Emissary by Thomas Locke — 4 out of 5 stars

emissary

I know you’re not suppose to judge a book by its cover, but really, what’s not to like about this gorgeous work of art? It’s the perfect marquee for this new fantasy series by Thomas Locke. It depicts the flavor and mood of this story perfectly.

I don’t read fantasy as a rule, but because it’s such a popular genre for the younger set, including Millennials, I wanted to read it as a way get to know why they love this type of story. Walk into any bookstore these days and the shelves overflow with novels featuring wizardry and witchcraft. These books appeal to those who cut their teeth on Harry Potter and fantasy role-playing and video games.  They crave more stories that take them into the land of fairy tales and magic.

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Map of The Realm

I am one of the few who hasn’t read Harry Potter due to my own personal convictions. And I will admit being wary of this book. However, I do believe Locke has tapped into a market that desires a less dark fantasy experience. There is no overt Christian message, but there is definitely a main character to admire and a quest to be fought for. The thing to remember when reading fiction, Dear Reader, is that it is Fantasy.

Locke himself stated on his blog that he wants to take his readers on a story journey similar to what he loved reading while growing up:

“During our formative years – up until around age 30 – we are reinforcing our world view when we read for entertainment. But much of the fantasy that’s being published today doesn’t offer that sense of courage and inspiration that used to be prevalent in fantasy and science fiction novels.

Of course, not all of the “classic” authors wrote uplifting work. Ray Bradbury is one example. But even Bradbury’s writing gave me a sense of mind-bending escape and the opportunity to dream and envision more than what was available in world around me.

The books I loved most offered hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for growing into someone who could have these sorts of adventures. I want to infuse that hopefulness into my characters, and not give in to the temptation of creating characters who are only bitter and cynical.

In Emissary, key themes include courage in the face of fear, travel to unknown destinations, and new personal avenues of growth and development. I’ve tried to bring each of these into a story structure that’s applicable to today’s culture.”

I was quite surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. Usually I read historical or political suspense, but I found myself smiling and turning page after page, eager to learn what Hyam, the main character, would face next.

Since I cut my  own teeth on Catherine Marshall and Janette Oke novels (as well as classics such as Little Women and The Yearling), it was a stretch for me to keep track of the visible and invisible in this story. It was also a stretch to “believe” the fantasy (which is a very strange oxymoronic thing to experience and explain). But Locke does a brilliant job of clarifying and describing his made-up world. His writing is seamless, and I found myself actually lost in the story instead of paying attention to his craft. Only good writing can do that. Occasionally there was a word or two I’d need to Google, but not often, and I only Googled them because I’m the curious sort, and I don’t mind learning new turns of phrase and words. Again, had I cut my teeth on such books, perhaps I’d have known what they meant.

This story is about a young man named Hyam who is able to speak several languages. He has the gift of magic which is forbidden in the realm. As a young child he was trained by wizards at a Long Hall, a place which he hated.

Due to a series of unexpected events, he is called to turn away from everything he has ever known in order to save those who may not even have his best interest at heart.

I kept looking for an allegorical message since it is classified as Christian Fiction, and I didn’t really find a consistent one. However, the protagonist is noble, and the values are clearly upright. Loyalty, courage and honesty are visible in the protagonist’s imperfect character.
Here’s the trailer for the book:

For other personal reasons, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s not because it’s not beautifully written because it is. And if you like fantasy, and you’d like to find something uplifting and heroic to read without all the gory darkness, this book is definitely for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

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