Monday 8 August 2022

Novel Review and Spirit-filled Fiction Award: Daniel and the Serpent’s Abyss by Nathan Lumbatis.

 I reviewed this novel on 19/7/20 on a previous blog I had, now defunct.

Daniel and the Serpent's Abyss.

Six months after returning from their adventures in Daniel and the Triune Quest, Daniel, Ben, and Seren eagerly await their mission to save Raylin and acquire the last Weapon of Power: the Abyssal Staff. Daniel can’t believe his luck when Gabriela shows up and declares she will guide them to the British Isles, where Raylin has been haunting ancient ruins in her frenetic search for more spiritual power. When the group is transported to Ireland, however, everything goes wrong. Raylin, driven mad by the possessing power of the Voidblade, is as powerful as several demons put together and impervious to their attacks. Seren, desperate to save her sister, impulsively starts an explosive battle to bind her—a decision that turns the entire quest on its head and drives Daniel to a point of desperation he never anticipated. Through it all, the Three are noticeably absent and quiet, not answering prayers or sending aid. What’s worse, Gabriela seems distant and preoccupied. So much for Daniel’s hopes for improving their relationship.

The quest seems hopeless, and it’s only just begun. How can the companions hope to evade the Enemy’s minions haunting their every step, subdue a super-powered Raylin in her madness, get her to the bottom of the Abyss where the staff resides, and survive a face-to-face encounter with the Serpent awaiting them there? Daniel has no idea, but he hopes his faith in the Three will not prove vain. Surely, after all their intervention during the last two quests, they wouldn’t abandon the companions without help. Right?

Perspective by Peter:

I was asked by the author to review this new instalment in this series for his blog tour. This was a no brainer as I loved the previous two. Daniel and the Triune Quest (DTQ) was so much more involved than Daniel and the Sun Sword that it set up this third volume to be more action-packed and suspenseful than these two.

I stated in my review of DTQ that his writing has matured. Well, it is even more so in this novel. Lumbatis has come into his own. Not only has his writing matured but he has matured his characters as well. Their spiritual growth is evident and forms a solid foundation for this novel and their quest. Lumbatis portrays that the previous quests have made them grow up quickly as a consequence than if they had just the usual teenage years with their families and the culture of their time.

I must say that two factors detracted from my enjoyment of this novel were that I did not have time to re-read DTQ before this one, and my reading times during this week were very scattered and short compared to the routine and schedule I set myself to review novels. That is solely my issue and not anything that the author had done. There were certain events that I could not remember well enough that were tied back to DTQ (bearing in mind that this novel was published in 2017). I guess this is what every reader goes through when a new novel in a series is released, we need to read the previous one (or in some cases, all the previous) before diving into this new one. I ended up reading 60% of this novel in one sitting yesterday to meet the blog tour date that Nathan and I agreed on!

However, that was a great single sitting that at this 40% mark, everything was being upped and the novel took off on all levels. I was totally absorbed and in the world of this novel. It was so good to be back with these characters and being an older gent than most of the readers of this series, I have missed them. Lumbatis is very successful at appealing to teens and young adults but also of the youth that is still in us older ones (I am now in my 6th decade!). Maybe this is all to do with the power of story. Lumbatis shines in this as well.

Lumbatis has infused throughout this series strong spiritual themes. In DTQ, he explored dying to self, being self-sacrificing all based on who Jesus is and the reasons He encourages us to be like this. In this novel, he explores forgiveness, faith, and the empowering role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. This is showed well. In this plot, Daniel, Ben, Seren and Gabriela experience the absence of contact from the Three (God, Jesus and Spirit) and wonder why. The Three are silent. Gabriela is very affected by this, more than the others. Here is their temptation to fall back on relying on their own resources and strength in this quest. However, they band together, continue to pray, and accept that they need to rely on the promises of God and His Truth they have been given so far from Jesus in DTQ. On top of this, everything in this quest goes wrong. It becomes a test of their faith. Amidst all of this is the unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness from some of the unresolved issues from events in DTQ that are now impacting them and form the reasons for this current quest. Despite this, they do begin to bicker amongst themselves and play the blame game. Gabriela seems to be the voice of reason here and brings them back to the quest at hand, despite the despair she feels from the sense of abandonment from the Three.

I found the reactions from the four of them to be very relational and realistic, as all believers have oftentimes felt these emotions when God seems quiet especially in the storms of life. This is a real encouragement by Lumbatis to all of us, but especially to the teen and young adult of today who seem to give in to the forces that challenge them in their lives.

Just as God states in the Bible that He would never leave nor forsake us, Lumbatis has portrayed this well in this novel. These four were never to be on a quest like this to do it on their own. God understands the quest he has given them and is behind them all the way. Just when the four of them feel that their despair is beginning to overtake them, God makes His presence known through the company of the Firstborns, which give them the confidence to continue and confirmation that they have not been abandoned. Then when a potential confrontation with members of the Enemy's army looks like they could be defeated and captured, the Spirit arrives to take charge, defeat this enemy, instil more confidence, guidance and instruction to them. Answered prayer!

Lumbatis may find it scary and frightening to portray God in his novels as he states in Theophanies and Suffering in Christian Fantasy for Speculative Faith,

I’m always a little scared to portray God in my books. I mean, I do it anyway, but it’s frightening. I tend to feel a “prickle” on the back of my neck especially when I’m writing a fictional dialogue for God in any of his three persons

but the God he portrays is the God that I see in the Bible, the God that I have seen in many Christian's behaviour and treatment of others, the God who is Just, Merciful, Healer Loving, Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent (even when we don't feel He is there). His interaction with Daniel, Ben, Seren, Gabriela is tender. He reminds me of the picture of Him as the Good Shepherd. He knows them intimately as their Creator and his counsel to them as His created is specific to who they are as individuals and meets all their needs where they are. All the scenes in the novel where the Spirit and Jesus appear are powerful and relational. I pray that these scenes will impact readers where His Spirit will plant, water or reap a seed of faith in any reader who is a Believer or not (yes, Believers need their faith watered and reaped of its fruit as well!). I became emotional at these scenes as they are relational. You feel for these four as they have their needs met and relieved. You react to the tenderness of the Spirit or of Jesus and maybe even feel that They could have been talking to me in these scenes!

I especially found it very moving when Jesus counselled Raylin to give up the Voidblade. I could almost feel her heart softening to the Truth and power of his words, laced with the tenderness of His nature. You could feel her repentance as she denounced the Voidblade, asked forgiveness for what she had done and for her to be free from the enslavement of this sin and betrayal of Him and the four who had accepted this quest to help save her from the Enemy.

It is because of these scenes that I am glad Lumbatis includes God in his novels, as he states in Theophanies and Suffering in Christian Fantasy mentioned above.

So, he is active and personal in my books—portrayed through no metaphor or abstract concept—showing up in all three persons of the Trinity.

As much as I love seeing God and in some cases the Trinity in allegory or metaphor in Christian fiction (The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings come to mind), I love it even better when God is portrayed as He is just as Lumbartis has in Sons and Daughters series. If an author does this in his novel, then it follows that he must also portray God as He is in the Bible and display as many of His characteristics as possible and reinforce those tenets and doctrines His Word just as He states in John 1:1,

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I have not found Lumbatis to deviate from this in any of his novels. And this is where Truth and Biblical representation of God, His Word and His Truth can shine in a novel.

I guess one the major plot arcs in this novel and reasons for this new quest is to save Raylin from the Voidblade and the Serpent's grasp. Now, this can be an allegory of what happens when we become enslaved to sin. It takes us over and "possesses" us. Raylin becomes enslaved to the Voidblade and with each soul it devours, she is given more power, but this comes at another price, stronger enslavement, and less power to break free. In Raylin's case, this also reinforced why she accepted the Voidblade in the first place; anger, revenge and ignorance. She was warned but these emotions blinded her to consequences of her actions. Can we apply this to our fallen state and why, even as Christians we make wrong choices when we unfocus our attention from God and follow our sinful nature despite knowing what we should do.

Now as much as the four were willing to do anything in their power to free Raylin, they realised that only God could do this. And this was the manifest of this quest. They were to get Raylin to a point to decide to give the Voidblade up and repent of her sin. As Lumbatis in this article again says,

......the only way for Raylin to be truly saved is for Daniel and his friends to somehow get Raylin to the bottom of the Serpent’s Abyss, where they can use the Abyssal Staff to permanently free her from the power of the spirits possessing her. Even that won’t work, though, unless she willingly relinquishes the Voidblade and repents of her sin........Whether God has manifested himself in blazing glory (á la Paul), a sermon, or that still, small voice in our minds, he calls us to repentance and waits for our reply rather than bulldozing over us...

Now while reading the scene where the four are in the Serpent's Abyss, what Raylin had been through and how she suffered, it reminded me of all the things we suffer through to get us to the point where we are at the end of ourselves and are then ripe for salvation when we see this is the only way to move forward. Such was the case in with Raylin. Care-fronted with the four and their asking her for forgiveness, and the Truth as revealed by Jesus, she chose repentance and was free.

I quote Lumbatis again from the Speculative Faith article,

All of this is to say, when I portray God as omnipotent, omniscient, and terrifying-but-loving, he must also be portrayed as working salvation by patiently allowing his children to bumble their way through mistakes, pain, and ruin to (hopefully) find freedom through repentance. He is not a tyrant of hearts and wills.

This reinforces what I have said above in that when authors portray God in a novel, He needs to be presented as He is. Readers of this series should see that Lumbatis has portrayed Him Biblically and as they have experienced Him upon their conversion and onwards.

Lumbatis describes the scenes in the Serpent's Abyss as a "...harrowing and painful experience....". I would agree.  I wonder if an author finds it just as daunting to portray satan as they do God in a novel? Lumbatis' depiction is one not to be dismissed. It definitely adds enough darkness, suspense and elements of horror that it is to be expected from what we know of this. The Serpent is not portrayed as just as a dragon-like creature but as one who is also deceptive, evil, manipulative, condescending. I likened it to Smaug in the Jackson version of The Hobbit but with 7 heads as depicted in this novel, but Smaug is not representative of satan in that novel or movie.

Now one thing I have seen in other novels, even Christian ones, is that whatever representation of satan or his demons they can be more powerful or not under the authority of God. They can appear more powerful than God Himself. Not so in this novel. Lumbatis portrays the Serpent as still under the authority of God and this shows in the confrontation between the Serpent and Jesus in the Abyss. Too many times, the author focusses on how to portray God Biblically and forgets to depict satan the same way despite whatever form he is depicted.

Any reader after, reading this novel, will agree that the fourth and final novel in this series is going to be the most action-packed, suspenseful and I predict, the most satisfying. One significant event that happens in this novel must come to its natural conclusion in the next. This will complete one of the main plot arcs from Book 1 that has formed one of the pillars of this series and who and what we know about Daniel.

I can also see that readers are going to love this new instalment. Just as I stated that DTQ was pivotal in progressing this novel further, Daniel and the Serpent's Abyss is even more pivotal in setting up the final instalment for an action-packed and very satisfying ending. I can also see that this series, is one that will be missed but looked back on with fond memories and even the spiritual lessons learnt over the course of this series.

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 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.8/5


Spiritually, based on my review and on the aforementioned reference booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland (Radiqx Press) and that Daniel and the Serpent's Abyss 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 to Nathan Lumbatis the

Reality Calling Christian Spirit-filled Fiction Award

Congratulations, Nathan!

If you would like to investigate this novel further, click on the image below:

Readers and reviews are an author’s best asset, so I encourage any reader, to consider reading Daniel and the Serpent's Abyss and/or the other novels in this series, then submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media platform you subscribe to).

Reviews help promote an author’s novel to potential readers and encourage the author to keep writing. Reviews also help get the author’s message (and God’s message) to the reader, who may need encouragement and support in their lives while being entertained by the story.

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I am required to disclose that book cover images or titles of novels in this post are paid links if they are linked to Amazon and result in a sale.

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