Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ryan Watters and the Shield of Faith

Three months on Earth have passed since Ryann Watters and his friends Liddy and Terell traveled to a magical world called Aeliana. Aeliana is filled with elves, dragons, unicorns, dwarves, and a collection of other fantastical creatures. While they were there in the past, Ryann and his friends went on an adventure. They located the Kings Sword and returned to Earth with special items given to them by the angel Gabriel.

In Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith, book two in the Ryann Watters series by Eric Reinhold, another portal to Aeliana is opened. Once again, Ryann and his friends are given a quest, this time to find the Shield of Faith. However, time works differently in Aeliana. The three soon discover that not only have they been gone for hundreds of years, but evil has taken hold of Aeliana in the form of a black unicorn named Narcissus, who has declared himself king and corrupted the worship of the Word to suit his own ends.

Befriended by an elf named Ireth, the adventurers meet a white unicorn named Carwyn. Carwyn says, “Come, follow me.” They do. Carwyn continues to call others, forming a small group (the “Chosen”). While some in the group are hopeful Carwyn will bring in a mighty army to fight Narcissus and save Aeliana, the gentle nature of Carwyn hints at a different kind of redemption. In addition, Carwyn reveals that one in the group will betray him, one will deny him, and another will be a hero.

The parallels between Carwyn and Jesus are quite obvious. Both called their followers, performed many miracles, and ultimately sacrificed themselves to save the world. Many red words of Scripture are quoted and worked into the text of the story as Carwyn interacts with his followers. However, the death scene is different. Instead of dying in a public way, as Jesus did on the cross, Carwyn’s death is witnessed only by Ryann, who stows away on a boat carrying Narcissus and his minions. Plus, there is no “rolling away of the stone”, so to speak. Flying through the air, the resurrected Carwyn meets them in the cave. The author addresses these differences by bringing up an interesting point: If there were other worlds that had fallen like Earth, how would their savior appear to them and redeem them?

The cover illustration is delightful. However, the shield shown was not actually in Ryann’s possession during the scene depicted. It’s not until the end of the story that Ryann finds the Shield of Faith. (Up until that point, the actual quest for the physical shield was a largely overlooked part of the story. Eventually, readers realize that the true Shield of Faith is more of an inward decision to follow the Word.)

What I Like: Ryann, the main and most vivid character in the story, serves as a good role model. He searches for answers in the Bible. He demonstrates faith and courage. And he asks the kinds of faith questions many teens face. The author also pulled in themes of faith, trust, surrender, and courage. I believe the story is a worthwhile read for those seeking a fantasy story well rooted in Christian faith.

What I Dislike: As an adult, this book didn’t hook my interest the way other pieces of YA fantasy have. I don’t know how to best describe my reaction other than Aelianna seemed to lack the richness needed to make it seem real and believable. (To be fair, this may be due to the fact that I did not read book one in the series.) However, I can imagine a ten-to-twelve-year old totally enjoying the book—loving it, in fact—and as a parent I appreciate the clear takeaway value of the underlying morals in the story.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 9-12

Publisher Info: Creation House, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-59979-626-0; Hardcover, 400 PGS., $19.99

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Buy the Kindle version of book one for $9.99, Ryan Watters and the King's Sword.

Special Info: Visit this author's website.
Read a Top Pick CCBR review of book one, Ryann Watters and the King's Sword.

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