Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beorn the Proud

Beorn the Proud, Madeleine Polland
(1961; reprinted, Bethlehem Books, 1999), pb., 185 pp.

This is a story of Viking raids, Ireland and Denmark in the 9th century with an adventure centering around a boy and girl. We really like good historical fiction and have enjoyed many books from this publisher so we were excited to get back to this book which we ran out of time for the last time we went through this time period. However, this book was a disappointment.

On the positive side, the book has an explicit Christian message. The girl in the story, Ness, is an Irish Christian and she advocates the faith to her Viking captors, including Beorn, the son of the chief. The contrast of a God of love versus a god of war and slaughter is discussed, as well as the value of humility rather than arrogance. This is good. However, the Christianity discussed is fairly vague.

Negatively, the story is just not told well. At a couple of places the telling is so vague as to cause confusion for several pages before ideas were explained. There was some adventure and intrigue but it was not compellingly delivered.

So, this book is tolerable but there are plenty of others which provide a more realistic portrait of the era in a more engaging manner.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

The Tower of Geburah

The Tower of Geburah , by John White

The Archives of Anthropos Series, vol. 3
(InterVarsity, 1978), pb., 402 pp.
Ages 8+

We have just finished reading volume 3 in the Archives of Anthropos, The Tower of Geburah, by John White and we really enjoyed it.  I have commented previously on our appreciation of vol 1 and vol 2

John, the main character from the first two volumes, is now a grown man.  When his nephews and niece visit one time they stumble upon a magical connection to the world of Anthropos (obvious borrowing from the Chronicles of Narnia).  As in the previous stories the children have been called into Anthropos to help fight the forces of darkness.  This time they work with good King Kardia (Greek for “heart”), Princess Suneidesis (Greek for “conscience”), and Lady Chocma (Hebrew for “wisdom”).  The children must battle temptation, fear, and treachery in order to be faithful to Gaal (the Jesus figure) and help overcome the forces of evil.

At times we wished the book would give more information as it moved along because people, places or events at times show up with little introduction.  However, we really enjoyed the action and adventure, the pictures of nobility, and our need for redemption.  The point is made well that we are all in need to rescue and that Christ “receiveth sinful men” forgiving, restoring and empowering them.

Also as before many (perhaps most) of the proper names (people, things and places) are plays off Greek and Hebrew words.  I am working on a document to post soon as a guide to these names.  It will be preliminary (we have not yet read all six books and I am not sure on all the names yet), but I hope it will be of use to others.

Some people look down their noses at books that obviously imitate others, as this series clearly draws from and imitates C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald and J. R. R. Tolkien.  I, however, disagree with such condescension.  The books do not aspire to originality.  Rather they provide more entertaining and edifying opportunities to engage in similar story telling.  They do not rise to the level of Lewis or Tolkien, but that is no harsh criticism!  We really enjoyed this book and commend it to you.