Aug 27, 2010

Knightley Academy, by Violet Haberdasher

Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.
Knightley Academy, written and imagined by 23-year-old authoress, Violet Haberdasher, is just the book any 13-year-old boy with dreams to be a knight should read.

It begins with the typical orphan working at the boy's boarding school--scrubbing blackboards by day, stealing and reading textbooks by night (after a secret tutoring session with his favorite teacher, of course). Given the one chance to succeed, Henry Grim takes an entrance exam to the Knightley Academy--a school to train young men as knight police, detectives, and guards for the people. He is the first servant ever to attend Knightley and opens the doors to other boys similar to him. After signing the Code of Chivalry, Grim's pursuit of knighthood throws him into fencing matches, inter-school tournaments, and the chance to prove that he is more than just a commoner. But when mysterious messages and deadly sabotage meet Henry and his friends around every unexpected corner, the thrill of knighthood is replaced with the panic of survival and a drive to decipher the mystery (naturally).

Knightley Academy is basically Harry Potter, but without the magic. This may be nice for Christians who question the appropriateness of magic in books and movies in accordance with the Bible (a topic I address here). Henry is a boy seeking a better life, joining a school, receiving taunts because of his history, and overcoming trials and hardships with a step of determination. There are many good lessons of character and high moral standards in respecting elders, obeying rules, and making decisions using one's best judgment.
The book is geared toward 9-12 year old and I believe Haberdasher's writing style and quality fit the age group well. It is written very simply and maintains a good pace.

Other than some cardboard bad-guys, predictable plot, and a confusing mixture of modern & old-style speech, Haberdasher makes a brave, but unsuccessful attempt at writing British culture. Tea and biscuits every morning (they finally drink cider at one point--whether American or British, I don't know, but there is a difference--and it's a nice change) and in the dialogue between characters she uses the British term "bl**dy" over 15 times. As Americans, we hear that word and tend to think it is just a fun British exclamation, but it is more of a British swear word, bordering near the American "S" word. I would caution readers to use discretion, even if that term means nothing to them. It is not a word to be thrown around with a British accent (even though Rupert Grint says it multiple times in the Harry Potter movies). ;)

On a Christian level, Henry states plainly that he doesn't believe in God after reading philosophy books. This implies that once he "wised up" he realized God did not exist. This is sadly disappointing because, not only does much philosophy prove the existence of God (and it's right, He does exist), but devotion to God used to be a knightly quality and Henry is pursuing knighthood--which, if he were serious about it (as Haberdasher writes him to be), he would also pursue God.

Overall, I think this is a fairly innocent read, wavering on the bland side. I credit Haberdasher for her creativity and portrayal of honorable boys and men. Her writing of the side character, Adam, picked up the story a bit with his humor (ultimately, my favorite character). I came away from the book feeling like I had gained little more than when I sat down and started reading it.

If you do choose to read this book, I might suggest having some tea and biscuits on hand, you may end up craving it during your read. ;)

Violence Level: ** (Very clean, but still filled with action!)

Romance Level: * (just a schoolboy crush that stays at the joking friendship level)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: ***** (A very easy read, not really written for adults.)
Story Depth Level: ** (Average 9-12 fantasy book. Doesn't make you think much.)
Recommendation: *** (I'm neutral on the subject.)

For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at


Aug 22, 2010

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

If any of you are like me, you found Stardust to be a delightful and humorous adventure movie with just the right amount of fantasy and imagination. I, of course, bought the book right away when I read in the credits that it was based off a novel.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, is a quick read--large writing and fairly easy syntax--but by the end, I found that the movie version far surpasses the novel (a rare case). Through the first half of the book, the story is almost identical with the movie (a fact that gives me great pleasure in applauding Paramount Pictures, for it's a rare thing nowadays to see such accuracy in Hollywood), save for a few "adult" sections, which were not included in the motion picture (thankfully).

Stardust tells the tale of Tristran Thorn, a young boy who lives in the village of Wall. The first few chapters delve into Tristran's hiostory--his father, Dunstan, crossing the wall that separates the village from the magical (but guarded) land of Faerie and a meeting a beautiful princess. After some bewitched and foolish choices on Dunstan's part, the princess ends up having his child, Tristran.
Tristran grows up with his father and his father's wife and daughter (thinking they're his mother and sister) in Wall and falls madly and adolescently in love with a girl named Victoria. One night, they see a fallen star shoot from the sky and land in Faerie. In an act of passion, Tristran vows to find that star for Victoria and bring it back to her in return for her giving him whatever he desires (aka. her hand in marriage). She believes him to be bluffing and foolish, but agrees for the fun of it. As we can all predict, Tristran crosses into Faerie and, as in most novels with other worlds, finds his life turned upside-down.

The star turns out to be a beautiful girl--a halting factor for Tristran who must take her back to his Victoria. Through many toils, dangers, and adventures, Tristran travels, fighting off witches, princes, lions, and the unknown. During these many days and nights of adventure, he and the star slowly fall in love--another halting factor in Tristran's love for Victoria. By the end, the fate of the star, Victoria, and Tristran's real mother, balance precariously on the difficult choices and decisions young Tristran must make.

Overall, the main plot-line is an enjoyable read and Gaiman has some spectacular descriptions, but the book is strictly "adult fantasy". I should have researched that earlier and perhaps I would not have been taken by surprise by the adult situations and insinuations. This book is, in my opinion, inappropriate for any children, teens, YA, and Christian readers. We are to dwell on "...whatever things are noble...true...just...pure...lovely, [and] whatever things are of good report..." (Phil. 4:8). Stardust has explicit adult content, severe swear words (both American and British), and (sadly) a fizzle-out ending.

I enjoy the movie-version much more and do not recommend the book (despite it's attractive cover), but hope to find some more promising fantasy in my next read. Meanwhile, speaking of the movie, I'm off to make popcorn.

Violence Level: ***
Romance Level: **** (not really romance, but just focus on the physical)

Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: ***
Story Depth Level: *** (a lot of creativity)
Recommendation: *


Neglect: "fail to care for properly"

I fear that the author of this blog (that's me) has neglected my readers (that's you). A simple, "I will be M.I.A. for a week or so" would have sufficed, but the three minutes of effort that post would have taken proved too much for me.

However, I have returned with a fresh book review for you. In answer to the unasked (but no doubt silently wondered) question: I was detained working two jobs, playing in a softball tournament (we took fourth out of 10, thank you very much), moving to Missouri (a two-day drive, I'll have you know), and starting Graduate School (a lifelong dream that seems far too long...).
Now that I am here, settled in my new apartment, I am returning to my blog. I am also letting my eggs burn on the stove....