The Miller brothers' Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow has some major strengths. Curiously, some are in the same slots as some of its weaknesses. Go figure.
Kid appeal. The book should work really well for its demographic and even beyond. In fact, I'll even pronounce the dread comparison and say that it actually could be a Christian equivalent for the Harry Potter books. (No, the Potter books aren't Christian. They aren't particularly demonic, either, but their Christianity is mostly an accidental tag along on some medieval material, and Rowling demonstrates a remarkable ignorance of Christian belief.) The reason people dread the comparison is that it generally means the book is a knockoff or the one making the claim knows nothing whatever about the Potter books. Hunter Brown is not a knockoff--there are practically no obvious similarities with the Potter books--yet the feel is similar, with a boy who finds himself in a world effectively tucked just out of sight. There he is confronted with a radically different view of his old world and his past. There's no magic as such, but there are swords rather like lightsabers only far more versatile.
Yet Hunter Brown is more coherent than Potter. My initial reaction to Philosopher's Stone was puzzlement that it had succeeded despite a major plot hole or two and some unevenness in the writing. Hunter Brown has no such problems. (There are three logical or theological flaws in the story, but of a sort most people will never notice. We'll look at them tomorrow.)
Language. No, not the blankety-blank kind. This is probably a minor point, but as a language geek, I appreciate people who get into language. The Millers evidently like Latin: one of the prominent symbols Hunter encounters (and early on, too) is a triple V representing Via Veritas Vita, or in English, Way, Truth, Life, which should sound suspiciously scriptural and even dominical. For some reason this turns into "the way of truth and life," which should be via veritatis et vitae, but perhaps the Millers decline declension. Maybe they gave it up for Lent. The main bad guy is Sceleris, the genitive singular of scelus, which means "crime, sin, curse, wickedness." Unfortunately, this trick works against the story, because anyone who bothers looking up a certain name will get the mother-in-law of spoilers, and quite early in the story. But how many people know Latin these days?
Extra credit: "Aviad" is presumably Hebrew--"My Father is perpetual/eternal."
Theology. Tune in tomorrow for the problem twin, but right now let's consider what went right. Probably the biggest positive here is the insistence that the Author always acts purposefully: there are no accidents. A lot of Christians act as though they don't believe that. Actually, chapter nine ("The Revealing Room") in particular has a lot of good, practical theology, more than I can adequately cover here. For example, there's a remark about the need to fear the Author, even though he's good, that reminded me of the initial exchange in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about Aslan: of course he isn't safe--but he's good. The theological content of the story as a whole is well above average, which combined with its readability makes it a good choice.
Tomorrow: some problem areas.
Well, let's see what the others have to say...
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