(As part of the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of the book from the publisher).
(There be major spoilers below–beware, you who have not read the book and wish to remain unspoiled!)
Day 3 of the Blog Tour was yesterday, but teaching commitments called, so here’s the quick and dirty assessment of the faith-based aspect of the book.
There isn’t one.
There is no direct mention of a Creator, nor even a strongly allegorical turn of phrase that suggests a higher being. The closest thing the book comes to a God/Satan dynamic is in the struggled between the old, crotchety wiseman Ealdstan and the tricky, rebellious wiseman Gad. However, Ealdstan is far too fractious and cynical to embody any sort of Godlike or Christlike figure–if anything, he reads like a war-torn angel who’s been in the battle so long he’s partly forgotten why he’s there. And, as I mentioned in the previous review, Gad is far too tame and small-time to come close to a Prince of Darkness–if anything he’s more like a disenchanted demon who’s gone off seeking his own glory. Of course, in both cases the comparisons are immaterial, because I do not believe Ross Lawhead is trying to make them.
Rather than deal with faith-based storylines, the author seems content to spin a basic tale of good vs. evil, using the existing morals and evils embedded within Old English mythology. This works out well enough within the context of a young adult/adult novel. I’m certainly not an advocate of forcing preachy themes into a fantasy story. However, a part of me would have liked higher stakes. Since the main representatives of good and evil are so weak and petty, I found it hard to buy into any sense of life-and-death urgency.
That being said, Lawhead does include this bit of prose that seems to point towards a belief in the impossible – ie, faith:
“Just because something cannot be proven true doesn’t mean it isn’t true — even if its claim to truth is unlikely. In fact, it’s more likely an improbable truth would be recorded than a probable one.” (pg 19)
In the scene Freya is arguing with a lecturer at Oxford that Old English mythology is in fact real. She is bolstered by her first-hand experience as a child with mythological creatures . Her logic shows interesting parallels to Lucy’s experience in Narnia from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Lucy also faces unbelief from her siblings Peter and Susan, but their seemingly-rational doubt is countered by the logic of the Professor:
“For instance–if you will excuse me for asking the question–does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?”
“That’s just the funny thing about it, sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.”
“And what do you think, my dear?” said the Professor turning to Susan.
“Well,” said Susan, “in general, I’d say the same as Peter, but this couldn’t be true–all this about the wood and the Faun…”
…“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”
In both of these instances, the improbable truth is doubted by the rational mind–for it seems foolishness to believe in a magical land of cursed by eternal winter, or of a forgotten underground realm peopled by brownies, yfelgopes, and sleeping knights of old. However, within the context of the books, both of these lands are real.
Just as to many, the truth of Jesus Christ is foolishness, for the purely rational mind cannot comprehend true wisdom without Godly intervention:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-21 NIV).
May we all be blessed to turn from the world’s “wisdom” and receive the light of God’s holy “foolishness!”
Thank you for joining me on this blog tour. Stay tuned – exciting things are in store!
Read the Extraordinary. Responsibly.
(Actually, after reviewing the text, there is another religious presence — Reverend Maccanish, who is trying to preserve his parish from an evil presence that is disturbing their waking and sleeping hours. Alex Simpson goes to investigate the area, and finds the priest holding a 24-hours prayer vigil in the church. Alex acknowledges that prayer was the best thing to do, and that the evil from the Realms Thereunder is a spiritual one. Furthermore, Reverend Maccanish is the one who deals the death blow to a dragon! A pretty strong showing for a man of faith. However, in the end it is Alex and Ecbryt who are ultimately the ones Freya and Daniel team up with).
Other bloggers of insight on the tour:
CSFF Blog Tour
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Rachel Starr Thomson