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 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 Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site 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.

Green by Ted Dekker

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

Stephen Lawhead did an interview that was published in the back of a recent edition of his excellent Song of Albion trilogy where the interviewer asked him if he would ever go back to Albion and write a sequel. Lawhead answered with the equivalent of “No [bleeping] way!”

I first read Ted Dekker’s Circle Trilogy several years ago. I remember with vivid clarity the beautiful world that he created where God literally played with his followers. The scene in Black, the first book, where Thomas Hunter found the lake upside down and gravity non-existent was marvelous! As Michael said, “Oh, he sometimes does things like this.” loved it!
As the series went on I enjoyed the pace and grandness of the story. Would Thomas save the world? Was the world of Thomas’ dreams the future, an allegory for Heaven, or the real world? Again, I loved it. So when Green was announced I was full of anticipation of finding out what happened next.

Unfortunately, what happened was the proof that Lawhead was right. You should never go back. As I read Green, I became more and more frustrated that the book had been written at all. Once I finished Green, I went back and re-read Black just to be certain of my conclusions prior to publishing them in this review. My recollections were correct: Green should not be part of the Circle.

As a fan of the Circle Trilogy, I believe it was a terrible decision to write this book. The new ending/ beginning was completely unsatisfying (why would God do what he did at the end of Green when we already know what happens?) The addition of vampires was the nail in the coffin. If you want to read the Circle Trilogy go ahead. Just don’t read Green.

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit for more information on this book.

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The Secret of Indigo Moon by G.P. Taylor

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

I had previously started to read Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor but hadn’t gotten in too far before I set it aside so I wasn’t expecting much out of his new series. The quote on the back cover of the book calling G.P. Taylor, “The new C.S. Lewis” didn’t help either. Yet, sometimes out of nowhere there comes a revelation. When I opened The Secret of Indigo Moon, book two in The Dopple Ganger Chronicles I had one of those moments.

The story is standard fare for youth fiction. A young man and his twin friends live at a school for abandoned children and stumble upon a theft and decide to investigate. Enter their enemy from the first book, along with a soft-hearted henchman, and a cast of interesting if unoriginal characters and you have the ingredients for a story that any middle schooler would enjoy. But it wasn’t the story that was the revelation. It was the presentation.

Open the book and you immediately find yourself in an amazing world of line art, comic book pages, fantastic fonts and typeset pages. Illustrations give form to the characters that imagination can sometimes leaves incomplete. Huge two-page drawings, like the clock on page 2 and 3, cause the reader to switch between reading to interpreting (you have to tell the time yourself,) and then back to reading on page 4 then to comics on pages 5 and 6. The multimedia experience keeps the reader involved from the start. I loved it!

It seems that anyone can write a teen fantasy judging from the volume of new titles on any bookstore shelf. But something different can serve to get a teen who perhaps doesn’t read to become a reader or those give those who like to read something different. G.P. Taylor isn’t the new C.S. Lewis but he did come up with a great idea for a series of books.

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit for more information on this book.

C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

Focus on the Family and Tyndale take C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, a series of imaginative and insightful letters from a senior demon, the title character Screwtape, to his novice nephew Wormwood, and add over four hours of audio by an accomplished cast of actors, like Andy Serkis, Gollum from the Lord of the Rings movies as Screwtape, and 10 original songs written for this production all in 5.1 surround sound. The Collectors Edition comes with 4 CDs and 1 DVD in a tri-fold case with original artwork with a slipcover. All 10 original songs are included in their entirety on disc four. Disc 5 includes behind the scenes featurettes.

Anyone familiar with the original book by Lewis will instantly recognize his witty and timely message; nothing is lost in the translation. The actors play their part just right – not too over the top and certainly not blandly. The original score hits just the right creepy note. The benefits of the 5.1 surround sound can not be over-stated.

The packaging is well done and gives the impression of worth even though the set only costs about $27 on
. ($39.99 MSRP.)

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this well done audio dramatization of Lewis’ excellent book. So many times the publishers don’t put in the effort on audio books and we end up with a lame soundtrack read by a boring voice actor. Not so with The Screwtape Letters. I highly recommend it to you.

For more information visit the official site.

Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site 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.