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Sunday, April 15, 2007

It's CSFF Blog Tour Day One: Karen Hancock's Return of The Guardian King

Today is the first day of a 3 Day Blog Tour
for Karen Hancock's wonderful new fantasy tale:

Return of the Guardian King

Much more in the coming days, but for now:
If you'd like to see what Amazon has to say about The Return of the Guardian King, click HERE.

If you'd like to learn more about Karen Hancock, visit her site by clicking HERE or her blog by clicking HERE.

Wayne's Incomplete Review:
I begin by confessing, I haven't finished RotGK yet. I further confess that I have not read the first three books of Karen's series. SO please understand, my review is incomplete--my judgments flawed, insights lacking, and overall perspective somewhat limited.

Knowing that I have not had the pleasure of reading the first three books of the series, I expected to find myself completely confused and disinterested in the series finale. After all, I wouldn't want someone to read The Final Storm as their first Door Within Trilogy experience. But I have to tell you, I was dead wrong. So far, I love everything about RotGK. I feel like I understand it, and those things that I cannot understand have enough hints to let me draw my own conclusions, and I like that very much. Half the fun of reading is translating the implied meanings and the trail of breadcrumbs left by the author. So here are my overall comments. Beware, minor spoilers ahead.

• Very few, so far.
• The Front Cover is a turn off for me. I know that goes against popular consensus, and I am certain that, for most readers, the cover is eye catching and will draw them right in. It is without a doubt, evocative and beautiful to behold. The colors are striking and cool, and the King looks handsome and Kingly. But that's partially my problem. Abramm looks too pretty. He looks like a poor-man's Fabio photoshopped into an oil painting. Perhaps this is my Wayne Lens bringing too much to the party. After all, I grew up with my mom having 6ft bookcases stuffed with Harlequin Romances and the like. If I'm hunting for fantasy, the gushy-romance vibe makes me look elsewhere. Funny thing is, Stephen Erikson's Gardens of the Moon has a very similar look to it. If you've read the book, you know how misleading that is. Holy cow, is his stuff rough and tumble, severe even. And like Erikson's cover, Karen's cover really doesn't convey the incredible riches to be found once you get past it…not to me anyway.

• Minor issue here: Karen has a tendency to use pronouns when the antecedent is somewhat unclear. That's it. I don't have anything else to call weakness.

• The Language: Stephen King says he gets asked a lot of questions, but no one ever talks about his language. I can't commit that sin here. Karen's language is evocative, flowing, and rich. I get lost in her fluid sentences and structure. See Day Two Blog for more on this!

• Hook Factor: Books IMHO must hook a reader in the first paragraph, page, and chapter. Even though this is book 4 in the series and Karen could have rested on the fact that she's already got her readers OR they wouldn't have come this far, she does not. Karen throws a wonderful GOT-YA moment on the very first page. Spoiler alert. Abramm is about to be reunited with his beloved wife. He hears her singing and playing in the distance. He can picture himself hugging his children in the warm sunlight. He's almost there, just around the bend and…WHAM, he's not there at all! He's just slipped on an icy precipice. He's in the midst of a blizzard on the side of a mountain. Wow, talk about pulling out the rug! Never a dull moment so far.

• Real Characters: Karen's characters, (esp. Abramm) are not cliche. They are as real as you or I. They have hopes, dreams, flaws, and baggage. Stranded with a ragtag bunch of villagers, Abramm tries to convince them to press on through the storm. They resist. One accuses Abramm, "'...He just wants to get t' the monastery as fast as he can so he lose the rest of us and strike out fer Trakas on his own. Ye heard him the other night--he doesn't care a pin what happens t'us.'
The accusation stung precisely because of its element of truth." Abramm is no better-than-thou. He has cracks and fissures. And the enemy will attempt to exploit them.

• Great Creatures and Monsters: For me, a fantasy isn't worth it unless there are wonderfully imaginative and scary beasties about. Balrogs, wights, shades, Razac, etc. Bring it on. Karen does. The Rhu'ema are fantastic--demonically invisible to all but Abramm, and mannnn, like a pack of Screwtapes, they mess with Abramm constantly. And my favorite is Tapheina--a werewolf vixen of sorts whose breath has a potent allure to it. Hmmm...not the stuff I usually read in Christian fiction. There are many more creatures, of course, but that's just another reason to love this book.

• Spiritual Insight: Like The Screwtape Letters, RotGK can open your eyes to spiritual truths. Seeing into the demonic world unmasks some of the things we Christians all too easily (and sometimes lustily) ignore. The "Path of Light" motif is everpresent, but skillfully handled. As Abramm notes, the path of righteousness is visible to us, if we bother to look, and…actually want to find it.

Wonderful book, Karen! May your mind be filled with endless streams of future stories for all of us to enjoy!

*All excerpts of text are from Return of the Guardian King by Karen Hancock, Bethany House Publishing, 2007, used by permission.


Rebecca said...

How great to get those important links highlighted!

(Love the Photobooth self-portrait. I just started my six-year-old on Photoshop - passing on the obsession to the next generation.)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Becky, too funny!

Check out Karen's Amazon rank by clicking:


Amy Browning said...

Okay - so just to let everyone know, this is the original amy. I've added my last name and started my own blog. So from now on, posts will be under my first and last names.

Wayne - I, of course, put a link to here on my blog.

I'm also waiting to be added to the CSFF Blog Tour. Hopefully, it'll be soon.

chrisd said...

Hi Wayne, just stopping by on the tour. Looking forward to reading your review.

Unknown said...

So I converted ya, did I Amy? *grin*

Cheryl said...

Love the link colors! :-).

hrh said...

Hi Wayne:

Looking forward to your posts on the "Legends of the Guardian King" series.

I've been posting reviews of the first books in the series 'cause I haven't sent my official review of book 4 to Title Trakk yet!

But I'm looking forward to your thoughts on "Return of the Guardian King."

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, HRH! My thoughts, such as they are, are now posted! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great review, Wayne! :)

Amy Browning said...

Yes, Eve, I'm a total convert now! And loving it! Thanks to you and Wayne.

Karen Hancock said...

Wow, Wayne. Fantastic review! Thank you for being so very, very kind...

I found your remarks about the cover to be especially fascinating. There's a reason for that admonition to "not judge a book by its cover" -- because so many of us do exactly that. But I'll leave it to the Lord to solve THAT problem!

Amy Browning said...

Thank you Wayne!

I saw you added a link to my blog. I'm honored. Did you happen to catch on to whom I was referring to in my first entry? It was "a person wiser than me."


Unknown said...

You're not alone. Although I did finish this book, I have not had the chance to read the first three.

I thought I was the only one who did not like the picture of Abramm on the cover. He did look a bit of a sissy-to me. Not at all what the story made me picture in my head. Maybe he was just having a bad hair day :)

WayneThomasBatson said...

Amy, I caught your hint, but in my "wisdom" I figured it wouldn't be wise to assume. ;-)

WayneThomasBatson said...

I am really getting into this book. Great job keeping the suspense, Karen!

Return of the Guardian-King

Amy Browning said...

See - wisdom just oozes from your pores. :)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Wayne, that first comment was from Rebecca Grabill of the funny, funny Review that was not.

OK, I see your point about the cover. I just commented on mine that I thought this was the best one Bethany did and was not so evocative of the romance genre, but then I did NOT grow up with shelves of the books around, so what do I know.

Anyway, you wrote a wonderful review, Wayne.

'Tis amazing how reading good stuff can spur us on to write better ourselves, don't you think?

Becky (Rebecca LuElla)