Reviewed by Phee Paradise
By Bryan M. Litfin
What do you think a society that has forgotten God would look like? I imagine it as godless, but civilized. But in The Sword, Litfin’s Chiveis is pagan, not godless. Four hundred years after a nuclear holocaust, the Chiveisis worship a pantheon of nasty gods. Many of the people are not very devout, but the priesthood is powerful, and no one knows there might be other options - until protagonists, Teo and Ana find a copy of the sacred writings of the Ancients.
Chiveis is an interesting mix of pagan, medieval and modern culture. They are dominated by their gods, but, like the Romans, they live self-centered lives without concern for morality. They are aware that their ancestors had knowledge they don’t, but they are content to live without it.
This is the backdrop for Teo and Ana’s story. It starts with action, when she rescues him in the wilderness and he returns the favor. Their adventures bring them together, but their values are different and they can’t quite admit to the romance that’s obvious to everyone else. As they struggle with their relationship, they also face the consequences of following the creator God.
I expected the discovery of the Truth to be a slowly increased understanding, like the sky getting lighter when the sun rises. But Teo and Ana’s small group of believers grasp the whole revelation of God, including redemption and forgiveness, in just a few months. Even more amazing, they only have access to the Old Testament and have only translated part of Genesis, Psalms and the book of Ruth. They even have time to develop heresy within their small group of believers. In spite of this, this community of believers develops a strong faith.
The Sword is built on a great concept and is worth reading for a lot of reasons. Watching someone discover God for the first time will help you see your faith in a new light. As good battles evil, you will be surprised in the ways God acts – or doesn’t act. This was the most striking part of the book for me. When the evil god attacks, God does not always protect His people in spectacular ways. They know He can, and pray He will, but learn that His ways are not our ways. Yet, they see His action in their small, daily activities.
Unfortunately, the book has some writing flaws. The timelines are unrealistic and the characters act impulsively. Some of the characters are predictable (every woman is beautiful) and the dialogue is a little stiff. Characters use American colloquialisms like “okay” and “how come.” They seem out of place in what used to be Switzerland, four hundred years after a holocaust. This is Litfin’s first novel, and I am sure that the next book will have fewer of these flaws.
Pros: Fascinating treatment of a first encounter with God. The book also has appealing characters and unexpected plot twists.
Cons: The setting is confusing and the dialogue is sometimes unnatural.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
After marrying his high school sweetheart, Carolyn (a true Southern belle), he went on to study for a master’s degree in historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. From there he went to the University of Virginia, taking a PhD in the field of ancient church history. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007), as well as several scholarly articles and essays.
In 2002, Bryan took a position on the faculty at Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago, where he is a professor in the Theology Department. He teaches courses in theology, church history, and Western civilization from the ancient and medieval periods.
On the morning of January 6, 2007, Bryan woke up with an epiphany. Having finished writing his primer on the ancient church, he had the idea of trying his hand at fiction. The thought occurred to him that the writer of speculative fiction typically has two options. He can create an imaginary land like Middle Earth (which offers great creative freedom but is unrealistic), or he can delve into genuine history (which is realistic, yet limted to what ‘actually occurred.’) However, if a writer were to create a future world as in the Chiveis trilogy, it could be both realistic and creatively unlimited.
This little dream stayed in Bryan’s mind while he researched how to write fiction, and also researched the European landscape where the novel would be set. He planned a trip to the story locations, then went there in the summer with a buddy from grad school. Bryan and Jeff rented a Beemer and drove all over Europe from the Alps to the Black Forest with a video camera in hand. With that epic setting fresh in his mind, Bryan returned home and began to write.
Today Bryan lives in downtown Wheaton in a Victorian house built in 1887. He is blessed by God to be married to Carolyn, and to be the father of two amazing children, William, 11, and Anna, 9. For recreation Bryan enjoys basketball, traveling, and hiking anywhere there are mountains (which means getting far away from the Midwest – preferably to his beloved Smokies).
ABOUT THE BOOK
Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book.
With that discovery, this work of speculative fiction takes readers on a journey that encompasses adventure, romance, and the revelation of the one true God. Through compelling narrative and powerful character development, The Sword speaks to God's goodness, his refusal to tolerate sin, man's need to bow before him, and the eternality and power of his Word. Fantasy and adventure readers will be hooked by this first book in a forthcoming trilogy.
Visit the book website at The Sword to see amazing videos and a wealth of information about the trilogy!
To read the first chapter of The Sword, click to HERE
Monday, April 19, 2010
Reviewed by Phee Paradise