Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Review: Athera's Dawn
Hard pressed on every side, the Dibor struggle to overcome insurmountable odds in an effort not just to regain territory, but to survive. In addition to the growing ranks of the taken, Morgui has summoned the powers of nature to search out and destroy the saviors of Dionia. Tempests hunt those forced to flee by sea, while an otherworldly fire storm chews up the ancient forest of Grandath, destroying anything - or anyone - in its path.
While most of the Dibor manage to survive, the whereabouts of the ill-fated Princess Anorra continues to be unknown. Her faithful friends are unaware of her suffering behind the gates of Haides. The remaining Dibor soon discover that there is more to Morgui's madness than simple mayhem, as the dwarves reveal startling knowledge about the Two Trees, and worse still, about Morgui's attempt to forever thwart the Most High's plan for victory.
As Creation itself endures death throes caused by mounting evil, one thing is clear: Dionia and her champions will never be as they once were. Nor will those in worlds beyond. (From Amazon.com.)
The final battle for Dionia is at hand.
When I began Athera's Dawn, I was extremely excited. While I had read the first two books in the trilogy several times before, this was my first time reading the final book in the trilogy. I was a little nervous how it would turn out. So often, a great series would be ruined by a not-so-great last book. How would Athera's Dawn fare?
That's for you to find out.
Athera's Dawn was bittersweet for me. For two years, I had been hanging at the edge of The Lion Vrie and wondering how my beloved characters would survive. At last, I could finish the series, but in a way, I didn't want it to be finished. I didn't want the adventure to end.
In a word, I might describe the White Lion Chronicles as "painful". It's really painful reading. So many beloved characters suffer, and some die, and often it's what we call "dark". But in the end, that's what makes it so amazing. The price was paid for a brilliant ending.
The plot of Athera's Dawn was fast-paced immediately, picking up right where The Lion Vrie left off. Nearing the middle, however, it slowed down some, putting it ahead of Rise of the Dibor in plot pacing, but just behind The Lion Vrie.
Sir Hopper's writing style is at its best in Athera's Dawn. There were no major things that I would list as a "con" of this book. There were two minor notes: first, it didn't seem like there was one, coherent climax, but rather a few smaller climaxes lumped together. Second, there were a few moments that felt "convenient" to me, and others that felt unrealistic. These were, as I said, minor.
The characters of Athera's Dawn live and die and love, and Hopper does extremely well in showing the ups and downs of each character. There wasn't a lot of character development (that I can recall) in this book, but it wasn't as necessary, since the characters were already developed from the earlier installments of the trilogy.
As I approached the end, I expected (or dreaded, more like) a theologically-correct Deus Ex Machina ending. That is, where God sweeps in and makes everything right. After all, with such a strong theme and premise, and such high stakes, I thought that the novel would probably resolve in the end of the world.
I'm glad I was wrong. Sir Hopper took a surprising route and ending the book in a satisfying manner. What I especially liked is that, while God was with them every step of the way, in the end He left the final battle to His representatives on Dionia: mankind. However, when it seems like, in the end, that mankind can't win after all, that Dionia will be corrupted, something happens. Something wonderful.
What happens is directly tied to the theme. I won't tell it to you, but I found it to be an immensely satisfying (and theologically-correct to boot!) way to finally answer the question: does a sinless mankind still need a Savior?
I wish I could go on about it. Indeed, it was probably the highlight of the whole series, and my favorite part. One of the greatest scenes I've read in Christian fiction. And the culmination of the theme of the White Lion Chronicles.
But I can't spoil it for you.
After I had finished reading the last sentence of the last page of the last chapter, I had sat back for a few moments.
I didn't want to believe it was over.
But it was. And it was such a moving journey, too. I had something of an empty feeling, yet at the same time, it was satisfying. The pain and the suffering was the worthy price for the ending. It was such an amazing story - and I could only marvel at how well Christopher Hopper had captured the great struggle we have for righteousness, and the great God we have that will redeem us and bring us through to the very end.
And so The White Lion Chronicles built a bridge from fantasy to reality - there is a redeeming Lion, and He paid the ultimate price. And it is only with Him that we can win this war against ourselves.
Bravo. God has truly worked something marvelous through Christopher Hopper in this trilogy.
Highly recommended. To anyone.
Rated 9.5 out of 10. (Five stars.)