Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: Raven's Ladder Day Two

So let's continue our discussion of Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet.

There's been one enduring mystery for this series that I can't seem to wrap my mind around, and that's the role of the Keeper. It seems like every blog tour, I think I have things nailed down and then the next book comes along and knocks me for a loop. When I read Auralia's Colors, I was sure that Auralia was a Christ-figure and the Keeper stood in for God. Then I thought that maybe the Keeper was the Church and Auralia an average Christian.

After reading Raven's Ladder, I've got no idea. None whatsoever. I started drifting back to the whole allegorical idea of the Keeper as God and Auralia as Christ. It certainly seems as though characters in the book treat them as such. Both Cal-Raven and Rescue call on the Keeper with prayer-like supplications. Some of the people of Bel Amica treat Auralia like some sort of Messiah figure. So once again, I was drifting back toward the more obvious allegorical identifications for those two imposing figures.

But the last few chapters of the story completely undid that. I can't get into it, but given what I saw, I've realized that allegory isn't the way to go. Not by a long shot.

So ultimately, I don't have a clue what these stories are about. I often wound up asking myself what makes these books Christian, if anything. They certainly arise from a Christian worldview, don't get me wrong. The stinging criticism of the Bel Amican moon spirits mirror what I would say in a sermon about human selfishness. The Cent Regus beastmen are excellent warnings about where we go to find our strength. And Cal-Raven, Rescue, and the others who yearn for the Keeper are a great reminder for us to constantly yearn for the supernatural, for the world that is Real beyond our reality.

But then, given the way I keep floundering with the imagery of these books, I might be reading into this too much. What do I know? Maybe not all that much. Go check out what the other tourists have to say:

Brandon Barr
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher


Fred Warren said...

Great post. I think as Christian readers, we've been so conditioned to expect allegory in Christian fiction that it's perplexing when we stumble across a story that takes a different approach. As I read, I felt like Dr. Strangelove, struggling to get control of that reflex that was taking me somewhere I didn't want to go. :)

KM Wilsher said...

Thanks for the honesty. I had a hard time reading the first part of this book. Maybe tho, it's cause I haven't read the other two.

Great perspective, John, as always

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Fred said it really well -- I think as Christians we come to "Christian fantasy" with a lot of unfair expectations. Interestingly, Jeff himself has been saying (in interviews and FB updates and such like places) ever since Auralia's Colors that this isn't an allegory, and that anyone who tries to pigeonhole the Keeper and Auralia as allegories for God the Father and Jesus is going to get a surprise. So yup -- we did!

As for "what makes these books Christian" -- I've been asking myself similar questions for a while, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I'm coming to believe that we do art a disservice when we expect everything "Christian" to do the same job (give the gospel). Can a book not be "Christian" just because it discusses lies and religion and beauty from a Christian perspective? Did every story Jesus ever told cover the whole gospel, or is it all right to tackle parts of the truth, taking time to go into them deeply? I wonder. Any thoughts on this?

Emmalyn said...

A very good point; clarity does not seem to be the point of Overstreet's writing, but I think we both are looking for clarity based on our own, different assumptions, out of alignment with the author's. For your question, i think you are looking for parallels that may not exist. A Christian book need not have a Christ figure at all, only Christian concepts and values, perhaps tales from the Old Testament stories, or later New Testament tales, or only tales that convey similar messages of good and evil, faith, and prayer, saints who teach of God and goodness. My own assumptions are more about how much a novel should be focused on a single story, but I don't often read epics, and Raven's Ladder is more like one than a single story, a story thus that can be hard to identify.