Author: Joe Boyd
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing (March 2010)
Rating: 4 out of 5
Source: FSB Associates (thanks Anna!)
About the book: from the publishers
In this work of allegorical fantasy, author Joe Boyd takes us on a pilgrimage to a land of two kingdoms, but only one true King. An ancient land, where children never grow old. A living land, where foundations grow in trees and rivers sing and breathe. But also a dying land, where the darkness of a false prince threatens to swallow everything in its shadow.My thoughts:
Enter the adventure with Tommy, a child of the Great King, as he and his friends accept the challenge to live as grown men and women in the Lower Kingdom—where hope is hidden, vision is clouded, and pride twists truth into a beautiful yet deadly deception.
I thought long and hard about the genre of this book. It's obviously a fantasy book. That was made crystal clear by the time I hit the second paragraph of the first chapter:
The palace marked the heart of this mountain kingdom -- the Upper Kingdom, which had no beginning, but always was. The Great King, whose name was ancient and unpronounceable, ruled the entire expanse of the Upper Kingdom -- every tree and animal, every stream and pathway. His son, the Good Prince, faithfully served his father with eternal devotion. The King and Prince had justly and lovingly ruled their subjects for as long as anyone could remember.Will young readers who enjoy fantasy enjoy this book? Yes. It has all the components necessary for a successful fantasy: magical elements, universally scary situations tempered by the soft cushion of fantasy, a hero or heroes that must face seemingly insurmountable tasks, and an evil character that seems more outlandish and cartoon-like in this created world. So taken as just a fantasy, this is the story of a little boy and a loving prince who sees potential in this boy to do great things. He sends him on a quest to the lower kingdom where, with an older mentor, he and his two friends must destroy the evil king and stop this king from bringing chaos on the world. Along the way, they are helped by a nurturing river, as well as strangers who end up being valuable assets to these children.
However, this is not just a fantasy. This is also a Christian allegory. We have the King (in caps) of the Upper Kingdom. He's a more hands-off King, allowing his son, the Good Prince to deal with the minutia of the kingdoms. People in the Upper Kingdom are all 7 years old, and they stay that way forever. I hesitate to read too much into this, but there are several stories in the Bible where Jesus (the Good Prince) talks about being like children in order to get into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3). When children of the King move into the lower kingdom, they transform and grow old. They start to forget what it was like in the Upper Kingdom and are easily swayed by the evil king. Still there are pockets of people in the lower kingdom that still serve the King, and they continue to do the work for the Good Prince.
Again, does this have to read as a Christian allegory? No. I think if you regard it as such, it will seem too heavy handed as a story. The connections and lessons in this allegory just wash over me like a strong wave and I found that I had to just read this as a story, and actually turn off the Christianity aspect of it. I never forgot that the Good Prince was the more approachable and hands on Jesus versus the overseeing and somewhat distant King (God), but I didn't linger on that. I think the story on its own, and the tension and twists and turns at the end are enough to sustain it as a great story. If I dwell too much on the morality of this story, then I lose the excitement of the climax. Of course good will triumph over evil eventually - God's soldiers will always overcome evil in the end - but I needed to forget that in order to savor the enormity of the task that the three protagonists must face.
I think what I'm trying to say is that I acknowledge that this is a Christian allegory, but if you have reluctant tween readers, sell this as a fantasy. The story is exciting, action-packed and reader-friendly.