Wednesday, May 7, 2014
2009, 256 pages
There's nothing like a great hero to make a great story, and author Matthew Christian Harding certainly has a great one in his Lord McDougall.
This is a man who unabashedly awkward with the ladies. Long-limbed and gangly, he moves without grace whenever there is any sort of pretty face nearby. This embarrasses his man-at-arms, Fergus, who thinks his lord should work at being more, well, regal. But McDougall is seemingly unaware. And as awkward as he might be in social situations, he makes up for it in battle, becoming deadly to any who face him.
Foundlings is first of three books in “The Peleg Chronicles.” It’s set in the time a few generations after the flood, when Dragons (dinosaurs) and Giants still lived, and where a race of Dwarves were created by a king who kidnapped short folk to work his mines.
I think I may have gotten this book for free (in exchange for eventually doing a review) but after looking at the back cover I wasn't eager to start reading. The back blurb was touting it for what it didn't include: “No Magic – No Evolution – No Humanism.” That is all fine and good – I’m not a big fan of any of those – but when you brag about what's not present that raises suspicions that what is inside isn't much to boast about. Just think of a fellow who's told that his blind date is "not hideous, not all that argumentative, and not dumb as a rock.” Only a very brave man would proceed!
So I put this on my shelf and forgot about it for a few months. But when I finally did dare to proceed, I was surprised at just how good it was.
This is author Matthew Christian Harding’s first go at fiction, so there are some sections are a bit unpolished, but the series is inventive and the story engaging. Harding's dialogue is also far more realistic that most other Christian fiction. Good fantasy writing offers an escape from the real world, but also offers a degree of insight into that same world. In Foundlings the insight comes in the way the characters share the Scriptures. They share it naturally, calmly, and in exactly the sort of way you could imagine yourself doing it if you only had the courage to do it. There is nothing forced or fake, or preachy about it. It is brilliant dialogue, and inspiring too.
If I had to describe it in one word, it would be quirky. The plot involves a disinherited lord, McDougall, and his man Fergus Leatherheard rescuing maidens, fighting giants and investigating a cult of dragon priests.
So far I've tested this on one niece and one nephews, both in their early teens, and I'm one for two: one loved it, and one thought it was just okay. I'll add that I also loved it. The only caution I'll mention is that it would be better to think of this as one book broken into three volumes, than as three self-contained books - when you finish the first it doesn't feel like you've read a complete story.
An added bonus - the first book is available as a free e-book here at Amazon.com and here at Amazon.ca.