The appeal of fantasy fiction is wrapped up in its other-worldliness. On film, Peter Jackson captured this well in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Of course, the books themselves are more effective at transporting the reader to another time and place.
In the "Knights of Arrethtrae" series, Chuck Black takes the grand Biblical story of redemption and crafts an allegorical, fictitious world to match it. Following John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress legacy, Black interweaves Christian themes into his fantasy tale.
The series is based on his earlier 6 part Kingdom series, and offers vignettes of followers of the King across the Sea. "The King reigns and his Son!" is the rallying cry of the Prince's Knights in the Kingdom of Arrethtrae. Shadow Warriors and evil knights battle Silent Warriors and the Prince's knights, in a battle for the souls of men.
In "Lady Carliss", we find a fascinating tale of treachery, deceit, a dark plot and mystery. Carliss battles more than just the dark forces, as she must master her heart and its attraction to her brother's best friend Lord Dalton. Along the way, she faces the dreadful choice of saving the life of one she can't help but love, or saving the lives of friends who count on her.
At the end of the book, a discussion guide is included with pointed questions about the allegory and the story, chapter by chapter. The peril of a pleasure-inducing substance that sends people into an alternate reality provides a platform for addressing the problem of escapism in today's world. The questions also come with answers and make this book, and the others in the "Knights of Arrethtrae" series, ideal for parents to read with their teens, or for youth groups to read together in a church-based book club.
The story moves along at a fast clip and includes surprising twists and turns. The style is straightforward and action-oriented, suitable for teen-age readers and a shorter sized fantasy book. The allegory is at times very direct, and detailed descriptions of the meaning are included at the end. Still the story stands on its own right, and entering the world Black creates is both enjoyable and instructive.
The meta-narrative or grand story of the Bible is indeed alluring. We need to remind ourselves that an alternate reality has nothing on the redemptive plan of our Savior. We, like Carliss, need to learn to trust the Prince and follow him in spite of our feelings and uncertainties. And our Lord will prove True and Faithful, every time.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah publishers for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
The books in the Knights of Arrethtrae Series are the best I've ever read. Chuck Black is an amazing story teller. Lady Carliss was my favorite. They are so exciting; I can't put them down. I can't wait until the next ones come out!
We have been reading this series (minus book 3) and each one just got better and better. Lady Carliss was no exception. Although I think I was let down a little by the ending of the book which seemed too easy for the character while she seemed to be breaking too much.
Though I've never read Chuck Black's allegorical Kingdom Series, our families has truly enjoyed his sequel series The Knights of Arrethtrae. This series is an allegorical fantasy complete with noble knights, dangerous creatures, and temptations to be defeated. It is set in the period following the Prince's departure from Arrethtrae, leaving his Knights to fight the good fight and spread the news of the Prince's imminent return (the age of the church.)
Each title in this series stands more-or-less alone, and Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue (#4) is no exception. Though it builds upon the events of Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart (#3), our family read it first (we're about to go back and read #3.)
Lady Carliss is a particularly loveable character for our family filled with girls (I have three daughters.) While a warrior and true Knight, Carliss also struggles with a heart that longs for one who is not rightfully hers. She nobly resists, but when Sir Dalton's life is in danger and she is the only one who has a fair chance of finding the antidote to a poisonous bite, her heart is surely tested.
Filled with intense action sequences, clear parallels to the Christian life, and realistic temptations and victories, Lady Carliss was greatly enjoyed by our entire family. My seven-year-old is always asking me to read it again despite my initial misgivings that it might be too dramatic for her.
The discussion questions at the book's end are perfect for leading teens to consider the consequences of escapism and the excessive use of diversionary pleasures as presented in the novel.
Black's work makes excellent family reading material - parents can discuss parallels between the story and the Christian life. Tweens and teens can also benefit from reading the book independently, and are very likely to do so considering the engaging content!