Sep 21, 2014

Unbound, by J.B. Simmons

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.

Recommended Age-Group: 14+
Issues of Violence: sci-fi violence, monster violence
Intimacy Level: kissing
Language: mild
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars

Back Cover Blurb:
Elijah Goldsmith has nightmares he needs to ignore. Why would a rich kid from Manhattan dream three straight nights about a dragon and the destruction of St. Peter's Basilica? He's never even been to Rome. 

It's bad timing, too. He's graduating soon and applying to be a spy in the International Security Agency. That's where he meets Naomi. She's the kind of girl who makes boys like Elijah want to share their secrets. Were they brought together to learn what his secrets mean? There's more to their sparks than they think. 

This is 2066, the year the world ends. 

Initial Reaction: *****
I'm kind of over dragon books, so when I was offered an advanced copy of Unbound, I was hesitant. After all, a dragon is on the cover. Like any reader with time-constraints would do, I read the sample chapter before committing. I didn't get halfway through the sample before I replied to the author, "Yes, I'd like a copy!"

And I don't regret it one bit.

It starts out with cool technology -- you know the type: brain implants, simulations...the stuff I drool over, how could I say no? Mix that with some prophecies and crazy dreams, oh yes and traveling. Add some filet mignon, a glass of red wine, and the scene is set. You, dear reader, are a goner.

Characters: *****
The main character, Elijah, is not a believer and he views his friend (the "Christian" [insert dramatic music here]) as I'd expect any non-believer guy who's attracted to a cute Christian girl would -- weird, but attractive enough to help him overlook the weirdness.

Naomi was cool, mysterious, and normal for a character with belief in God. I appreciate these sorts of portrayals in Christian fiction.

Plot: *****
The plot, overall, kept me reading and, when I wasn't able to read, kept me wanting to read. I wanted to know what would happen with the prophecy, who would make it into "spy school" and why Elijah was having dreams of dragons. Elijah remained confused and searching -- but not the type of confused that makes the reader slap a palm to their forehead. I was confused with him and he discovered things at just the right pace.

The only thing that could have brought the plot a bit more to life would have been a little more info on ISA-7. I know it's top-secret and even the training is top-secret, but there was a lot of focus on how awesome it would be, how it was Elijah's dream, etcetera, but I didn't really see the purpose of it all. To my knowledge, that purpose wasn't shared. What did these spies do? Why would this be Elijah's dream? What was their purpose, anyway? I felt like I never really got an answer, which limited the impact that portion of the plot made on me.

However, the entire story moved rather quickly so it rarely felt slow. That's a huge plus in any book.

Spiritual Content: *****
Elijah's spiritual process took a long time and I could understand why. Everything was thrust on him from a lot of people who, frankly, seemed a bit crazy. I appreciated the time it took for him to have a "choice" moment and when that moment happened, it fit perfectly with the story. A lot of times spiritual "aha" moments can feel cliche, overdone, or over-emotional, but Elijah acted just as I would have expected him to. I'm very curious to see how this unfolds in his life in book two, now that everything has settled down enough to allow him to breathe.

The prophetic side of things remained interesting. I don't know my end-times Biblical trivia too well, but that's just understand this story, you don't have to. It's still a story and not a sermon. 

Overall Impression: *****
Intrigued. Impressed. It's one of the better pieces of Christian fiction I've read lately, not afraid to be real or nitty-gritty. The ending got a tad bit confusing for me, but I think that's how it's supposed to be since Elijah was left with questions and confused, too. 

I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Christian speculative fiction, apocalyptic fiction, or advanced technology. It is a quick, clean read that leaves you intrigued. 

*I received a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

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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, released September 2014 from Enclave Publishing. 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