Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beyond the Summerland

Beyond the Summerland is the compelling, complicated and fast-moving first installment of a five-book fantasy series by L.B. Graham. The Christian element is obvious, as Malek parallels Satan, Allfather is God, and all other created beings must choose whom they will serve. When Malek, one of Allfather's Council of Twelve, oversteps his authority and tries to wrest control of Kirthanin from Allfather, he sets in motion a series of far-reaching, tragic events.

Our story centers on Joraiem, one of the ruling class of Novanna, and the first prophet to be discovered in hundreds of years. The time has come for Joraiem, as well as Novanna from other towns, to set out for Summerland, where they will be trained in matters of war and statesmanship. Although Joraiem is unsure of himself, his skill as an archer and his newly awakened prophetic gifts set him apart from the other men and women in training. Joraiem makes good friends, especially with Aljeron, who travels with a fierce tiger, and the beautiful Wylla, but he makes enemies as well.

However, personal relationships must be set aside as Joraiem and the others are called to the fearsome Forbidden Isle, to see what new evil Malek is intending to unleash on their world. Their investigation results in ambush and the women are kidnapped. The Novanna mount a rescue, which leads them to battle, with skilled Caan, their trainer, and the prophet Valzaan, their mentor, to guide them. With help from the Great Bear, a race of good-willed but reclusive bears, and a reluctant dragon, they defeat the giant Vulsutyrim and the evil Malekim (servants of Malek).

Joraiem's adventures draw him closer to Allfather and he grows in maturity and experience with his gifts of prophecy and foresight. Valzaan is always there to show Joraiem the hand of Allfather on his life. At one point, Joraiem asks if he can choose not to be a prophet, and Valzaan answers,
"You have a choice, but it is not what you think it is. You can never go back to what you would call normal life. . . Your choice is to be faithful to Allfather and answer His call, or to refuse to serve in the way you have been called to serve. There is no third option. You must serve Allfather on His terms, not yours. But, lest you think you are an exception, know that this is true for all. Allfather calls us to serve, and it is His right to choose the manner of our service. To serve Allfather in any capacity is an honor."

The book is full of wisdom based on biblical principles, but it has enough adventure and suspense most readers will be unable to put it down until the end.

What I Like:
I always like a good fantasy, and this is one of the best I have read in a while. Graham builds a believable world, filled with characters we can all relate to. His characters are complex and face choices for good or evil, in an often-confusing, ambiguous world. My favorite part of the book is the clear picture Graham gives us of various people's relationships with God (Allfather). From Valzaan, the prophet, to Andunin, the first human to embrace killing, we see the way choices affect the future for good or evil.

I also like the adventure. Graham paints vibrant word pictures to describe dessert, forest and city settings, and there are many unexpected twists and turns along the way. Suspense and danger are never far away, even when you least expect it.

What I Dislike: Plot Spoiler Ahead! I generally like happy endings, and this book does not have one. My sister (a child and family counselor) says books portraying realistic and even tragic events can be therapeutic for children dealing with trauma. Also, life isn't perfect, and tragic things sometimes happen to committed Christians. However, I was shocked when Joraiem was killed by another Novanna, who was jealous of his recent marriage to Wylla. I was so sad--Joraiem had survived all sorts of terrible battles, only to be senselessly murdered. I quickly scanned book two (I will review it soon) in the hopes there had been a mistake, or Joraiem would be resurrected, but it doesn't appear to be the case. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series to see how Graham's strong faith will redeem the tragic end.

It takes the first few chapters to get used to the way Graham transitions between locations, times, and dreams versus reality. It would be easier to follow if he used a series of asterisks, but it didn't take long to figure out.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: Young Adult (14-21)

Publisher Info: P & R Publishing, 2004; ISBN: 978-0-87552-720-8; Paperback, $16.99

Special Note: The book is nearly 600 pages, and would be ideal for teens who need an involved book to keep them busy during the summer.

Buy it Now at for $13.99

OR Buy it at for $11.55.

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Wendy said...

Love the series! My husband and I have both read them and can't wait for our little guy to be old enough. My husband is L.B.'s best friend; they grew up together. Not only is L.B. an amazing author, but he's a wonderful father and devoted friend!

Erin said...

Thanks Wendy, for writing. It is hard to review just one book in a series sometimes. . . I'll miss Joraiem, but can't wait to see what happens with everyone else. I am glad to know you enjoy the whole series! Erin

L.B. Graham said...

Erin, thanks for the kind review. I hope the rest of the series will make up for Joraiem's abrupt exit. I realize it is little consolation that his death was 'necessary' for the road ahead, but it is my hope that the real climax at the end of "All My Holy Mountain" will justify any distress caused at this early junction in the story...

Erin said...

Mr. Graham,

Thanks for your encouraging words. "Bringer of Storms" is next on my list for fiction reviews. :) I assumed there would be a greater purpose in Joraiem's death, but I am glad to hear it from you.

Thanks for writing exciting adventures with Christian themes!


Sheri said...

Thanks for the great information, it's so hard to read every book before all my boys do!