Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Door in the Dragon's Throat

The Door in the Dragon's Throat is the first in well-known author Frank E. Peretti's Cooper Kids Adventure Series. Peretti writes a fast-paced adventure story reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies series. Perfect for kids who don't scare easily and have a short attention span for reading, Peretti combines action, archaeology, regional superstitions and the Biblical message "Our God is greater (than evil)."
14-year-old Jay Cooper and his 13-year-old sister Lila join their father in the Middle Eastern nation of Nepur, with a mission to discover the truth within the Dragon's Throat. The Dragon's Throat is an underground cavern in the desert, surrounded by a wasteland. Deep within the cavern is a door no one has ever been able to open. In fact, other explorers have died in the attempt. The President of Nepur hopes to increase his wealth by unearthing treasure rumored to lie behind the door. He has heard Dr. Cooper is a Christian, and is not afraid of curses or superstitions, so he hires Dr. Cooper to unlock the door's secrets.
Dr. Cooper refuses to travel without Jay or Lila, and they are already skilled members of his archaeological team. Jay specializes in sonar equipment and explosives, while Lila is the organizer and nurse. The family, working with their own team and a local guide named Gozan, quickly set up investigations of the Dragon's Throat. They are undeterred by local superstitions, earthquakes, the warnings of a mysterious shaman, and kidnapping. In one hair-raising scene after another, we see them narrowly miss disaster and give the credit to God.
As the adventure progresses, with barely a pause between near-misses, the plot takes a turn for the bizarre. We learn that the Dragon's Throat is actually the pit referenced in Revelation 9, which houses "locusts... [who] were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth...their torture was like the torture of the scorpion, when it stings a man." Thus, the challenge to open the door becomes a race to lock the door before the President and the double-crossing Gozan can open it. Since this is the first book in a series, it is no surprise that Jay, Lila and their father are successful in locking the door. Peretti ends the book by writing:
"Someday the end of history will come. Someday Satan will
have his very short time of unleashed evil and destruction upon
mankind. But now, then and always, there is only one great power truly in charge: Jesus, the Victor, the Lamb, the Son of the Living God."
What I Like: I like the overarching message that "our God is greater." Dr. Cooper, Jay and Lila repeat this message in various situations, and it leaves a lasting impression on other characters in the book. We even see the mysterious shaman turn to Christ as a result of Jay and Lila's faith.
I also like Peretti's comment at the end of the book (see above quote). In a scary book dealing with alarming concepts, it is nice to end on a positive note.
Although I personally like books with more description, The Door in the Dragon's Throat is perfect for struggling or impatient readers. There is plenty of action and suspense to keep readers interested and turning the pages, without a lot of description or dialogue to slow them down.
What I Dislike: The Door in the Dragon's Throat is probably too scary for most 8 and 9-year-olds. (The publisher lists the appropriate age as 8 - 12 on the back of the book.) I don't have trouble with the suspenseful scenes; though they keep readers on the edge of their seats, they are alarming but not too frightening. However, once Peretti introduces the concept of scorpion-like demons being held at bay by an earthly door and key, the book changes from exciting to scary. Because Peretti bases his story on Biblical concepts, adults cannot soothe children's fears by saying, "It is just pretend and would never really happen." I don't think most 8 and 9-year-olds have a good working knowledge of the Book of Revelation, and while I am not opposed to introducing it to them, it would take a lot of teaching for me to feel comfortable explaining the locusts coming out of the pit during end times. Although the theme of the book is "our God is greater," it still seems children could worry about giant locusts coming out of the earth.
I also wish we were told more directly whether Gozan and the President became Christians and survived. I was disappointed their fate was left ambiguous, as they were central to the storyline.
On occasion, Peretti also switches from being a teen writer to an adult writer. Peretti tells us about the conversion of the shaman in somewhat adult terms, instead of writing out the scene and showing us. He says, "Jay and Lila began to tell the old Chaldean sorcerer how to put aside his ancient occultic crafts and find true peace and forgiveness in Jesus. They had to put the gospel into pretty simple terms, but before long the old man began to understand that Jesus...paid the price for sins with His own life so every person could be set free... ." This wording sounds adult and would be stronger written as dialogue between Jay, Lila and the shaman.
Overall Rating: Very Good (for the middle school/early high school crowd).

No comments: