4 1/2 Stars
I didn’t intend to find a new book to review that day. I only wanted to see the optometrist. She was a pleasant doctor, and so interested in her patients, that talk naturally drifted to what I did. I showed her my website, and she suddenly became enthusiastic about one of her daughter’s best loved books.
I have to confess that at first I did not love this idea. I looked Shirer up and saw that she was also the author of several well known spiritual books and was a noted preacher. I usually associate famous preachers who write fiction with books that try to push their denomination’s beliefs. To my surprise, it turned out to be everything that the optometrist said it was, and more.
Ethan has had that dream again, the dream of the curiously shaped letter. At the rec center, his friend Brianna catches him sketching it and identifies it as an A from another language…the language of Ahoratos, a fantasy realm from one of her books. He will soon find out that he, his brother Xavier, Brianna, and her friends Levi and Manuel will soon view the wonders and dangers of Ahoratos for themselves.
Ahoratos…is not a dream world…in ahoratos the hidden spiritual battles of our world take a more visible form.
Ahoratos, their mysterious guide Ruwach tells them, is not a dream world. Not only is it real, it is more real than the real world, because in Ahoratos the hidden spiritual battles of our world take a more visible form. This is the central focus of the book- the relationship between the kids, their armor, the dangers they encounter in Ahoratos, and the real world ethical dilemmas they must navigate.
Ahoratos has more than a few parallels to Narnia, and it’s clear that the author was inspired by the great C.S. Lewis. It’s clearly an overt biblical allegory and makes no attempt at sublety. Despite the fact that a well known preacher is one of the two authors, I was pleased to find that the message was generically Christian and seemed to be free of most denominational leanings. The closest thing to that was a reference to the Water of Ahoratos…passing through it makes one clean (of sand, after choosing to jump in). There are no references to who is a Christian or how to become one.
One of the things that I liked the most was the way the book presented Christian parents as heroes to their kids. Many middle grade books ignore parents as irrelevant, but this book presents one of the parents as someone who has been to Ahoratos before. From the way the story is written, it does not seem like he is the only one, either. It’s presented in a way that goes over well with kids, and according to my optometrist it’s a hit with hers.
There were a few things I didn’t like. Sometimes the Narnia parallels were too obvious, and as a loyal LOTR fan, I object to bad things being called Ents. The numerous pop culture references are still current enough to delight today’s children, but may date the book and make it less enjoyable for future generations. I also prefer my Christian fiction to be a little more subtle, and that does not seem to be one of this book’s goals. There are also things that I thought should have been explained in the first book but seem to have been held back to be revealed in subsequent books. Even so, the book was well written and engaging, and kept me up turning pages WAY past my bedtime. Isn’t that the best measure of a book? I think it is.
Genre: Middle Grade Christian Portal Fantasy
Age Recommendation: Boys and Girls 8-12
Violence: Very limited. Though the children engage in “battles”, most of the things they overcome directly involve natural disasters, bugs, or other nonsentient beings.
This book is available on Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, and Amazon.
Image by Gerhard Janson from Pixabay