One Conception From Another

The Bible makes repeated mention of magic and witches, usually in unsparing terms. We know well the scriptural opprobrium against witches; we are in danger of forgetting the scriptural idea of witches. We all have an idea of what a witch is, but the idea is almost unavoidably an amalgam. We piece it together of a thousand stories and images. The accretion of popular myth on the Christian idea of witches is thick. Let’s consider, then, popular notions of witches and their craft and how those notions correspond with biblical ideas.

Witches fly on brooms and make wicked potions in boiling cauldrons, are associated with spiders and black cats, are often ugly and generally inclined to black clothing and pointed hats.

Yes, we’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. Yes, you already know that none of this has the barest foundation in Scripture. Simply consider that of all the symbols and imagery that collect around witches, very little of it is Christian.

Witches are associated with magic; magic is associated with spells, charms, and secret knowledge.

These associations are biblical. The Bible sorts magic, sorcery, and divination into the same category, and witches, magicians, and mediums into the same species. Further, the Bible associates spells with witchcraft (eg. Isaiah 47) and magic with charms (eg. Ezekiel 13). Meanwhile, secret knowledge is both the means of magic – remember Pharoah’s magicians with their secret arts – and the aim of magic. Divination and the consultation of the dead especially pursue forbidden knowledge.

Witches are mostly female.

This is a very old and very common idea. Consider all the stories – centuries and centuries old, some of them – of female witches. Consider, too, that in the witch hunts of the late medieval and early modern West, the majority of victims were women. In the Bible, however, witchcraft is not especially associated with either sex. Infamous practitioners of witchcraft in the Bible include women like Jezebel and the Witch of Endor and men like Balaam, King Manasseh, and Simon the Sorcerer.

Witches afflict humanity with a host of seemingly “natural” maladies.

If you were to study the accusations brought during the Salem witch trials, you would see a fair example of a prevalent idea about witches: that they are the active cause of natural disasters, from human sickness to the death of livestock. There is little suggestion of this idea in Scripture. Probably the closest we come is the Egyptian magicians’ counterfeiting of the first two plagues. But these counterfeits, worked to demonstrate the power of the magicians against the power of Moses, have a very different nature than the secret, malicious attacks attributed to witches.

It may also be noted that Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel. “Perhaps then,” he said, “I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country.” What Balak expected of the curse, however, cannot be said. It may be that he expected some sort of natural disaster. It may also be that he expected them to be made unlucky so that he could defeat them in battle.

It is not that the scriptural conception of witches is wholly disconnected from all the other conceptions that abound through stories and cultures. There are many ideas of what a witch is. The great commonality among them is power perceived to be supernatural (itself a word of variable definition). The differences can be enough to pit them against each other in fundamental opposition. What we must learn is to discern the biblical meaning of witch from all the rest.

Grand Finale Blitz: Through the White Wood


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
Through the White Wood
By Jessica Leake

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you’ll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Hi everyone! I am so excited to share my latest book, Through the White Wood, with you. I have always loved Russian folktales—there’s just something about such fantastical (and often creepy) characters set against a winter backdrop of snow and towering trees that I’ve always found so compelling. . .

Caffeine Addled Ramblings – Review & Interview

TTWW is the kind of book that keeps you wanting more in the best ways possible.”

G: Speaking of the psychology of characters, we discover early on that Katya isn’t the only one in the book with powers, so how do you choose which powers belong to whom? And does that have anything to do with their personalities at all?

J: It does have a lot to do with their personalities. The reason I chose earth for Grigory is a bit of a spoiler, so I won’t mention it here, but Ivan has the power to negate others’ abilities because he’s sort of the “protector” of the group. For Boris, I thought it would be funny for this guy who loves cooking so much to be a fearsome fighter with superhuman strength. And Kharan was just made for the assassin/spy role.

Hallie Reads – Review

“A story of friendship, magic, romance, and danger, Through the White Wood is fast-paced, engaging, and fun. I love how Leake pulled me into the story and made me care about these characters and what would happen. It’s definitely an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it to fantasy lovers.”

Wishful Endings – Review

“I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end! With the rich setting, magical aspects, character development, a motley crew, and romance, there’s not much more readers can ask for. I’m looking forward to more from this author!”

Adventures Thru Wonderland – Review

“Katya and Sasha are each so fun to read about, and I loved seeing them face the challenges and dangers in this story. Giving some strong ‘Ice Queen/Frozen’ vibes, but I loved the classic inspirations used in this story, and really enjoyed the direction Jessica takes [in] this one!”

Dazzled by Books – Review

“Jessica Leake did it again! Through the White Wood is absolutely amazing. This woman knows how to write. If you have not picked up her books, you totally should. She brings such a rich tale to her readers. I just can’t get enough.”

Bibliobibuli YA – Excerpt

There are countless monsters in this world. Some with fangs, some who skitter in the darkness just out of sight, some who wear human skin but whose hearts have turned dark as forest shadows.

And as my fellow villagers dragged me, bound by rough rope, from the cellar of the elder, I knew that these men and women I’d grown up with—they thought of me as a monster, too.

I wasn’t sure they were wrong.

Moonlight Rendezvous – Review

Through the White Wood was a beautifully written story with rich descriptions, a strong heroine and a storyline that is bound to sweep you away. . . . This story was thought-provoking and enchanting, keeping me entertained until the very last page. Ms. Leake is a very talented writer and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.”

The Reading Corner for All – Review

“In this impactful return to Jessica Leake’s imagination, prepare yourself for a journey. . . . Through the White Wood upheld the integrity of Russian and Slavic folklore through Leake’s narrative interpretation that transports readers to a time where legends flourished among men and magic was a means of unlocking the greatest triumphs of the human spirit. . . . this outstanding read must have a reserved spot on your reading corner.”

Bookwyrming Thoughts – Review

“I enjoyed Through the White Wood! I liked seeing Katya’s constant struggle of whether or not she’s a monster and her journey to discover who she is. . . . Jessica Leake’s latest novel is a solid story for those who enjoy a slower-paced book with historical and folklore elements woven together.”

Book Slaying – Review

“. . . I enjoyed Through the White Wood. . . . now that I know that Jessica Leake excels at world-building and folklore-researching. . .”

Bookish Looks – Review

“It is a read full of magic, romance, and friendships. I adored the folklore and just wanted more. I look forward to seeing what else Leake has in store.”

A Book Addict’s Bookshelves – Excerpt

Then, without another word, he climbed into the driver’s seat, gathered the reins, and pulled us away from the only home I’d ever known, of a prince they said was a monster.

But then, they said I was one, too.

I promised myself I wouldn’t look back, but I did it anyway, squinting through the snow at the thirty-seven villagers who silently watched me leave. It was easy to note the ones who were missing. While the ones who remained stared at me accusingly, I reached down to rub at my wrists where the ropes had once bound them.

onemused – Review

“. . . this was an engaging and fascinating read that consumed my YA fantasy-loving heart. This book is great for lovers of magic, YA fantasy and adventure, and fairytale retellings. I would definitely love to meet these characters again in future books.”

NovelKnight – Review

“. . . the blend of folklore with fiction, all while giving the feel of a magical history that our records forgot. On that front, I think this book excelled. This was a world I wanted to explore further, beyond Katya’s story. . .”

Read and Wander – Review

“I was absolutely captivated. Jessica Leake is such a wonderful storyteller and once again, she brings to life a magical world inspired by Russian mythology. . . . Through the White Wood was a breathtaking, mesmerizing and sometimes gut wrenching adventure. There were so many great characters, some twists and we even got to see our favorites, Ciara and Leif, from Beyond a Darkened Shore. I really hope that we get more stories in this world. I definitely recommend reading anything Jessica Leake writes at this point.”

everywhere and nowhere – Excerpt

After the horror of what had happened in the village, it was almost difficult to be afraid of what awaited me with the prince. Almost, but not quite. Rumors hammered at my thoughts as the sleigh traveled farther and farther into the deep woods that surrounded my home.

People disappearing into his castle, never to return. People with abilities beyond human limits. People like me.

Worse still was the knowledge that I went to him having committed crimes whose punishment was death.

A Dream Within A Dream – Review

Through the White Wood is a thrilling young adult historical fantasy that will have readers begging for more. Although it’s technically the second in the series, you can read this without reading the first book without any problems or confusion. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, but at the end it exceeded anything I could’ve hoped for.”

BookCrushin – Excerpt

We traveled ever farther into the woods, the trees towering above us, snow clinging to their piney branches. I watched animals flee from the oncoming sleigh—birds flitting from tree to tree, squirrels chattering reproachfully, even a fox and hare interrupted from a deadly chase.

I imagined myself jumping down into the snow and escaping into those woods, and I went so far as to shift closer to the edge of my seat. I glanced down at the ground, moving so quickly beneath us. I could jump now, but would I manage to stay on my feet? If I stumbled, I risked serious injury. Still, wouldn’t it be worth it to try rather than be brought before the prince like a lamb to slaughter?

I moved still closer to the edge, gathering my skirt in one hand. I glanced at Ivan, but he continued to face forward.

HelloJennyReviews – Review

Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake is the brilliantly told story of Katya and Sasha, an orphaned village girl and a prince. . . . after reading this book I can say I am absolutely adding her to my auto-buy author’s list. The author writes very vivid and beautiful stories with such amazing characters and worlds that it’s impossible to not fall in love.”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post, if you haven’t already…

Through the White Wood
By Jessica Leake
Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Hardcover & ebook, 416 Pages
April 9th 2019 by HarperTeen

The Bear and the Nightingale meets Frostblood in this romantic historical fantasy from the author of Beyond a Darkened Shore.

When Katya loses control of her power to freeze, her villagers banish her to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev.

Expecting punishment, she is surprised to find instead that Sasha is just like her—with the ability to summon fire. Sasha offers Katya friendship and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies are organizing an army of people bent on taking over the entire world.

Together, Katya’s and Sasha’s powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will Katya and Sasha lose everything they hold dear?

Inspired by Russian mythology, this lushly romantic, intensely imaginative, and fiercely dramatic story is about learning to fight for yourself, even when the world is falling down around you.

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Other Books in the Series

Beyond a Darkened Shore

By Jessica Leake

Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Hardcover & ebook, 384 Pages

April 10th 2018 by HarperTeen

The ancient land of Éirinn is mired in war. Ciara, princess of Mide, has never known a time when Éirinn’s kingdoms were not battling for power, or Northmen were not plundering their shores.

The people of Mide have always been safe because of Ciara’s unearthly ability to control her enemies’ minds and actions. But lately a mysterious crow has been appearing to Ciara, whispering warnings of an even darker threat. Although her clansmen dismiss her visions as pagan nonsense, Ciara fears this coming evil will destroy not just Éirinn but the entire world.

Then the crow leads Ciara to Leif, a young Northman leader. Leif should be Ciara’s enemy, but when Ciara discovers that he, too, shares her prophetic visions, she knows he’s something more. Leif is mounting an impressive army, and with Ciara’s strength in battle, the two might have a chance to save their world.

With evil rising around them, they’ll do what it takes to defend the land they love…even if it means making the greatest sacrifice of all.

Praise for the Book

Beyond a Darkened Shore is thrilling and romantic. This is a must-read for lovers of fantasy, mythology, and folklore.” – Kody Keplinger, New York Times bestselling author of The DUFF and Run

“With undead armies, flesh-eating spirit horses, and a powerful heroine, fantasy, romance, and historical-fiction readers will have a great time.” – Booklist

“While Morrigan and Odin are terrifying, raven-haired Ciara is the star. Beautiful, strong, and independent, she is the perfect warrior princess. Epic historical fantasy filled with deadly creatures, simmering romance, and nonstop action.” – Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

Jessica Leake is the author of Beyond a Darkened Shore as well as the adult novels Arcana and The Order of the Eternal Sun. She lives in South Carolina with her husband, four young children, lots of chickens, and two dogs who keep everyone in line. Visit her at www.jessicaleake.com.

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Tour Giveaway

2 winners will receive a copy of Through the White Wood (US only)
1 winner will receive a $25 Amazon eGift Card (open internationally)
Ends April 17th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Spotlight: A Great Light


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Book Tour Grand Finale for
A Great Light
By Jennifer Ball

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops

you can see snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch – Note from the Author

Welcome! I’m so excited to bring you my new series “The Kingdom to Come”. This first book “A Great Light” will introduce you to Prince Karhiad, a humble prince next in line to the throne, and his band of close loyal friends who live in the low social status of his kingdom. The crown prince respects his royal family, loves his parents and brother dearly, yet doesn’t align with their views of ruling the kingdom. He appreciates the authenticity that is found in his friends and the lifestyles of the lower and middle class…

My Devotional Thoughts – Inspiration for A GREAT LIGHT

This book was inspired by my favorite non-fictional person who was a humble king. Although, he was never a prince and had no royal bloodline, he was (in the plans of God) next in line for the throne — King David. The extreme trials that David faces in his lifetime are so immense, yet he stays faithful to a God he’s never laid eyes on. He never allows his status as king to make him arrogant or materialistic…

Stacking My Book Shelves! – Excerpt

“You came out here at night?” she asked with excitement. “Did you see these lit up in the dark?” She held her jar filled with lucent flutters towards him.

“Uh, no. I didn’t see those.”

“What was the woman’s name you met last night? Maybe I know her, although I doubt I do. A Trinicitian woman wouldn’t travel out here at night. We really aren’t supposed to travel outside without a companion anyway. I think I may be the only adventurer,” she said as she got into a standing position.

“I don’t know her name. I didn’t ask. I saw this magnificently beautiful light from my balcony. The curiosity of what it could possibly be drew me out here to find it. But it…” — he looked up towards the sky where he had seen it before — “it was gone.”

Remembrancy – The Kingdoms of A GREAT LIGHT

In this first book, A Great Light, you are introduced to 3 major kingdoms — Merrhius, Trinicity, and Ananias. There is also a few other minor kingdoms mentioned, however their focus will play out in future books…

Rockin’ Book Reviews Review

“This book is full of fascinating adventure. I like the way Jennifer separates the lands with distinctive differences. They are close in proximity but so far apart in their beliefs and the way they live…

This is an awesome story and I highly recommend it to other readers.”

Hearts & Scribbles – Excerpt

“Where is Trinicity?” he blurted out. She stopped her antics, and looked up at him. She didn’t respond. “I don’t mean to be intrusive. I was… I was just wondering how long a journey it is for you to get here.”

“Not long.” They kept their deep gaze with one another.

“Do you know…” He stopped, he couldn’t possibly ask, but he just felt so comfortable with her.

“Do I know what?”

“Do you know… why do people say they can’t find it?”

Wishful Endings – Why We Read Fantasy

Why do people read fantasy books? Because the human imagination is far more creative, compelling and fascinating than reality. If all books available only had a non-fictional theme, our minds would explode with the constant mental state of reality we’d always be in. Fantasy takes a person, even if for a brief moment, into a realm of excitement at the thought of “Wow, what if…?”…

The Barefoot Reader – Excerpt

“Could you ever show me your city?”

“Oh, no! He asked it!” Faith tried not to let her anxious feelings show on her face. Karhiad just longed for this mysterious place so eagerly. He knew this place was real, irrespective of what his father believed. He was confident this fascinating girl he met in the woods wasn’t lying about where she was from. The way she spoke about trivial matters and important issues was so alluring to him. The idea of visiting Trinicity, the place she came from, was very appealing to him. Besides, he never believed it to be a myth, and now eagerly just wanted to see it all with his own eyes.

My Life, Loves and Passion – Review

“Over the time they spend together they share about their homes. How they differ and what they share. They call for each other. Then tragedy stricks. Secrets and lies and manipulation take over…

…I like the story though and am curious what happens next.”

Declarations of a Fangirl – Good vs Evil

People are drawn to good vs evil because everyone can relate to such a battle. Even if the storyline is fantastical, everyone can relate to one of the characters in the fight. If it isn’t obviously painted out who the villain is and who the hero is, such as in Stars Wars with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, then who is good and who is evil can be a matter of opinion. An interesting aspect of good vs evil stories is that it allows the reader/audience to see redemption in someone…

Among the Reads – Excerpt

“Rhaevaehyn. Do you know of it?”

“Vaguely. They have a monarchy.”

“Yes. We have a monarchy.” He couldn’t tell by her tone when she said ‘monarchy’ how she felt about royal dynasties. He wasn’t sure if he should follow his statement by telling her he was a prince in his kingdom. He didn’t want to appear as if he was boasting. Besides, he was still a little shocked they had never even discussed where he was from until now.

“I know.” Faith’s lack of interest let him know that this actually was not the right time to let her know his inheritance.

Reading On The Edge – Excerpt

“An old man in my city died this morning,” Faith said as she and Karhiad stacked twigs and leaves up into a pile. They wanted to see who could start a fire first without the common essentials needed to cause a spark.

“I’m sorry. Did you know him?” Karhiad wasn’t sure what level of comfort to provide her yet, so he kept gathering the driest leaves he could find.

“Yes. He was an elder that I would deliver dinner to.”

Tell Tale Book Reviews – ​Prince Karhiad’s Survival Checklist

√ Don’t fear anything… ever

√ ​Loyal friends in my circle who value me unconditionally

√ Physically train harder than what is expected of me as the prince

Locks, Hooks and Books – Review

“I enjoyed this Christian Fantasy. Prince Karhiad is lead to Faith by a light. She was my favorite character of the book. The story is full of inspiration with the battles of good versus evil.”

Colorimetry – Excerpt

“So, um, where…” She was eager to change the subject. “Where else have you traveled? Do you journey outside your kingdom walls often? Have you met people from different cultures?”

“I’ve traveled many miles on the outer stretches of my kingdom. It was part of my training to know all the terrain. The most interesting culture I’ve encountered would have to be those living in Ananias. They don’t have walls, so I guess they are considered just a village.”

“Oh, yes. I’ve read about them. How did you find them?”

“I don’t know the details of it. When I was a young adolescent, there was a man in our military who said he found a unique culture and wanted us all to meet them. My father took me out with him and the rest of the traveling troops to encounter them.”

SilverWoodSketches – Review

“Jennifer Ball does a fantastic job of painting this world with compelling characters and vivid colors. There is some very lovely prose to immerse the reader into Karhiad and Faith’s worlds. The writing style harkens to Robin McKinley’s and other epic fantasy authors. Some readers may be put off by the heavier religious elements, but fans of more allegorical works like C.S. Lewis and Anne Elisabeth Stengl will love the message of faith behind The Kingdom to Come.”

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below, if you haven’t already…

A Great Light
(The Kingdom to Come #1)
by Jennifer Ball
Young Adult Christian Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 298 Pages
June 28th 2018 by Revelation Publishing Company

Love and war are often the same thing.

Prince Karhiad is a humble king-in-waiting. His father, King Vilsig, rules the Kingdom of Merrhius with an iron fist. While the king dreams of endless conquests, his son only wants to conquer the hearts of his subjects through love instead of fear.

Meanwhile, a dark and sinister force threatens every kingdom around. And if King Vilsig and Prince Karhiad can’t put aside their differences, an ancient sinister beast and his supernatural army will lay waste to the Kingdom of Merrhius.

On the night of Prince Karhiad’s 17th birthday, he is mesmerized by a radiant light and makes a decision to learn of its origin. That choice will force him towards answers he wasn’t seeking, a woman he wasn’t planning to fall in love with, and a destiny that will bring him great suffering yet an even greater reward. But in this gripping tale of good vs. evil, the power of love isn’t just a shield to ward off the darkness — it’s also the strongest weapon of all.

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About the Author

I am a friend of Jesus who at times fails at making this is my most important relationship. I am a wife who forgets at times this is my primary job. I am a mom who at times didn’t get it right. I take lots of pictures that annoy everyone in my family except for my dog. She loves it.

I began writing short stories when I was a child. I would sit in my room for hours writing as fast as I could to keep up with my thoughts. We didn’t have a typewriter and certainly no computer. Too often my writing would turn to scribble. I ended up with lots of loose paper with many short stories written on them in half scribble that made it too difficult for others to read. Thanks to technology, I went back to my childhood passion and wrote a story that I turned into a readable book.

That’s me, to make a long story short.

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1 winner will receive a $20 Amazon eGift Card
– Open internationally
– Ends September 19th

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Much of Magic

Sir Bors set out on the Quest for the Holy Grail, but he spent most of the appointed year in prison because (it can happen) he made an unscheduled stop to proclaim the Gospel to apparently unreceptive heathens. “They knew much of magic,” he later told King Arthur, “but little of God.” (quoted from Maude L. Radford’s King Arthur and His Knights)

This formulation – much of magic, little of God – is striking in any case, but particularly so because it occurs in an Arthurian story. Although this is often neglected in modern retellings, the Arthurian legends combined Christianity with magic, pagan legends with culled elements of Christianized Britain. Classic versions of the sword-in-the-stone legend put “the wise magician” Merlin working together with the Archbishop of Canterbury to find a new king for the Britons. And still the association of magic with heathenism: much magic, little God.

There is tension between the Church that makes common cause with magicians and the heathens full of magic, but perhaps not contradiction. The authors of the Arthurian myth found they could broker an accommodation between Christians and magic. Yet they could rarely have missed the accommodation between pagans and magic, typified in the Druids whose memory outlived their presence. The sort of magic that most famously imbues Arthurian myth – the magic sword, the wise man who saw the future, the Lady of the Lake – is not witchcraft. Yet it remains, in itself, ambivalent. Despite the rumors, there is no inexorable link between magic and the devil, but neither is there any inexorable link between magic and God.

I’ve seen the link between magic and God made; probably all of you have. There is more than one way to weave magic into the framework of Christian doctrine and Christian principles. C.S. Lewis’ way – carving out a place for magic in an explicitly Christian universe – is the most obvious. Another method, popular in modern Christian fantasy, is to fix a magical world beneath God (often called the Creator, the Eternal One, etc.), without venturing any further in Christian belief than monotheism. J.R.R. Tolkien is the premier example of the most subtle method. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings show little overt religion, but his posthumous works reveal his efforts to bring his creation into harmony with Christian thought. The influence of Tolkien’s faith on his work is indelible. (In this lengthy but thoughtful essay, Steven Graydanus examines how Tolkien’s Catholicism shaped his portrayal of magic.)

Much fantasy is created by people who have no interest in taming magic to Christianity. That alone doesn’t make it bad; I once read a charming, perfectly innocuous children’s book called The Enchanted Castle, in which I found nothing to condemn or to call Christian. Yet the portrayal of magic in fiction isn’t always innocuous. Nor is it bound to keep its customary ambivalence; it may be remade into more sinister forms. The categorical rejection of all fictional magic is mistaken, but there is a shade of legitimate warning down at the roots.

Because it may justly be said of some books, as it is justly said of some people, that they know much of magic and little of God.

Spotlight: Trust and Obey

Trust and Obey Blog Tour

Faith Blum has a new book. And it’s not a Western. It is a fairy tale retelling set during the time of King Saul. Read on to learn more about the book.

About the Book

Trust and Obey_KindleA wicked priestess, a morally corrupt king, and two children stuck in the middle…

Hadassah and Gidal love their parents and will do anything for them. When Priestess Basmat tell Ehud and Jerusha to pay their debt, they cannot and she takes Hadassah and Gidal as her slaves for two years.

The priestess works them hard, but there are two other servants to divide the load with, so they cope as well as they can. Then King Saul comes in disguise requesting the priestess’s other services—as a medium.

Will Hadassah and Gidal trust Adonai to take care of them? What will happen after Priestess Basmat comes face-to-face with the prophet Samuel?

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About the Author

FaithBlum_EmmaCatherinePhotography03Faith Blum is a small-town Wisconsin girl. She’s lived in, or outside of, small towns her whole life. The thought of living in a city with more than 60,000 people in it scares her, especially after some interesting adventures driving through big cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Faith currently resides in the middle of the state of Wisconsin with her husband and their cat, Smokey. She is blessed to be able to have writing as her full-time career with household work and cooking to do on the side. She loves to paint walls as long as she doesn’t have to do hallways or ceilings.

When not writing, you can find her cooking food from scratch due to food allergies (fun), doing dishes (meh), knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, or spending time with her husband (yay!). She is also a Community Assistant for the Young Writers Workshop and loves her work there. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to contact her on her website.

Giveaway

Giveaway

Faith Blum is doing a giveaway with her blog tour. She is offering a paperback copy of Trust and Obey as well as a magnet with the cover on it! You can enter here.

Excerpt

Saul called in Urim, the priest. “Have you heard from the Lord yet about this battle?”

“No, I have not.”

Saul picked up the nearest thing to him and threw it at the tent wall. “Why is He ignoring me? I need to know what to do. I can’t take the silence anymore.”

Urim bowed his head. “I’m sorry, my king. I cannot help you.” He backed out of the tent and Saul was left alone with his servants.

Saul sat down, his shaky legs no longer holding him up. His vision clouded and he ground his teeth together. One of his servants approached and Saul snapped his head in that direction. “Seek for me a woman who is a medium so I may go to her and inquire of her.”

Achim took another step nearer. “My king, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.”

The cloud dissipated from Saul’s eyes. “Gather some servants clothing for me that I may disguise myself. Then pick another servant to go with us.”

Achim bowed. “Yes, my lord.”

Saul stood and paced around the tent until Achim returned. Achim assisted Saul in changing into the servant’s clothing.

When he finished, Achim scooped up some cooled ashes. “My king, may I smudge your face?”

Saul nodded. “Who is coming with us?”

“My brother, Carmi. We grew up in En-dor and know the best ways to get in and out of the village unseen.”

“Very good. We must get going.”

Achim beckoned to a shadow at the edge of the tent and a man stepped out. “I am at your service, my lord.”

Saul looked him up and down. “Come. We depart now.”

 

Tour Schedule

June 26
Bookish Orchestrations – Introductory Post
Frances Hoelsema – Book Spotlight
Rachel Rossano’s Words – Book Spotlight

June 27
Letters from Annie Douglass Lima – Book Spotlight
RockandMinerals4Him – Book Review
Shannon’s Blog – Book Spotlight

June 28
Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections – Special Post
Wildflower Acres – Book Spotlight

June 29
God’s Peculiar Treasure Rae – Book Review
Purposeful Learning – Book Review
The King and His Kingdom – Book Review

June 30
Bookish Orchestrations – Giveaway Winner

Review: The Charlatan’s Boy

It’s a sad day in Corenwald when no one believes in feechies anymore. Specifically, it’s a sad day for Floyd Wendellson and his boy, Grady. The paying crowds pay them no longer. After making a living for years by pretending to be a feechie expert and a genuine feechie boy, they may have to get legitimate jobs.

Ha ha! I’m kidding, of course. What they do next is put up the Ugliest Boy in the World act. As the bad new days run on into years, they make a daring bid to bring back the good old days. Their scheme is unethical and there has to be some sort of law against it, but what do you expect from the charlatan and his boy? They’re neither heroes nor villains, only two showmen trying to turn a pretty penny without any punctilious dedication to the truth.

Jonathan Rogers delivers his story in appropriate style. The book is filled with humor, much of it the sort that is seen by the readers and not the characters. It’s written in first-person, and as you can imagine, a charlatan’s boy will not have the most educated voice. Though to be fair, almost no one in the book does. The editor either had a hard or wonderfully easy time of it, depending on whether she tried to distinguish real grammar errors from style or simply decided it was all one.

The world of The Charlatan’s Boy is constructed with imagination and flair. Unlike most fantasy worlds, Corenwald is more American than European, more modern than medieval. A few things in Corenwald do sound British – the constables, the public houses. But the alligators are decidedly American, and if any other fantasy book mentions watermelons, I haven’t had the privilege of coming across it. American figures come wandering through, re-dressed in Corenwald guise. The traveling snake oil salesman has a lasting place in the American imagination, and the drovers are charmingly familiar. If not the brothers of America’s cowboys, they are at least their cousins. It’s the same trade, but seeing how each generally pursues it, the drovers lack the organization and sophistication of the cowboys. (Perhaps that last phrase is strange to read; it was strange to write.)

Among the rough-and-tumble sorts, constables in blue uniforms and schoolmarms in one-room schoolhouses impose civilization. Yet two things break the mien of the nineteenth-century frontier verging into civilization. For one, the weaponry is bows and arrows, swords and spears. For the other, the good people of Corenwald were seriously told by their forebears that another race lives secretly alongside them, and they are not too far away from believing it.

The Charlatan’s Boy is reminiscent of the old-school episodic novel – Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Penrod, Mark Twain. The main issues of the book are set up at the beginning and steadily – if not urgently – addressed. Yet, lingering over drovers’ fires and doing the phrenology routine, even parts that advance the plot often feel anecdotal. The anecdotes were entertaining, well-told, and even charming. But as they followed one on another, I began wondering when the next shoe would finally fall on somebody.

I would, however, do a disservice to this book if I made it sound as if it went nowhere. It did go somewhere, and the climax and conclusion were marvelous. The humor and the lightheartedness of the story are a joy, and sometimes – suddenly but naturally – sadness pierces through, straight to the heart. The Charlatan’s Boy, with its humor and its heart and its style, is captivating and even, in an unemphatic sort of way, brilliant fantasy.

The Worthless World

Stories that are at their core cynical about the world present two different visions. The first is a vision of a world without heroes. The second is a vision of a world that doesn’t deserve heroes. These visions may easily be combined and sometimes are, but each can and does go alone, too. Together or alone, they weave an inescapable cynicism into the fabric of their stories.

I thought of that last weekend, prompted by the new season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Flash review: The good news is that they remedy some of the flaws of the first season; the bad news is that they replace them with new flaws.) Once doomed to unfortunate events by the malignancy and incompetence of individuals, the Baudelaires are now doomed to unfortunate events by the malignancy and incompetence of institutions. Every pillar of society crumbles when the children try to lean on it: the school, the law, the government, the free press.

It’s not that the institutions are broken. It’s that people are so stupid and savage, and nothing is worse than a crowd of them. A whole town melts into a ruthless mob; an entire hospital’s staff can evidently believe that decapitation is a legitimate medical operation (and be enthusiastic to see it); a circus show that advertises freaks being devoured by lions draws a crowd. In the middle of all this, we’re told that the heroes want to put out fires and the villains want to start them, but in the middle of all this, you have to think: The villains have a point. Lots of places end up burning down in this series, and it’s usually an improvement. Even for a show devoted to satire and absurdity, A Series of Unfortunate Events went too far, made too many people too stupid, too many people wicked, too many institutions worthless.

This is a mistake I’ve seen before. It looms particularly large in fantasy. This is partially because fantasy is by nature inclined to stories about saving the world, and such stories magnify the consequences of the error. When the hero saves the world, our sense of victory will be somewhat reduced if we privately feel that his efforts were perhaps wasted. We will still assent to the moral principle that villains ought not to burn down worlds, even if it’s an aesthetic improvement. But the purpose of stories is less to assent to truths and more to feel them.

Another reason the trope of the worthless world especially afflicts fantasy is that the most common inspiration for fantasy worlds is the Middle Ages. Many people evidently believe that the Middle Ages occurred before the invention of bright colors and were essentially the Black Plague interspersed with crusades. Such inspiration can curiously combine a lack of physical beauty (all the gray! brown! black! dirt and decay!) with a lack of moral beauty (oppression! corruption! superstition! ignorance! violence! everywhere!). When stories take us into such worlds, the stay is unpleasant. I think authors forget what a demoralizing effect the bleakness of their worlds has over their stories. Even genuine heroes can’t always counterbalance it.

Curiously enough, the cynicism of the worthless-world stories doesn’t always seem intended. In these stories, the heroes are truly heroic and a sense of morality prevails. But it’s not enough to have heroes who save the world. We need a world worth saving, too.

Cover Reveal: Bound Beauty

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
Bound Beauty
By Jennifer Silverwood

This YA Dark Fantasy is volume three in the Wylder Tale Series
Coming winter 2018, cover designed by Najla Qamber Designs

Beware the bond between blood and beasts…

Vynasha has united the warring human and forgotten clans of Wylderland, claiming her majik and power as curse breaker. Her brother, Ceddrych keeps their nephew safely hidden away while Vynasha and her new allies fight against the feral beasts roaming their borders.

Meanwhile, her friendship with the Iceveins family deepens, unveiling a love she never expected. But her majik is still bound to the cursed prince she left behind and he isn’t done fighting for her soul.

Darker forces walk in the forests, all drawn to Vynasha’s light and the shade of a corrupt Enchantress haunts her waking dreams. A war is about to begin, between the forgotten people of Wylderland and the evil power of Bitterhelm.

Prophecy and Forgotten unite in the epic third chapter of the Wylder Tales Series, a gothic re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.

The Wylder Tales Series
Craving Beauty (Vol. 1)
Wolfsbane’s Daughter (Vol. 1.5)
Scarred Beauty (Vol. 2)
Bound Beauty (Coming 2018)

Grab the first book, Craving Beauty, for FREE! You can find your preferred format here.

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Jennifer Silverwood was raised deep in the heart of Texas and has been spinning yarns a mile high since childhood. In her spare time she reads and writes and tries to sustain her wanderlust, whether it’s the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, the highlands of Ecuador or a road trip to the next town. Always on the lookout for her next adventure, in print or reality, she dreams of one day proving to the masses that everything really is better in Texas. She is the author of two series—Heaven’s Edge and Wylder Tales—and the stand-alone titles Stay and Silver Hollow.

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1 winner will receive signed print copies of Craving Beauty and Scarred Beauty and an ebook of Wolfsbane’s Daughter (US only)

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A St. Valentine’s Poll

So I was thinking about what might be a good or at least passable topic and suddenly I realized: this post will go live on St. Valentine’s Day. It seemed appropriate, then, to write a post themed on this great holiday of love, and anyway I was having trouble scraping up passable topics. Whether this post will be pro- or anti-Valentine’s Day will be up to you.

First of all, we should consider how ironic it is that the holiday of romantic love is named after a Catholic priest, a class of people who are ideally preoccupied with other concerns. Second, we should consider the intersection between romance and speculative fiction. As a fan of SF among other fans, I’ve seen a fair share of hostility directed toward the romance genre. Christian fans, at least, seem sometimes to regard it as the (regretfully ascendant) rival of Christian SF. But romance looming so large in human nature and human experience, it inevitably finds its own place in speculative fiction.

Yet a place shaped by the contours of the genre, and not always a proud one. Science fiction, in its young days, was a man’s genre, and the woman of the old stories was inevitably young and inevitably beautiful and inevitably belonged to the hero; she was also the daughter of the sage old man, and the sage old man and the strong young hero spent all kinds of time explaining things to her. In another vein, not a very deep one but at least bright, girls were tossed in along with all the other things a healthy-minded boy could desire: a quest, an adventure, a cool weapon, a fast ship, a righteous cause.

Fantasy, molded by the ancient traditions of fairy tales, has been less male-centric but not necessarily more sensible. Even moving away from the eternal puzzles of the archetypal fairy tales (could the prince really not identify Cinderella except by her shoe size?), certain ideas have thrown long shadows over the genre – true love that is instant and unmistakable, fated love that can’t be thwarted or resisted. Being rescued from a tower or a dragon or an evil wizard may seem like a clear sign, but on sober reflection, it may not be the soundest basis for a lifelong relationship.

When it comes to balanced and realistic portraitures of romantic love, speculative fiction has not, as a genre, clothed itself with glory. Neither has romance, but that is not our topic, just an aside I couldn’t resist. Over the years, science fiction and fantasy have made progress away from the old tropes and stereotypes. I’ll offer no predictions on where the genre is going. But on this Valentine’s Day, I wonder – where do you want it to go? What, in your ideal book, is the intersection between romance and speculative fiction?

So on this St. Valentine’s Day, cast a vote for or against romance in speculative fiction.

Do you want romance in sci-fi/fantasy?

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Review: Merlin’s Mirror

The old legends of Europe hold that Arthur, greatest of Britain’s kings, was conceived by the trickery of the wizard Merlin. Merlin himself, the tales go, was demon-born, the son of no man.

But what if both were the sons of no man – the sons, rather, of the Sky Lords, aliens seeking to return to Earth? This is the essential idea of Merlin’s Mirror, a science fantasy novel by Andre Norton. The book takes classic tenets of fantasy and works them into a sci-fi universe, and thus the legend of Arthur is reborn into science fiction. There is no “magic”, properly speaking, in Merlin’s Mirror, just misunderstood technology.

Published forty years ago, Merlin’s Mirror is old school: an omniscient viewpoint combined with a brevity that is now almost extinct. This slim volume covers in 205 pages what modern novelists would need a trilogy to tell, and possibly a longer series. It was oddly refreshing to read the story of Merlin’s entire life in one book – just to see it told in its essentials, without chasing the enticing side trails all modern novels have to run down. But the downside of this style of novel-writing is also evident. The novel took Merlin’s ruling motivation (to carry out the mission given him by the Sky Lords) too much for granted; it puzzled me initially.

The brevity hurt Merlin’s characterization in other ways. As a character, he is stained by his manipulative role in Arthur’s conception, showing no reluctance beforehand and little reflection afterwards; the story sweeps on, and Merlin is worse for it. Nor does the novel make it clear, until the very end, that Merlin really cares about anything besides his mission. So although he is in some ways admirable, and in other ways pitiable, he is not really likable.

Norton retains much – not all – of the original unpleasantness of Arthur’s conception and of Mordred’s. This, together was Nimue’s (failed) temptation of Merlin, adds a few raw moments to the book. I did not enjoy it, though I realize that as modern standards go – in some respects, even as the original legends go – the book is mild.

Merlin’s Mirror presents the clearest religious view of any novel I have read by Andre Norton. Yet it is still murky. Aside from presenting a more elegant version of the Christ-as-moral-teacher viewpoint – making Him great, yet only one of many who had seen “the Great Light” – the narrative makes little clear. “The Power” – a phrase of which Merlin proved fond – sometimes refers to knowledge or alien technology, and sometimes seems to be religious, and so confuses the story.

The ending was clever in its own way, and almost hopeful; it had a sense of anticipation, at least. But more than anything else, it was sad. The last pages of the book cast doubt on Merlin’s mission, a doubt compounded by the ambiguity of “the Power” and the immoral means once used by Merlin. This is the worst thing: that Merlin, for all his power and dedication, may have been only a tool or victim. He also may not have been, but a confusion sets in near the end of the book, and it’s hard to tell precisely how meant certain things are meant to be understood.

With an innovative premise, and even some emotional power (“lonely Merlin” – sniff!), Merlin’s Mirror intrigues but it does not satisfy.