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Posts Tagged ‘Kiriath’

I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Shadow over Kiriath opens with a conversation between Hazmul and a lesser demon, plotting to ruin Abramm and defame his God, beginning on the day of the grand coronation.  The demons have been spiritually attacking Abramm in the months since his victory over the Morwhol, also attacking his friends so that they will be unable or unwilling to help strengthen the king against the shadow-attack awaiting him. 

I was interested to notice how it affected me to know what the bad guys plotted.  I sat on the edge of my seat, fearing when things went the way the demons wanted.  Then the coronation happened, and when everything looked to be going over to the Shadow, the bad guys were thwarted by the grace and might of God alone, whose ways are unpredictable.  As the story progressed I learned to judge things not by who was getting their way, but by whether decisions were made out of love and faith and based on the truth of God.  Even if a character was having the worst day spiritually, in a single moment of humble request, God would come shining through, proving again that we are much less dependent upon our own performance than we would like to think.

Strange for a book about suffering to so emphasize the grace and sovereignty of God. 

For Shadow over Kiriath is about suffering, asking of its readers the questions Abramm had to struggle with: Does God restore what we sacrifice for Him?  Is suffering easy when we do it for the right reasons?  What does it mean when we read that all those who follow God will share in His sufferings?  If we lost everything, would we still trust God? 

From the coronation, the entrancing story flows into a dark attack from Beltha-adi, Abramm’s wrenching courtship and romance, attempts to relight the ancient guardstars in fortresses around Kiriath, and the seditious plot of the Mataians to take back the kingdom.  I found myself very involved in this book, relating to the questions asked of God and the huge difficulty of self-denial to do what is right – and desperate for everything to turn out ok for the characters, especially the unconventional Princess Maddie: royalty, detective, and friend. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Sometimes the Christian life is overwhelming.  There are battles on so many fronts, and no guarantees that things are going to turn out the way you desire.  God is there and God is good, but it is so easy to forget.  Whenever we forget, our focus is off and then we can never be sure whether we got ourselves into a mess or if God was going to bring us here even if we had done everything right.  The temptation to accept being overwhelmed is itself a temptation.  We can’t escape temptation, because there’s part of us that wars against the Spirit, that longs to sin: to be angry or stubbornly independent, to seek revenge or to be afraid, to doubt God’s goodness and look at how bad everything seems to be. 

For Abramm Kalladorne, heir to the throne of Kiriath, things are pretty bad.  In The Shadow Within, the Shadow forces are throwing everything they’ve got at him, using little threats that would only cost hundreds of lives to distract him from the bigger picture that could cover thousands of Kiriathan souls in Shadow and allow the Shadow to continue its advance across the world unchecked.  Not only does Abramm have more than enough to handle trying to win the confidence of his people in order to keep the crown and defend his people against amassing enemies; his most dangerous enemy is himself.  Each time he gives in to doubt or selfishness or pride, he is weakened in his spiritual war against the Shadowspawn and the human devotees of the Shadow. 

But Abramm is not without help.  Though she resents it, his sister Cassandra makes a terrible journey to warn him about the monster she discovers.  His faithful friend Trap both serves and defends Abramm.  Several fellow Terstans join Abramm in the spiritual side of his fight, including the strong-willed and discerning second princess of Chesedh, Lady Madeleine.  To his surprise Abramm also encounters favor from several of his noblemen, who become his political allies.  But ultimately Abramm must learn that though God has blessed him with friends and military prowess, he desperately needs God: not only for the first step, but for every stroke afterward.  God is sufficient even if He’s all Abramm has.  So Abramm must be willing to surrender everything else God has given if he is going to experience the fullness of God’s power and plan for him. 

Things in The Shadow Within are not always what Abramm Kalladorne, King of Kiriath, expects.  They are both easier and more strenuous, less lonely and more personal, richer and more costly.  So it is with we who are sold out to the Lord of the Universe, Lord of Light, whose purposes go far beyond our lives, however significant or supplementary. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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