My 12 and ups really like fantasy novels, but finding a series that is worth reading is tough. In a genre that has the potential to uplift and inspire (C.S. Lewis and Tolkien being prime examples), it seems difficult to find a series that does just that.
I spent the week reading a Christian fantasy series because it had everything my children were looking for–dragons, a strong female character, and adventure. To be honest, at the beginning of the book I started to wonder if I would be able to get through all the made up words…there were a lot of them. Thank heavens she has a pronunciation guide in the back! But, after my initial confusion in trying to figure out which race was which and what they were supposed to look like in my imagination, I began to really like the book.
It is well written. It has a nice vocabulary. My only complaint is that there do seem to be quite a number of battle scenes. The characters only fight “lower races” which are kind of like monsters–most of whom cannot reason–but I am not a fan of violence in any form. The characters are careful to only defend…so that is good, but I would have preferred less of it–and much less description.
The story is a Biblical allegory, but I did not find it too preachy (although it is completely obvious, but I actually enjoyed it). I liked some of the insights I was reminded of throughout the story. The relationships developed are healthy and the romance is beautiful and chaste. (For real chaste, not Twilight chaste).
If you are interested, the series is the Keepers of the Dragons Chronicles, and the first book in the series is DragonSpell. I think it will be fun for my 13 and 15 year old (although my son might not be interested at first–the first book is from the female character’s point of view, but book three is a male point of view). They’ve already expressed a great deal of enthusiasm with the storyline.
And speaking of dragons, one of our family’s favorite fantasy novel series is called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, starting with the charming Dealing With Dragons and practical Princess Cimorene. Witty and with just enough adventure (but very little violence), this is a crowd pleaser.
My husband even enjoyed it. My children have also very much enjoyed the audiobooks (although I find some of the character’s voice grating, the children don’t seem to, and Cimorene’s voice is very pleasant).
It’s an easy to read book, in my opinion, suitable for eight and ups. Maybe even a little younger, if they are okay with an occasional reference to a dragon eating someone.
I tried to read Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley, but I don’t like her writing style. Yes, she has a great command of the English language, but just because you can use ten million words to describe something doesn’t mean you should. With every single book I’ve read of hers, I always feel trapped. The story is just interesting enough for me to feel like I have to read it to the end, but it is irritating the whole way through.
It’s kind of like eating smoked oysters. You really like that first taste, but the smell and the fishy aftertaste–ugh. Then, when you have to brush your teeth six times, swish with Listerine, and get a new toothbrush, you wonder why you ate them in the first place.
So, that’s my review of works by Robin McKinley–they are like smoked oysters. Also, the romance is just not real to me and sometimes seems kind of chauvinistic.
Years ago, the “Ologies” series of books were all the rage. All of the children have seen some of these books, but their hands down favorite (and one we have gotten in multiple copies), is Dragonology.
Whimsical and educational, this book has actually been very helpful when they decide to write their own stories. They take Dragonology and use it for “research” in writing their own books about dragons.
There are many more books by Dr. Drake on the subject of dragons which are fun and fascinating.
I was first introduced to the idea of modern Christian fantasy with the Dragons In Our Midst series. While I appreciated the original story, I found that the author spent a lot of time talking about demons and dark things. In fact, it became such a large part of the story, that I decided we needed to quit reading the series. Also, the premise that people could be dragons is a bit disconcerting.
What I appreciated about Donita K. Paul is that she doesn’t dwell on darkness any longer than is necessary, and the focus of the book is always light.
Bryan Davis, the author of Dragons In Our Midst doesn’t know how to dwell on light and still tell a compelling story, or he simply found it too difficult and defaulted to blaming it on caricatures of demons.