Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NARENTA AUTHOR SHERRY THOMPSON ON DELAWARE WRITERS BLOG NEXT WEEK, BEGINNING JUNE 21

Narenta Author Sherry Thompson On Delaware Writers Blog Next Week, Beginning June 21
by
Forrest W. Schultz
The two book reviews I recently posted about the Narenta novels by Sherry Thompson contained little info about the author. Actually, I do not know a whole lot about her myself -- I am just beginning to learn some things. One thing I know is that she lives in Delaware and is a member of a Delaware writers oganization whose blog next week (beginning June 21) will be interviewing her about her Narenta books. Here is the info Sherry has provided:
I'm a member of Delaware's Written Remains Writers Guild. During the week of June 21st, the WRWG Spotlight will be turned on me. I'll be interviewed, people can ask questions via comments, I'll be giving away at least one copy of my latest book "Earthbow", and I may let slip interesting bits and pieces about my present and future work.The link to the WRWG blog is: http://tinyurl. com/24bs4or
OR
.....
I intend to get involved in this and would encourage any of you who are interested in her Narenta books to do likewise.
Sincerely,
Forrest

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

REVIEW OF "EARTHBOW VOLUME I", THE SEQUEL TO SHERRY THOMPSON'S "SEABIRD"

Extreme Sorcery And Extreme Salvation:

Harone-The-Awaited Confronts The Shadow Lords


A review of

Sherry Thompson Earthbow, The Second of the Narentan Tumults, Volume I
(Grayson, GA: Gryphonwood Press, 2010)
$9.99 254 pp ISBN: 978-0-9825087-3-2


Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz




I ended my review of the first Narentan volume Seabird by noting that its feisty character Cara would be a hard act to follow. So I began reading the second volume wondering how the author would meet the challenge: who would be the fascinating new character to take Cara's place?

What a let-down!! First of all, the new transportee from Earth is none other than Cara's dull brother Sandy, whose Narenta moniker is Xander. What a laugh! Xander-the-Not-So-Great aka Sand-The-Bland! Actually, though, the laugh is on me for making the assumption I did. The author, of course, is not obliged to tell us the story we may be expecting to read!

So, what is the story here? On the surface it first appears to be a same-old-same-old tale of a wicked disgusting man conquering and tyrannizing a people. What is quite different in this story is that the misdeeds of this tyrant, Cenoc, are actually only the visible effects of the activity of a super-powerful "Shadow Lord", Mexat, who is physically imprisoned inside a mountain but who nonetheless is able to exert spiritual forces which are being directed at controlling Cenoc, who is unaware that he is gradually being enslaved by Mexat.

Thompson's portrayal of Mexat is quite vivid. She takes you inside his mind where you see him planning his conquests and gloating as he gains ever more control over Cenoc, and you see him becoming enraged at those who thwart him. This portrayal of the mind of Mexat is reminiscent of the portrayals of the minds of the demons in in C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. And Thompson's revelation of Mexat as the one behind Cenoc's actions is analogous to Lewis's revelation in That Hideous Strength that the Head of N.I.C.E. was actually a demon.

Thompson's story also deals with good people being tempted to use the wrong means of fighting evil. The young knight Coris wishes to fight Cenoc's evils but is tripped up by his revengeful spirit. Coris refuses to listen to counsel, so that he ends up in an extreme sword fight with Cenoc's bully boy Beroc, which (almost ?) kills him.

The central character in Earthbow Vol. I, Harone-The-Awaited, faces a different temptation -- the urge to run away from his task due to his great fear of Mexat. Harone conquers this temptation when he remembers what Cara told him as she was about to perform her scary task in Seabird: that although she did not look scared, she was very frightened, but that did not matter because she was going to accomplish her mission in spite of it! Harone also remembers this lesson: "I learned from her, the important thing in the long run is what you do, not how you feel while doing it. Which is fortunate. I'm terrified."

Although Cara herself is not a character in Earthbow, it was her influence upon Harone which enabled him to engage in his extreme sorcery battle with Mexat and to proceed from there to what perhaps was an even more remarkable achievement, the extreme salvation which climaxes Volume I.

The progression of the "extreme sports" feats in this story is interesting. A good question for a Professor to ask on an exam would be this: "Discuss the progression from the extreme sword fight to the extreme sorcery to the extreme salvation, and what this tells you of the artistry of the author".

We also need to look at the subject of the artistry of the author pertaining to how she handles Cara in the story under review here. One of the most important principles of creativity is that a good artist never repeats himself. Because (1). Cara was such an attractive character
in Seabird, and because (2). there is great sadness in the hearts of the readers at her exit from the Narentan scene at the end of that story (see e.g. the lament of Michael Dunne on the rear jacket of the book), it is remarkable that the author has not succumbed to the temptation of producing a Cara 2 or a Return of Cara as the sequel. Nor did she, as I naively assumed she would, create a new Cara, i.e. a character worthy of following in her train.

No! Thompson followed the more sophisticated route by having Cara live on in the heart and life of Harone, thereby enabling him to do even greater works than she did. In the usual sense of the term, Cara is not a character in the present story. But she is a character here by means of the principle of Co-inherence. Since she, in the manner noted above, was "in" Harone, she, in that sense, could be considered a character here. Another way of putting it is that when Harone is remembering Cara's words, this is the book version of a "cameo" appearance in film.

Now a word about the meaning of Volume I. Earthbow consists of four books plus an epilogue. Volume I is books 1 & 2. Volume II will be books 3 & 4 plus the epilogue.

We will need to wait for Volume II to discover what Sandy's role is. All that Alphesis has revealed in Volume I is that Sandy is to prepare for his mission by learning "the ways of the Wildfolk and the Greenfolk", which he begins to do in Volume I. At first blush it would appear that their work will be a mammoth task. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. We have already learned that!! After all, Cara began by refusing her mission, and Harone at first hated Cara. So, maybe there is hope for Sandy afterall! We will just have to wait for Volume II to find out.

And, I guess by now we should know Sherry Thompson well enough that we should not be surprised if we are suprised by her story in Volume II !


June 7, 2010
Forrest W. Schultz


I was a bit late in reviewing the first book in the Narentan Series, "Seabird", but I could not do so any sooner because I just discovered it. I am going to the second extreme on the review above. This book is hot off the press and I am one of its first readers. I am even more excited about Thompson now, as I believe you will note from the review. I would strongly encourage any one interested in good fantasy to check out Thompson. My intention is to read and review the rest of the books in the series as soon as they are published.

AND, for any of you who do read her books, let me know what you think. If you do not want to leave a comment here, you can email me at schultz_forrest@yahoo.com.

Forrest

Monday, June 07, 2010

REVIEW OF SHERRY THOMPSON'S "SEABIRD"

Seabird Flies !!

Cara-The-Feisty Rules in Debut of Narentan Fantasy Series


A Review of

Sherry Thompson Seabird: Book I of The Narentan Tumults (Grayson, GA:
Gryphonwood Press, 2007)
352 pp $15.99 ISBN: 978-0-9795738-2-8

Reviewed by: Forrest W. Schultz


As a long time enthusiast of the literary works of C. S. Lewis I am gratified at the contemporary long-overdue widespread recognition of some of these works, esp. of
The Chronicles of Narnia. The downside to this, of course, is the danger that "wannabe" authors will exploit the popularity by producing crass imitations of the Narnian tales.

For this reason I was disturbed that Sherry Thompson has chosen to name her fantasy world "Narenta" because it looks so much like "Narnia" that there may be those who, without further ado, will consign it to the crass imitation category. This would be a huge mistake! Narnia fans will love Narenta but it is by no means a crude copy of Narnia.

The feisty contemporary American teenager Cara Marshall transported to Narenta in Seabird bears little resemblance to the mid-twentieth century British Pevensee children transported to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and the natures of their respective missions and experiences are also quite distinct and Narenta is quite a different world from Narnia. It would require a lengthy essay to detail and discuss all the Narentan/Narnian differences.

What Narenta and Narnia have in common is the story outline and the nature of the stage on which the stories are enacted. The story outline consists of humans transported to a fantasy world where they accomplish a salvific mission and then are returned to Earth with a resulting increase in spiritual maturity. The stage for the stories is a fantasy world imbued with spiritual analogies and containing talking animals and ruled by one of these animals who is a Christ-figure in the story. In Narnia the Lion Aslan is the Christ-figure; in Narenta the Seabird Alphesis is the Christ-figure. (Narnia is a fantasy world for children transportees, so that a land-bound animal is appropriate for a Christ-figure; Narenta is a fantasy world for adolescent transportees so that a more lofty incarnation is appropriate -- thus a Seabird is the Christ-figure there.) An entire book could be written on the spiritual analogies in Narenta (and Narnia); all I wish to say here is that to me the most striking spiritual analogy on Narenta is its "Living Water". And it is significant that the weapon Cara is shown wielding on the books cover is "The Sword Of Living Water", and that her last act on Narenta is to give orders concerning where it is to be housed after her departure.

The Pevensees, since they are children, require several trips to Narnia to gain the desired spiritual maturity, while Cara requires only one trip to Narenta -- she arrives as an adoleschent and leaves as an adult, which is dramatically depicted in a climactic scene where she perceives one of deepest of C. S. Lewis's spiritual insights as she faces down her opponent the sorceress Rabada. As Cara utters this insight, the reader is suddenly struck with the fact that she is now a woman; she is no longer a girl! And only after she attains this insight does she deliver the coup d' etat which demolishes the triad of sorcerors and thereby accomplishes her mission.

This deep spiritual principle which Cara discerned here was dramatically depicted by C. S. Lewis in his adult fiction space novel Perelandra. The principle itself, which Lewis states and discusses in one of his didactic works, is simply this: repeated sinning eventually depersonalizes the sinner. If, for instance, a man continues to whimper, eventually he will BECOME nothing but a whimper, i.e. there will no longer be a person behind the whimper. In Perelandra the villain, a demon-possessed man, eventually becomes what Lewis calls an Unman.

Cara, perceiving this principle, calls her nemesis a "nothing" at first, which she later amends to a "black hole", which sucks in and destroys life, but which has no life of its own. Here Thompson actually one-ups her mentor. C. S. Lewis did not and could not draw this analogy because black holes had not yet been discovered by astronomers in his day, when he wrote the Narnia books and the space trilogy.

The "tumult" faced by Cara in Seabird is the first of seven tumults prophesied for Narenta. The second tumult is the subject of Thompson's second Narentan novel which has just been published. I shall read and review it soon.

There is a good deal of humor in Seabird, mainly because Cara's conversations are filled with American figures of speech and American teen jargon. Most of this is spoken but a lot of it is Cara talking to herself. This, plus her feistiness in telling the land's top scholars and kings and generals just what she thinks makes for a very lively and often funny story.

This spunk is there from the very outset when Cara vehmently objects to being regarded as the land's deliverer and demands to be returned to Earth because "your magician grabbed someone from the wrong planet!". It takes her quite a while before she finally agrees to accept her mission.

It does not take long for the reader to realize that the Narenta story is imbued with a very different atmosphere from the Narnia story. This has to be the case when you consider that Cara is an American adolescent born in the 1990s and that the Pevensees are British children born in the 1930s. You do not need to read very far before it becomes crystal clear that in no form or shape or fashion is Narenta a "knock-off" of Narnia.

So, is Narenta to be considered as worthy of comparison with Narnia?? I believe that Seabird is in the same league as Narnia's first volume (LWW). Let us hope that the remaining books in the Narentan Tumults Series are as good as the first. This will not be easy! Cara will be a tough act to follow! The challenge Thompson faces is creating characters who are deserving of following in her train and of stories which continue the great start she made with Seabird.


June 3, 2010

I shall be posting more reviews of Thompson's Narenta series as they are published. So far, I would say that I believe Narenta is in the same league with Narnia, and, for me, that is a HUGE compliment because of the enormous respect I have for C. S. Lewis. I will be posting more on Lewis soon. 2010 is the 50th anniversary of my introduction to Lewis (in 1960). I shall be posting here some remarks about that soon.
Forrest