I said yesterday that the Miller brothers' Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow has some major strengths that mingle with some of its weaknesses. (I've decided to re-organize my original presentation to avoid unnecessary complexity.) The tricky part in what follows is addressing the problems without committing a spoiler. So I'll start with an easy one that others may disagree with. (Yes, that constitutes permission.)
Hope. Hunter's female counterpart from Sanctuary, that is, not the roommate of Faith and Love. I have no good explanation for this; she just annoyed me somehow. I suspect that I, who am hardly ever bothered by a cover illustration, just didn't like her expression there. But that point aside, her entire arc in the story is a problem for me, especially the conclusion.
Hunter Brainless? There are times when he's reasonably bright, but there are also times when he's frustratingly thick. I still find it hard to believe he doesn't know what happened to his dad, though sheer incredulity may explain that. Then there's the place where he has a chance to neutralize an enemy and accomplish a major goal--but he refuses. If he were an outright coward, I could accept this, but he has shown too much courage by that point. And I would claim that any videogamer would've completed the mission first.
The Setting Paradox. The relationship between Solandria and the Veil is complex. In a way, they interlock as a single reality, but in other ways they don't. The Veritas sword functions in the Veil, though it is apparently invisible to anything purely of the Veil. People can exist in only one place or the other, and the setup isn't allegorical. Yet Solandria seems to be a more spiritual variation on the Veil, a place where something's general nature is more visible for those who look.
With this in mind, I find the situation in Solandria odd. The triumph of Evil is largely an appearance, not a reality, so the predominance of the Shadow is puzzling. That's not to say that Evil does not appear pervasive, but it is miles broad and not even an inch deep--by its very nature. In the Bible we read that the darkness is fading, that the Enemy has already been defeated, that a few saints can put an army to flight. So the view from a spiritual perspective will be very different indeed. The arrival of Aviad, like that of Aslan, should have set things largely right.
The Hunter Paradox. As a related matter, Hunter's spiritual position is both ambiguous and paradoxical. He is friendly to Aviad and company, but not truly under the Author's authority. Yet he uses the Veritas sword, which is presumably a spiritual weapon, to say nothing of the Code of Life. It's possible to be generally in submission to God while remaining rebellious in some areas, but there's no sign that Hunter truly has a relationship with the Author. (There's an ambiguous bit that probably does point to the beginning of such a relationship, but it comes too late to affect his actions in the story proper.)
The Training Paradox. The warriors of the Resistance train using the Revealing Room (rather like the Holodeck in later editions of Star Trek) or the Tempering Stone (a fast-healing, geologic masochist).
It wouldn't work.
I've explained the main problem before: God doesn't seem to believe in sparring practice; he believes in learning in the field. So if you try a training exercise, he probably won't show up, leaving you to learn to trust in your own amazing abilities. So this section takes a modern, mechanistic view of spiritual matters--the sort that reduces faith to magic and God to a machine. You won't find that in the text directly, but it's where the view inevitably leads.
The Bloodstone Paradox. POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT!! I'll try to steer around a spoiler, but this involves something that is revealed at the end of the story. The paradox involves the nature of and relationship among the Bloodstone, Venator, and Hunter. (This is partly where Latin will give you a Major Clue early on.) As a rule, everyone is who he is and nothing more: there is one Sam, one Hope, and so on, and you don't even have a Solandria twin/Veil twin situation. So how do we explain the relationship that's eventually revealed?
The simple explanation is that Solandria is Hunter himself writ extra large. But then he shouldn't have all the other people traipsing around inside. It would also mess up the identification between Solandria and the Veil. So the simple explanation doesn't work. What's the alternative?
Right off, I don't know. There's also the problem of death, which wouldn't be an issue under the simple explanation but otherwise is. When a character dies, God either does a temporary resurrection (as with Lazarus) or puts him in a whole new story (the resurrection). Yet it's implied that a character can be reintroduced as is, while the resurrection is transformative, not a re-run. The paradox remains unresolved.
Conclusion. I still recommend the book. Although there are numerous paradoxes or contradictions, the kids this is intended for probably won't pick up on them. Noting the problems isn't silly--this is presented as a serious story, not something with anthropomorphic talking animals, for example--so examining the deeper levels is reasonable. But it's primarily spiritual edutainment for kids, and on that level it works well enough.
The rest of the CSFF bloggers probably aren't reading the book with a microscope, so you might want to check them out:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
1 year ago