Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Dragonwitch" Delivers!

“In the divine, we find the satisfaction of contradictions. We find the wholeness of broken things and belief in the impossible.” Eanrin, the Chief Poet of Rubidos (who sometimes happens to be a cat). 

Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is a tale of a formidable realm on the verge of crowning its first king. The House of Geheris is the seat of power for Earl Ferox. His able administration over the land has given him favor with neighboring earls of the North Country. They are sure to pledge their allegiance to House of Geheris and become one, unified kingdom. 

The problem is, the aging and ill Ferox has no heir. It’s been arranged for his nephew Alistair to be groomed for the position of future earl . . . and, presumably, king. But, as fairytales must go, there is nothing straightforward about Alistair’s destiny. Between studies that he loathes, a bride-to-be who is a virtual stranger, and a reoccurring nightmare that plunders his sleep, the young man is a wreck. All this before anything of importance actually happens to Alistair, or for that matter, in the story. One thing that stands out: he is a broken and despondent person.  

This tale of prophecy and predicaments, nursery rhymes and revelations, goblins and faeries, is really three tales that weave together into one reality. The different layers were a bit hard to piece together at first, but I believe that was intentional. Watching the threads intertwine became a delight. The author's transcendent Christian worldview glowed within each stratum, yet never glared.

Those of us that love Christ and fantasy have had limited reading material until the last few years (one reason I’ve taken to writing in this genre myself). The stalwarts of allegory, Lewis and Tolkien, have played the game with a sparse team for quite a seventh-inning stretch. It's great to see Christian publishers, like Bethany House, scouting some serious talent. 

Dragonwitch is a heavy hitter on this allegorical team. The beauty of the author’s prose, the depths of truth that were portrayed, and the stellar character development, all made for one pleasurable read. I found myself digging for a pen to underline poignant reminders of the reality that exists, even in fairytales. 

Especially in fairytales.

With adept skill, Stengl offers readers an adventure that encompasses legend, the supernatural, and life within the walls of palace and pagan lands. Such depth in storytelling makes a brief review a challenge. I cannot offer a nutshell synopsis of the highlights, for there were too many. 

Instead, I’ll leave you with a recommendation to get Dragonwitch for yourself (as an aside, I do not care for the title. Seems a bit melodramatic for such a savvy tale. And I wish two of the main characters had not had such similar names. I struggled to keep them straight throughout). Beyond that, I found this book a page-turner and a solid motivator for my own writing.

I will also leave you with another quote from my favorite character, Eanrin, the Chief Poet of Rudiobus:

“Creature of dust, it’s the truth that counts! And you’ll rarely find more truth than in Faerie tales.”

**I was provided with a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. 

At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.