Category Archives: Fantasy

Fiction with strange or other worldly settings or characters; fiction which invites suspension of reality. Includes: fantasy (Dungeons & Dragons, High Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy), fables (mythical creatures, like unicorns, faeries, ghosts, Greek and Roman gods, vampires, zombies, werewolves and other were-animals), non-Biblical angels and demons, and other non-sensical or magical creatures or characters.

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

One Christmas Eve, Kate is shaken awake by her mother.  Kate, the oldest of three children, is implored by her mother to look after the younger two, Michael and Emma.  The three children are spirited away in the middle of the night to keep them safe.  For the next ten years, these siblings will find themselves shuffled from foster home to foster home, until one disastrous meeting with a potential adoptive parent lands them in the “orphanage” of Dr. Stanislaus Pym.  It is a strange sort of orphanage, made so because of the enigmatic owner of the house, Dr. Pym, the old caretaker, Abraham, and the housekeeper who insists on speaking to the children in address of royalty, Miss Sallow.  Oh, and the fact that Kate, Michael, and Emma are the only children in the orphanage.

Upon their first investigation of the house, the children find a book bound in green leather.  Purely by accident, they stick a picture in the book and are transported back in time.  It is here they meet the Countess, an evil witch in search of the book that the children themselves have found.  When they try to get back to their time, Michael is left behind.  The girls then return to find Michael, sending them on the adventure of a lifetime.   The children seems to be on one adventure after another trying to right the wrongs of the past.

When I first started this book, I was not sure if I would finish it.  The Emerald Atlas contains characters reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore and Rubius Hagrid, a story line about children entering another time (world) in order to save it as in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and a seemingly never-ending abundance of dismal situations a la A Series of Unfortunate Events.  I was concerned that John Stephens would not find his own voice.

I am glad I kept reading.  While the aforementioned nods to other great children’s literature do exist, Stephens begins to weave his own tale.  The characters are ones for whom you can champion.  I am a major fan of books that incorporate strong female characters, and Stephens does this twice with both Kate and Emma.   He also manages to do so while keeping in consideration the fact that they are still children.  

As with any book, I rate it based on its repeat readability (yep, making up words now).   Stephens gets a solid yes.  Stephens’ novel is great for young readers, rich in folklore and vivid imagery.   I am looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy, even knowing I will have to wait quite some time (as Atlas is not slated for release until April 2011).


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost..

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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Beyond The Valley of Thorns by Patrick Carman

From the back:Alexa Daley thought her troubles were over when she defeated the man who threatened to bring Bride well down from within. But now that the walls have fallen, a new, unexpected threat has risen from outside. Suddenly, Alexa is involved in a battle much, much bigger than her own life …a battle in which she is destined to play a key role. Sinister forces are gathering in strange and vile forms, all with the goal of bringing darkness to the land. In order to help good defeat evil, Alexa and her friends must venture farther than they’ve gone before- confronting giants, bats, ravenous dogs, and a particularly ghoulish mastermind in order to bring back peace.

The book was easy for me to read, but I would recommend it for grades four through seven. It really depends on the individual. I got into it on probably page one because I was so pumped up from reading the first book, The Dark Hills Divide, (which I have also reviewed.) It was a very fun book! I simply loved it! I recommend it for anybody that still likes a fun, fictional, but also suspenseful book about a twelve year old girl saving the world. Most normal middle schoolers would like the book almost as much as me. (Nobody could like it more or as much as I did!) It was not obviously Christian but I could relate Elyon to God and Alexa to each of us. It really depends on how you look at it. No one in the book reads the bible but I think they pray to Elyon in the third book a couple times but not in this one. There is absolutely nothing bad that parents would have to worry about. No bad words or actions at all. I think this book is a great source of reading for any one that likes suspenseful fantasy. Before you start reading this series make sure you have the next ones in the series close by. If you don’t you might go crazy: the only part I was the a little upset about was the fact that each of these books are cliff-hangers. They all end in “to be continued.”

This series of books is probably up in second place on the list of my favorite book series right behind The Percy Jackson series, but that’s another story (or book.)


Arieltopia is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She is an 11 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult and Teen Fiction; an actual teenager’s perspective. Her blog is http://Arieltopia.blogspot.com.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman

From the back: Twelve year old Alexa Daley is spending another summer in Bridewell with her father. She looks forward to exploring the old lodge where she stays each year, with its cozy library and maze of passages and rooms. She’s also eager to finally solve the mystery of what lies beyond the immense walls that were built to keep out an unnamed evil that lurks in the forests and The Dark Hills-an evil the towns people are still afraid of. As Alexa begins to unravel the truth about what lies outside the protective barrier she’s lived behind all her life, she discovers a strange and ancient enchantment. Armed with an unexpected new power, Alexa exposes a danger that could destroy everything she holds dear-and change The Land of Elyon forever.

This book was about a young girl named Alexa Daley. Her country was made of three towns that were all inside stone walls. The passages to get to the other towns were also surrounded by walls. All of the buildings were one story high so that no one would be able to get into the towns or out. The walls were made by Warvold (who is now a old man) when he was young to protect his family and everyone in the town from a dark evil outside the walls. Alexa Daley likes going to Bridewell (the town that Warvold stays at.It is in the middle of the other towns,) because it has a three story building in it. Alexa is an adventurous girl who is always getting into trouble with the head guard Pervis. (They don’t exactly get along very well.) Alexa brings her mother’s magnifying glass to Bridewell even though they are forbidden. She has the only room in any of the towns that you can hop up on the window sill and get a peek of the Dark Hills, and the wilderness outside the walls. She is caught by Pervis using the glass to see outside the walls. He breaks the magnifying glass after taking it a few days later. Alexa always is looking for a way outside the wall throughout the story in till she finds out about the Joscastas. They are gems that Renny (Warvold’s now dead wife.) used to make. If you had a strong enough magnifying glass you could see what message was inscribed on the Joscata. Alexa is a very intelligent girl. She studies the gems for several days. Alexa finds a way outside the walls using the Jocastas and finds out that she was chosen by Warvold to continue the mystery of the walls and what lays outside them. She discovers that she has a power and that she must use it to save Bridewell, the Dark Hills, and the Land of Elyon.


Arieltopia is an 11 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult and Teen Fiction; an actual teenager’s perspective.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest by Chuck Black

Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest is the sixth book in this series, “The Knights of Arrethtrae” Rowan of Laos was born in utter poverty an orphaned at a young age. Yet, he was born to be a swordsman. Every fiber in him knew it. After meeting a knight of the Prince while working as a stable boy. He was trained at the local haven and was a superior swordsmen like no one has seen. He was passionate about the Prince and Code.

Sir Rowan and the Camerian Conquest
by Chuck Black
Multnomah
October 2010

Four years of training and when his first commissioning was presented to him. Rowan turned his back to compete in the tournaments knights. He was good and became wealthy, had fame and even became one to the most decorated tournament knights in Cameria. On the way to a tournament his group is attacked and Rowan is captured and left for dead. During this time he sees visions of the Prince. After several weeks of being left for dead Rowan has a vision of the Prince and shortly afterwards he is rescued by a woman who serves the Prince. Rowan finds new purpose and rededicates himself to the Prince.

He finds out that all his material possessions are gone and that his beloved Cameria has been held in tyranny. Rowan meets a mysterious knight who want Rowan to join him in another battle elsewhere for the Prince. Rowan must determine where he will fight. He loves his countryman in Cameria but this mysterious knight insist that his purpose lies in an ancient city and is the greater cause for him to fight for the Prince. Rowan must choose which battle he will serve the Prince, but will it be the one the Prince has chosen him to serve in. The wrong choice could have a great impact on the battle of the Cameria region.

I have enjoyed every book in this series. The book is for teens. I have been reading these books to my five and eight year old as a read-out-loud and they love the books and are excited for me to read more to them. Mom is also a big fan and can’t wait to read more in this series.


ReneeK is a sweet tea addicted mamma who loves to cuddle up to a good book. She blogs at Little Homeschool on the Praire and writes about family, homeschooling, having a special needs child, and about whatever else tickles her fancy.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Radiance by Alyson Noel

Riley Bloom is a 12 year old girl. She has a yellow lab named Buttercup. One moment she and her family are cruising down the highway. The next moment she is no longer on the highway or even in Eugene, Oregon, but in a beautiful shimmering field. Her parents are going one way, her sister another and there is a beautiful bridge waiting to be crossed. The bridge is the entrance to the afterlife – “Here and Now”. Who should she follow? Before she can decide, her sister has disappeared back to earth. Riley, her parents and Buttercup are dead. They have passed over. Now, all Riley need to do is cross the bridge.

Riley finds Here is not so different from where she lived in Oregon – an exact replica of her old neighbor – house and all. Her parents inform her she is to attend school where she will make new friends, learn new things; pick up where she left off on earth. Although she is doubtful this will happen she just smiles. After a light breakfast (yes you still eat in Here) she starts out to find the school – not really knowing where to go or what to expect. On her way she passes the “Viewing Room”. She has been told not to go in, but being Riley she doesn’t listen. She steps in side and sees her sister back on earth – alive but just going through the motion of appearing normal, but Riley knows her sister too well – this is just a front, she really isn’t handling things too well.

Riley soon learns that the afterlife isn’t an eternity of leisure. She has responsibilities. She is summoned by the Council. After seeing highlights of her life on earth, she comes to the conclusion that she had been a brat – bugging her sister, spying on her and anyone else she came across. The Council assigns her a job – Soul Catcher. She thinks – what in the world is a Soul Catcher. Before she can ask the question, the Council has disappeared. She learns her teacher is 14 year old named Bodhi – a nerdy guy dressed in the clothing worn in the fifties. They return to earth for Riley’s first assignment. She is to find the Radiant Boy and get him to cross over the bridge. He has been haunting an English castle for centuries. All other have failed and Bodhi is confident Riley will also. She is too cocky, disrespectful and must stop calling him the Nerdy Guy.

What transpires when Riley comes face-to-face with the Radiant Boy – not one but three- they are triples working in shifts – makes for a very interesting story and teaches Riley what it really means to live in the Here and Now. Bodhi’s encounter with the Radiant Boys’ grieving mother earns both he and Riley their “glow”.

An interesting, delightful work of fiction, but possibly not too far off from the truth of what we may expect to find in the afterlife – the Here and Now- where every moment in time is now.

Highly recommended!


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.” Her old blog was at http://GoldenReviewer.blogspot.com.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

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The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, June by Robin Benway

April/May/June are sisters. Their parents have recently divorced and their dad has moved to Houston, Texas. They, with their mother, have moved to a new town and school. April is the oldest, May is the middle child and June the youngest.

April is the studious type – she actually likes school. May is a loner – she doesn’t make friends easy, and June wants to be popular and fit in with the in-crowd. May is having problems with European History and is assigned a tutor. Henry. This seems ironic to her since most the Kings of Europe have been named Henry. Henry is very serious about his studies and hopes to go to Stanford after graduation. He wears everything with the Standford name on it even down to his shoe laces.

June, a freshman, becomes friends with Mariah, a sophomore. Mariah is a little wild and persuades June to ditch school, attend drunken parties and lie to her family. April/May/June are extraordinary girls – they have special powers. April can see the future – May can literally disappear – June can read minds. Will they realize that they need each other before it is too late?

Highly recommended! This is a funny, well written book. You will be amused at the antics the three sisters go through trying to keeps their powers secret. Read how they cope with being teenagers in high school, their first boyfriends and their parent’s divorce. You will learn that there is nothing stronger than sisterhood!

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson

-Reviewed by Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer

Bartholomew Fortuno is a Curiosity residing and performing in Barnum’s American Museum located in Manhattan. He is the World’s Thinnest Man and believes his thinness is a unique gift. The War of Rebellion (commonly known as the Civil War or War between the North and South) has just ended and thing are slowly beginning to get back to normal. Matia is the fat lady and Barthy’s (as she calls him) friend and frequent companion. She resembles a great big porcelain doll. Some of the other Curiosities living at the museum are Richo the Rubber Man, Ally the Giant Boy and Emma the World’s Tallest Woman. After decades of performing, Barthy is losing his contentment.

Barthy liked to sit on the window sill in his room and watch the people and sites of Manhattan. One night some thing happens that turns his world upside down. A veiled lady alights from a carriage and enters the museum. Who is she and why is she here? Rumors are flying – is she a new performer or what? The troops later learn she is Iell Adams, a beautiful red haired lady with a gorgeous silky red beard. She will be performing daily in one of the special rooms in the museum.

Barthy is obsessed with Iell. Something is happening to him. He has eaten only string beans for decades, but now craves food. He is remembering parts of his childhood, especially his mother. Is his thinness really a unique gift or is there something his memory has been blocking out? Barthy find himself in love with Iell and his life in complete shambles.

One must read the book to learn how Barthy handles his love for Iell. What happens to the other Curiosities, and the museum. I found the book a very interesting read. Recommend for those of you who like a little magic, some make believe, some mystery and a curiosity for the odd and unique. You will be transported back to a time when uniqueness was entertainment and people flocked to see the oddballs.

Side Note: P.T. Barnum owned and operated the Manhattan Museum long before he founded his famous circus of today.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

Raven’s Ladder is the third book in a planned four book storyline entitled The Auralia Thread. (The first book in the series, Auralia’s Colors was nominated twice for a Christy Award.) The series is a fully realized mythological world called the Expanse with a complete history, its own language, and fully fleshed out political and religious systems.

In this book, King Cal-raven attempts to lead the survivors of his kingdom, House Abascar, after a cataclysm detailed in the previous books, to a new home. On the way his people are forced to stay at Bel Amica, the sea kingdom of House Bel Amica, which is filled with temptation and focused on self-gratification. A sect of magicians, called Seers, secretly hatch a plot that could mean the end of House Abascar completely. Cal-raven must find a way to take his people away from Bel Amica and towards their new home, New Abascar, which he has seen in visions.

I read this book prior to the other two books in the series and struggled at first with the language and history that I was obviously missing. However, the strong story telling and exciting fantasy adventure theme kept me pushing in to the story. Within 100 pages I was hooked. This is a fantastic fantasy novel – and possibly the best “Christian” fantasy I’ve read so far. All too often Christian authors hold to their allegories too tightly and don’t allow for characters to live and stories to flow. Not so this series. I am so enamored with the series that I plan to read the first two books as well.

I highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy – believers or not.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue by Chuck Black

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

This is the fourth book in the Knights of Arrethtrae series by author Chuck Black. Each book in Black’s series tells the story of one knight who deals with specific trials and temptations but overcomes through faith in the King and the Prince. The stories are a straight forward allegory of how following God, the King, and Jesus, the Prince, help the knights (and ladies), Christians, overcome adversity. In Lady Carliss, we find a young believer who stumbles upon a plot by the evil Shadow Warrior, Satan and the devils. When her fellow knight, Sir Dalton, is poisoned Lady Carliss must embark on a journey to Moorue, a city filled with temptation, to find the antidote.

Many teen novels have found a growing fan base in adult readers, like Twilight, Harry Potter and the Artemis Fowl series, but this book series is strictly for younger readers. The author’s straight forward and obvious plot lines would be satisfying to a younger audience, eight to 12 year-olds, but older or more sophisticated readers will not find enough meat on the bones of the allegory to enthrall. Due to Black’s tight adherence to the allegory he find little to no wriggle room to follow the story and characters where they may lead. The story may become a more satisfying one if it diverged from the Christianity / Salvation theme. Many Christian stories do this successfully, see my review of Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, for an example. Unfortunately, this book left me unsatisfied as a reader.

However, as the father of young children I found the story to be a great tool for instruction and a good stepping stone to better literature – after all reading books, any books really, if fundamental! The author has thoughtfully provided study questions for every chapter and additional extras that make it clear that this book is a teaching tool more than a work of fiction. Recommended to Christian children and tweens, not to older teens or adults.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Devil’s Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

The Templars have fallen on hard times in this young adult horror / fantasy novel by first time novelist Sarwat Chadda. Hunted down by the church and demonic forces over several centuries, only a small group of Templars remain to hold back the darkness. Residing in modern London, Billi SanGreal, the reluctant teenage daughter of the current Head Master of the Templars, Arthur SanGreal, is the newest member of the knighthood. Things take a turn for the worse – possibly Armageddon worse – when one of the Templars accidentally draws the attention of the Angel of Death. What follows is a predictable young adult fantasy with an ending that the reader will see far in advance.

Though predictable in plot, the characters are interesting and the take on the genre is compelling. For secular fans of the genre, this book is worth purchasing and foretells a promising future for Chadda. But for Christian readers the book signifies something more, and less desirable. < This book is the unfortunate result of the popularity of modern fantasy set in real world locales that mix myth, legend and religion into an unholy concoction resulting in the dumbing down of the three complex ingredients. When religion, which most of the world recognizes as real - not fantasy - is mixed with and then placed on the same level as myth or fantasy it becomes equivalent to fantasy, something that faithful readers of all religions should be concerned about. Targeting these books at young adults further complicates the issue as young faithful readers receive a message mixing myth, legends and reality in a way that can make it hard to distinguish between them. In a society that is increasingly Biblically illiterate this spells trouble. To be clear: I have no issue with fantasy. In fact, it is my favorite genre. Fantasy realms like that of Harry Potter, for instance, are set in a fictionalized real world but diverge from reality when it comes to sacred religion. This is vastly preferable as faithful readers can enjoy books like Harry Potter without worry that the author will pit the fantasies of that world against the realities of this one. Because of the equivocation of myth and religion in the world of the Devils Kiss, I do not recommend this book to faithful readers. Secular readers may enjoy a generic, although entertaining young adult fantasy.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.