InterVarsity Press, 1986, 294 pages
I've just discovered that this book is so very beloved by the Dykstra clan, two of us decided to review - both Jeff and I did reviews. For the sake of brevity I've consolidated both reviews here, and started off with Jeff's quick review, followed by my slightly longer one.
The six books of the Archives of Anthropos, by John White, begin with The Sword Bearer. In a sense, the series is an updating of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series. In The Tower of Geburah, for example, the children are ‘sucked into’ Anthropos through an old television. The books are considerably longer than any of the Narnia books, but just as full of intriguing and infuriating fantasy characters, as well as explorations of the dilemmas and temptations of growing up, sometimes with considerably grittier and more modern problems than Lewis's characters faced in the “real world.”
If your kids are asking for the latest vampire or werewolf fantasy books you might consider getting them The Sword Bearer instead. This is a decidedly better brand of fantasy fiction.
That’s not to say the Christian fantasy genre is without controversy. C.S. Lewis’ classic Narnia series featured God represented as a lion, and some parents don’t think this is respectful enough. The Sword Bearer’s author, John White, avoids this particular controversy by portraying God as a blinding, comforting light. Still, if parents don’t like the Narnia series they probably won’t like The Sword Bearer either.
The book begins on John Wilson’s thirteenth birthday. He is excitedly rushing home because today is the day his grandmother promised she would tell him about his parents. Unfortunately for John, by the time he gets home his grandmother has died. But even as John is coming to terms with his loss he is magically transported to the kingdom of Anthropos. Here he is acclaimed as the Sword Bearer, the hero who will slay the Goblin Prince.
Anthropos is populated by Matmons (dwarfs), talking donkeys, eagles, bears and evil goblins. The setting will be familiar to parents who have read The Tower of Geburah in their youth. The Tower is probably John White’s most famous book and though it was written in 1978, is actually the third book in John White’s Archives of Anthropos series while The Sword Bearer, written in 1986 is the first. There are six books in total in the series which was completed in 2001.
God is ever present in these books and He is clearly the Christian God. Referred to as the Changeless Changer, and the Beginner of the beginning this God saves his followers by grace alone, and not because of any heroic deeds they may do.
The book also takes a stand against magic, which seems a rather strange thing for a fantasy book to do. The good “magician” in the book, Mab, insists that he does not practice magic but instead God performs miracles through him. The difference he explains is that magic is performed by those who use power to defy God, while he only uses the power given to him to do as God directs.
I would thoroughly recommend this book and estimate it is probably aimed at 10-14 year olds (though adults may enjoy reading it to their kids).