Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
The Vanishing Sculptor
Publisher’s Summary: Return to the world of the dragon keepers, where the fate of three missing statues will determine the fate of the world. Tipper, a young emerlindian woman, has been responsible for the upkeep of her family’s estate since her sculptor father disappeared several years ago. To make ends meet, she’s been forced to sell off the artwork he left behind.
When at last her father returns, accompanied by two strangers from a distant land, Tipper discovers that her actions have unbalanced the foundation of her world, as well as her father’s life, and she must act quickly to undo the threat. But how can she save her father and the world on her own?
The task is too huge for one person, so she gathers the help of some unlikely companions—including her guardian, the giant parrot Beccaroon, the wizard Fenworth, and his librarian Librettowit—and sets out on a quest, eventually witnessing the loving care and miraculous resources of Wulder.
Join new characters and old friends on a journey into a fantasy that inhabits the same world as the DragonKeeper Chronicles, but in a different country and an earlier time, where the people know little of Wulder and nothing of Paladin.
It was with some trepidation that I agreed to review this book. I love fantasy. I was 3 when my father started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to me. Probably three-quarters of the books I devoured in grade school were fantasy/scifi (or history, but that’s a different story). Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, Le Guin, Alexander…and so on. I also write fantasy myself, have studied worldbuilding (love it!) and other elements vital to such stories.
Needless to say, I felt I had a pretty good background to critique such a book. HOWEVER, the previous modern Christian fantasies I’d read were merely okay to abominable, not to mention preachy and/or treacly (and I’ve talked with enough Christian fantasy readers to know I’m not the only one who feels this way). For example, Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis was so bad that after about 3 chapters I skipped to the ending, was highly unimpressed by that, and promptly returned the books to the library. It’s almost as if there is such a lack of writers in Christian fantasy that even the blandest/most mediocre of efforts can find a publisher. The writers ignore such things as “show, don’t tell,” and “Hook your reader with the very first sentence.”
I winced when I read the first sentence of The Vanishing Sculptor: “Sir Beccaroon cocked his head, ruffled his neck feathers, and stretched, allowing his crimson wings to spread.” Do you know how hard the critiquers at Miss Snark’s First Victim would have nailed that sentence?
The next 2 or 3 pages are all description, which I guess is supposed to be worldbuilding, but which came across as turgid. If I’d not been reviewing the book, I probably would have read no further. As it was, I didn’t really get into the story until oh, chapter 25 or 26.
BUT, about midway through the book, things started rolling along, and I actually enjoyed reading the rest of the story. Also, Donita Paul does manage to balance the two sides (good doctrine vs. good fantasy) fairly well. Which is very difficult to do. I know. I’ve tried.
So, I guess I would have to say, as far as Christian fantasy goes, this is pretty good. In fact, I just passed the book on to a young (12 year old) friend of mine, saying she would probably like it.