Mark’s Recommended Books of Christian Fantasy and Christian Historical Fiction.
Christian Fantasy and Christian Historical Fiction.
I think the two go together, especially if we’re talking about a medieval setting, to which I admit I’m partial. Historical fiction, of course, should be true to history, yet engage us in the same ways as does fantasy. When I read I want to be taken to worlds where the rules and cultures are different, where honor and valor matter, and where our hero or heroine is in an epic battle of good against evil. That’s my holy Grail. Those are the kind of books I want to read. And write. What follows are a few of my favorites in these and related categories.
Taliesin, by Stephen R. Lawhead
Taliesin is a surprising book that begins in Atlantis, where Charis, daughter of a king, turns her back on the life planned for her to become a bull dancer in the arena. But the continent is doomed and some of her people escape across the sea to ancient Britain. There, a Celtic people find a babe wrapped in sealskin at the bottom of the river. He is Taliesin, who grows up to become a druid bard unlike any other. His songs stir the heart and mesmerize his audiences. Of course, Charis and Taliesin eventually find each other. Woven within the fantastic is a great depiction of the life and culture of early Britain at a time when the Romans were pulling out, besieged by the Picts, Scotti, and Irish. This is the first book of the Pendragon Cycle, a 5-book series. (Nothing to do with dragons.)
Merlin, by Stephen R. Lawhead
His father was a druid bard, his mother a princess of Atlantis. Taught by the druids, Merlin visited the Otherworld and commanded powers few could equal. He was born to greatness, yet found Christ. In battle he awed both friends and enemies alike with his ferocity, but he fought only from necessity. His goal? To find the king who would rule the Kingdom of Summer and unite the warring clans and kingdoms of ancient Britain into the Land of the Mighty. That person would be Arthur Pendragon.
Oath of the Brotherhood, by C.F. Laureano
In a world built on ancient Celtic society, Conor is a young man with a secret, illegal gift of music. A follower of the banned Balian faith, he arrives at Glenmallaig, the castle of his home clan. He’s about to meet the king, his father, someone he hasn’t seen in years, and a man he hardly knows. Then he learns to his horror that here in Glenmallaig, a Red Druid holds sway. When Conor meets his father, the king seems to have little use or respect for him. Then his father discovers that in Conor’s time away with his foster uncle, he’s not once touched a sword, but has instead studied and learned languages. The king is displeased. And Conor feels increasingly out of place and threatened by the growing influence of the druid and his clan’s hatred of his secret Balian faith.
But layered atop Conor’s personal struggle, larger forces are at work that will eventually pull Conor into an epic struggle between kingdoms and give him a pivotal role in the fight between good and evil. He also meets Aine, the beautiful woman who herself possesses a secret gift that will help in the fight. And the two are drawn toward each other.
All of this makes for a great read in C.F. Laureano’s Oath of the Brotherhood, the first book in her fantasy trilogy, The Song of Seare. This novel is a must read for all fantasy readers. Like few other recent novels, this one kept my interest from beginning to end. I’d barely finished the first book, when I had to start Beneath the Forsaken City, the second in the series. And it was just as good as the first. I’m saving the third book, The Sword and the Song, for my next travels.
The writing is well done. The plot is intriguing. And for me, the setting, based on ancient Celtic society, is a major attraction. I highly recommend this fantasy trilogy.
A Cast of Stones is the first in Carr’s 3-book Staff and the Sword series. Its world is medieval, Machiavellian, and ecclesiastical. Errol Stone is an unredeemed drunkard chosen by the church for an important mission to a hermit priest. Then he’s attacked by assassins. The kingdom needs a new king, but the priesthood controls the process with secrets, plots, and subterfuge. But why did they choose Errol? And what is this mysterious gift he has to read the stones and tell the future? This book was the 2014 winner of the ACFW’s Carrol Award, speculative fiction category. It’s a great read, as are the follow-on books, starting next with The Hero’s Lot.
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
It’s not Christian fiction, but fiction about Christianity. Yet Graham Greene is masterful and this story probes what it means to struggle with faith in the face of persecution. Set in the dystopian Mexico of the 1930s, The Power and the Glory is haunting. God is outlawed, and the Red Shirts are rounding up all priests and shooting them–all but one, the “whiskey priest”. He’s a sinner on the run, clinging to his faith in a world gone mad, struggling with his weaknesses, yet trying to be pious. As he flees through the country, his pursuers are right behind. He seeks redemption, faith, and safety. But his world is collapsing around him.