September 28, 2011

Book Review–The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice–Book 1)



They have always scared him in the past -- the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied. . .


* * * * * * *


I’ve been thinking about reading this series for years, but always chose other books. The thing is, I almost never read non-Christian fantasy because I have no idea what might be in it. Well, after reading good reviews of a couple of the Ranger’s Apprentice books on Into the Book, I decided it was time to give them a try and picked up the first couple books from the library. You can usually gauge my reaction to a story by how fast I read it. I read The Ruins of Gorlan straight through in one afternoon. I wasn’t sure what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised. I was quickly hooked and reluctant whenever I had to put the book down.


The characters were awesome. I found them well developed and believable. I felt for Will and loved to cheer for him and watch his growth. Who doesn’t love to see someone deemed weak turn into a hero? I adored Halt from the instant he appeared in the story (those who know me well know I have a thing for Rangers). I just love those very capable, highly mysterious, rather grim and sarcastic mentor characters—and Halt was one of the best. And, of course, can’t forget about Horace. My heart ached for him many times, and I very much enjoyed watching his character growth as well.


While not Christian, as I mentioned, I found the book to have very good morals. Heavy emphasis was put on honesty, honor, and loyalty, while bullying was shown as horrible and cruel. The only drawback to the book were some instances of language. The word d**n was used several times in dialog, and h*** once. If you can overlook that, the story was exciting and kept me thoroughly engrossed in the adventure. I am anxiously looking forward to diving into book two. If the remaining 9 books are as excellent as this one, I have some very enjoyable reading ahead of me. It’s rare that a book makes it to the list of my all time favorites, but this one has. I highly recommend it, especially to fellow lovers of fantasy and those who love the idea of Rangers.


For more information about the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan, check out:

September 23, 2011

F is for Friendship

4598283411_1dc6b56fba_oFriendship is one of the biggest themes in the whole Makilien Trilogy. So many of my characters would have been injured or worse if not for the aid of a friend. There is nothing like a friend who understands you and would do anything for you. It’s friendship like that I wanted at the center of Makilien. So for this post, I’m going to focus on a few of my favorite friendships from Truth.


Makilien and Aedan—I love their sibling-like bond and how Aedan is always there to sympathize with Makilien. I’m not sure how Makilien would have been able to bear the years of questions and frustration with life without him. Though Aedan hated their situation just as much as she did, he could always offer some encouragement and comfort.


Makilien and Halandor—Their friendship is just about my favorite of the whole trilogy. It’s the one friendship that completely carried over and was perfected from my original version of the story. Makilien said it herself, she didn’t know where she would be if not for Halandor. She surely wouldn’t have survived those first few days outside of Reylaun without him. He was the one to teach her all of the most important things she had to learn. He helped her gain strength, confidence, and character. He helped her become a better person, and that is the greatest thing about their friendship. In return, Halandor was able to experience being a father again in a way, something he so tragically lost.


Torick, Elandir, and Elmorhirian—This one just makes me laugh. The fact is, Elandir and Elmorhirian drive Torick nuts. The older he gets, the less patience he has for their mischief. However, though he’ll happily watch them take some heat for their actions, he’d never just stand by if they were truly being harmed. He may deny it, but the two of them are like family to him. And despite all the pranks and teasing, Elandir and Elmorhirian love Torick. It may be hidden behind a whole lot of practical jokes and mischief, but their friendship is just as strong as anyone’s.


Makilien and Sirion—I love the friendship between these two. From the moment they meet, they’re looking out for each other. Sirion is the last close friend Makilien makes in Truth, and he’s a little different than all the rest. She admires him and is inspired by him. He always has an encouraging word for her, and something about him makes her want to be more. Though she really did nothing to try, Makilien is one of the not too many people who have won a special place in Sirion’s heart, a place he usually keeps guarded for fear of loss.


Makilien and Meniah—And last, but certainly not least, the most important friendship in the story. This was both the most difficult and the most fulfilling relationship to write. There are so many portrayals of Christ in fiction, and for mine I wanted to focus specifically on His love. I wanted to capture His tenderness and care toward someone who really had nothing to offer and who didn’t even fully return the love with faith until everything was falling apart. That is what I hope I accomplished in this friendship.


Photo by AJC1

September 20, 2011

E is for Elandir and Elmorhirian

Because, really, you can’t have one without the other. It’s the two of them together that makes them so entertaining at times.


Elandir and Elmorhirian are Elf brothers in Makilien—sons of an Elven lord. As I have mentioned before, I love writing about sibling relationships. These two were especially fun. They are the comic relief in the story, and they love that. They love mischief, yet at the same time, they can be very serious when the situation calls for it. They’re an interesting duo, much the same in many ways, but opposites in others. Take their appearance for instance. Elandir has their mother’s golden hair and deep blue eyes, while Elmorhirian is dark-haired and brown-eyed like their father. They’re typical brothers—highly competitive, quick to throw each other under the bus in less than serious situations, but when it comes to life and death, they’d die for each other.


Elandir is the oldest and more of a leader than Elmorhirian. He likes to think he is more mature than his brother, though Elmorhirian is quick to dispute that. Being the oldest, he will be the next Elven lord of Elimar so his father expects him to be a part of many of the decisions affecting their city. I don’t think he always likes being dragged into mischief with Elmorhirian, but in the end, he can’t help himself, though he will pin it on his brother if he gets the chance.


Elmorhirian is the middle child and youngest son. He’s all for adventure and a good practical joke. He loves to make people laugh. He’s more easygoing than Elandir, and is usually the mastermind behind many of their misadventures. But despite his impish behavior, he’s very kindhearted and quick to defend his family and friends. He’s a bit more caring and patient than Elandir can be. I have a real soft spot for Elmorhirian because of this.


Elandir and Elmorhirian have been a part of Makilien since the beginning so I really don’t remember much about their creation process. I’ve never been the best comedic writer, but these two always take over with their scenes, especially in this final version of Makilien. One of my favorite things to come out of writing them has been their interesting relationship with Torick. It was never in the original version and was never planned for this one. It just came to be in the first scene we see Torick and Elmorhirian in together and grew from there. Since then it has had me giggling delightfully on many occasions.

September 12, 2011

D is for Dolennar



The world of Dolennar has been growing and developing in my mind for almost ten years. I love epic medieval and fantasy landscapes. Depending on the area, Dolennar as a mix of English countryside, New Zealand, the Northwoods where I’m from, and just random bits put together in my imagination. It started out rather small scale at first, focused on only three or four places, but as the story expanded so did Dolennar. I wanted Dolennar to be a believable and kind of familiar feeling place once you get to know it, so I didn’t go with anything wildly fantasyish and foreign.


The greatest tool I had in the development of Dolennar was the map. Right after we saw The Fellowship of the Ring and I began writing fantasy, my brothers and I got really into drawing maps. We’d draw them all the time. The map of Dolennar is one of the maps that came from that. At the time I was just starting my original Makilien, and really had no idea where everything was going to be, but that one map ended up being perfect. I’ve made very few changes to it over the years. I can’t imagine what I would do without it. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I had to draw it now.


My favorite places in Dolennar are Elimar and the plains of Eldor. I love Elimar for two reasons. First, I love the idea of a small peaceful city where everyone knows each other and is welcoming to strangers. And secondly, I love the forest. I always imagine it as one of my favorite places on earth with huge maple trees and evergreens. As for the Eldorian plains, I just love the idea of rolling hills with lush green grass and mountains towering in the background.