Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fall Reading 2016 Fate of Flames (Effigies #1)


Imagine a world subject to attack by Phantoms - strange creatures that resemble the giant things that the Chitauri fly around on when they attack New York in "The Avengers." There are supposedly safe zones with techie defenses that prevent the Phantoms from appearing, but they sometimes fail. And all bets are off if you're outside the safe zones. Got that pictured clearly?

Now, imagine that there are defenders called Effigies. They happen to be teenage girls and there are only four at a time. Each one wields a different element; earth, air, fire, and water. When one Effigy dies, her powers are passed to a successor. The girls are trained and given tactical support by an international group called the Sect. Still pretty clear?

So, in this world, an Effigy has just died and her successor has not told anyone about her new powers. That is our protagonist, Maia. As the tale progresses, we come to see more of her world, learn a little of the history of the Phantom and Effigies, and start to have some serious doubts about whether the Sect is being honest. Imagine a group that literally has the fate of the world in their hands. Wouldn't the temptation be there to keep things from the public and maneuver for political power? Is that part of what is going on? And on top of that, the Effigies are hormonal teenage girls with all the problems that a normal teen has, plus having to battle monsters.

There are bits to appeal to lots of different types of readers. There is the urban fantasy with the monsters and the elemental powers. There is intrigue and possible conspiracy theory about the Sect, and the source of the Phantoms. There is girl power and cat fights, with Maia trying to learn how to use her powers and get to know the other Effigies. It could also be seen as a super heroine story, although they don't wear masks and capes.

For readers who enjoyed The Naturals by Jennifer Lynne Barnes, this has a similar feel. The new recruit, the jostling for pecking order in the group, the murky history and secrets. It also reminds me of the Hunter books by Mercedes Lackey.

Recommended for ages 12+.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Fall Reading 2016 Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

Reading Madeleine L'Engle is always a moving experience, whether it is one of her novels or her essays. This exploration of what it means to be an artist and, even more, to be a Christian artist, is full of the deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking. L'Engle shares stories of her family, her career, her faith, and quotes from favorite authors and theologians to illustrate what she sees as the artist's role. But she does not discuss art in isolation; she acknowledges the connection between art and life, chaos and order, faith and creativity. One particular idea she comes back to throughout the book is how children see the world and accept when inexplicable things happen, but how we lose that ability as we grow up. "The artist...must retain the vision which includes angels and dragons and unicorns and all the lovely creatures which our world would put in a box marked Children Only." It is insights such as this that make her work such a pleasure to read, and to ponder.

Highly recommended for fans of her work, and for those interested in the relationship of art and faith.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.