Tuesday, April 17, 2007

CSFF April Blog Tour: Day Two of "Return of the Guardian King"

CSSF Blog Tour

We're continuing our look at Karen Hancock's Return of the Guardian King. As I promised yesterday, I'll say a few words about Karen's depiction of Christianity. But first, let me dip back in the mists of time to when I was reading the first book, Light of Eidon.

I started reading the story of how Abramm was about to join the Mataians, how Tersius sacrificed his body to make the Holy Flames, about how the Terstans were evil and corrupt wizards. And as I read, a brilliant idea for a story struck me:

I should write a book, set in a fantasy world, that parallels the Reformation. When the book starts, people will think that Religion A is the analogue for Christianity but in reality, it's a corrupted version of the truth. Religion B, an off-shoot, will turn out to be the real version of Christianity, one that's trying to convince people of the truth.

But then I made it past chapter five or six and, well, that idea died a very fast and horrible death.

One of the reasons why I loved this series was because Karen Hancock did something different with the Christianity analogue. In most fantasy series (or at least, the ones I've read), we're either presented with a nebulous concept of a Christian-like Deity or, as happens more often, we see the unfolding of the Christ-event but in fantasy terms (think Ted Dekker's Circle trilogy or even The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

But in Karen Hancock's books, the Christ-event is something that happened a thousand years earlier. The religion has progressed beyond its roots and there's even a corrupted off-shoot of it. It was a good reminder that while Christianity may be instituted by God, He didn't give the faith to perfect beings. He gave it to sinful buggers (I'm counting myself in that class; sometimes I think I can give St. Paul a run for his money) who get it wrong, sometimes horribly so. But seeing a fantasy version of Christianity a thousand years after the "Christ-event" was part of the fun for me.

That's part of the reason why I like speculative fantasy. We don't have to stay confined with what is or has been. We can reinvent the past, juggle things around, look at things in a fresh new light. The trick is that we can't stray too far from the truth, and in my mind, Karen Hancock didn't.

I especially appreciated the fact that Karen emphasized that being a follower of Christ (or Tersius in this case) is not exaclty a cake walk. Her depictions of Abramm's struggles, especially as his longings to return to Maddie and the children are thwarted and he's put through incredible trials, remind us that in spite of what the "health, wealth, and happiness," "name it and claim it" Christians may teach, we're not guaranteed to be a cake walk in this life. We will struggle. We will suffer. We will be tempted. We may even fall. But the good news is, God is there to pick us up again, perhaps restoring us in this life (as Eidon did with Abramm) but definitely restoring us in the world to come.

That may not be as deep as I first intended it, but my brain's a little addled right now. I was up late last night reading "just one more chapter" (which turned out to be about six or seven chapters) of Sharon Hinck's Renovating Becky Miller, so my brain is a little fuzzy right now.

But never fear! Tomorrow's post has been bouncing around in my head for a few years now and has just been waiting for an outlet. Tune in tomorrow for "Sin boldly!" Yes, that is the title I'm going with!

And be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour participants. I particularly enjoyed Rebecca Grabill's "Top Ten List" for today. See you tomorrow!

Wayne Thomas Batson
Jim Black
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Janey DeMeo
April Erwin
Kameron M. Franklin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Rebecca Grabill
Andrea Graham
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Sharon Hinck
Christopher Hopper
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Shannon McNear
Caleb Newell
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
James Somers
Tsaba House Authors
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Daniel I. Weaver


Rebecca said...

You rock! I must say, I had the exact same response to the first book. I was ELATED that FINALLY there was a book taking some risks with the tried-and-true (or tried-so-tired?) depiction of faith. Abramm is so earnestly misguided, and has so much to overcome just to SEE the truth. I loved it.

Agree, too, on later books. Did book four have an official "conversion"? If this is truly meant to be inspirational fiction, the inspiration I need is not conversion, but walking in the light from one day to the next, and Karen's books all have quite a lot of that.

Becky said...

Great analysis, John. Yes, I thought book one especially stepped out of the mold. The others were a little harder because so much was an internal struggle, at times I wanted Abramm to just stop whining. Never mind that I whine all the time! (Sad to admit!)

Looking forward to what you have for tomorrow.


chrisd said...

Your blog cannot be the least read one. That honor would go to myself, thank you. And if not, then I would be penultimate.

Good analysis. I'll be posting a link to you on Wednesday.

Shannon said...

John, this has been great! I love hearing your thoughts on the series. :-)