "preaching" necessary to the very essence of this novel. Sure, it did seem as if the plot and pace were on temporary hold while Enoch discussed with John about his spiritual state, what it meant to be homeless, the spiritual aspects towards this, and how he tied it all in with the heart of God. It is here that this novel is powerful and packs a great impact. I was challenged, inspired, encouraged and convicted during these instances of long narrative. It is this that I find and welcome in Christian fiction that it has this effect on the reader to not just entertain, but to minister more of who God is, how we are to live out the Gospel and be a willing vessel for His use to a hurting and fallen humanity. Higgins shines here. I was awestruck at how he composed these sections. The author may have been writing but the Spirit of God was speaking in these narratives. If the reader has a teachable spirit, then this novel will impact and influence them greatly. It will change the reader's heart and mind toward this topic of homelessness, hopelessness and how Christians judge and disapprove of anything that places us outside our comfort zone or especially when their heart attitude and behaviour is contrary to what and how the Spirit and the Bible encourage and instruct us to live. But what breaks through here is the message of hope, redemption and restoration that only God can provide. 

The way the author depicted this through Enoch, Lydia, Matthew, John, Grace and even the homeless characters was brilliant. I came to love the latter, Leroy, Suzie, Rocky, Troy, Dillon, Pedro, Wanda, Tiwanna and by the end of the novel, I had stopped seeing them as homeless and hopeless but as people who are not defined by their homelessness or their circumstances but as people who are striving to be more than this. It was a classic example of how the Spirit works in and through us, however different we are to each other and how He is able to work all this together to achieve His aim of breaking down barriers and attitudes that close us off from the situations others are in and our response to them so He can have His way and save us from our sin.

Spiritually, Higgins is spot on with his inclusion of biblical theology and doctrine as depicted through Enoch. One could view the counsel of Enoch as true biblical counselling especially in his dealings with John's spiritual state. It really does show that the work of the Spirit is the correct way here as long as the person affected has a teachable spirit and has no hardness of heart and wants to change. I was so impressed with Higgins' dealing with this issue, his knowledge of the Bible and how he applied all this to the specifics of John's emotional, mental and spiritual state.

I loved the narrative of Enoch about the biblical references of the Nativity and accounts of Jesus' birth. Again, Higgins ties this exceptionally well together into a cohesive "story". I found this to be an effective Bible study on its own.

I need to make mention of the character of Enoch. Yes, that Enoch, the Biblical Enoch! If Enoch is anything like Higgins has depicted him, I can hardly wait to meet him in Heaven! So many times, I kept thinking, "Is this really Enoch, or is it, Jesus?" I would not have been surprised if it was Jesus! So Christ-like was Enoch! It really impressed upon me how much I would love to attain the many behaviours he had developed from his relationship with God. Higgins has depicted him as seeing clearly, figuratively speaking, in full understanding and knowledge now he is with God and this is a great encouragement for us to cherish once we are united with God in Heaven. 

As with any novel, or most, the plot has been developed to reach a peak where all the plot arcs come to a head, where everything is tied up for the ending. This novel has a very satisfying finale. It is uplifting, inspirational, emotional and joyous. I cried for such a long time. Not only for the joyous ending but for the way this novel has changed me, for what the Spirit of God has impacted on my heart and challenged me in my relationship to others and to Him. I came out of this with such a worshipful attitude and a sense of gratefulness and thankfulness for what He has done for myself and mankind.

Looking back on this novel, it is evident that to write such a story like this, the author has to be in tune with the Spirit and to also be writing what he lives. I am so encouraged by Higgins as a man of God and author. This is one novel that will have a special place in my library and in my heart. 

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5


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

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that The Unannounced Christmas Visitor contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-filled  Fiction outlined in this booklet, (click on the title below to see what this is based on), I bestow unto Patrick Higgins with the

Congratulations, Patrick!

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