Review: “Shadow’s Fire: A Chance Beginning” by Christopher Patterson

shadowLet me begin with a disclaimer. Book reviews are a highly subjective thing. What strikes my fancy might not strike yours, and vice versa.

With that said, I was introduced to Christopher Patterson by a fellow author who is also trying to find his path somewhere between sci-fi/fantasy and Christian fiction. Shadow’s Fire leads more toward the former. In fact, if some were to read it as Christian literature, they might be mildly surprised, and perhaps shocked.

Shadow’s Fire is the story of two brothers and a cousin who leave their farm in search of riches and adventure. Their plan is to travel to the coast and join an army that is fighting in a foreign land. But circumstances lead them on a different path. The story is fantasy, constructed on a different world, replete with dwarves, elves and what I call cat-people. I am sure there are some other races in there as well, and I am eager to meet them–at some point in the story.

Patterson does a good job of world building, something I can’t underestimate after working last year on doing that very thing with my writer’s group, The Rough Writers. It’s easy to do, but hard to do well, and Patterson does it well. The lands are believable, the cities are right out of Robin Hood or some medieval tale, the people are appropriately dirty and often smelly as well. You get to know the three main characters very well and meet a lot of other people in the process. And even though I wouldn’t classify it as Christian literature (I will explain why in a minute), it does a good job of bringing the concept of God into the story in a subtle way.

That’s the good part. On the other side, I had a really hard time getting into the book. Patterson has created a big world, and in the beginning the reader is challenged with numerous stories at the same time. I got to about the 1/3 way mark before I could finally figure out who was who and what was going on. It’s much like the beginning of Game of Thrones, something I also found intimidating.

In addition, the book is in sore need of editing, something I believe the author is planning on doing soon. The reason I wouldn’t consider it “Christian fiction,” but instead think of it as “fantasy fiction written by a Christian,” is that there is mild swearing and lots of drinking throughout. I’ve read enough objections on other Christian fiction sites on Amazon to know that will turn many Christian readers off.

Finally, for an adventure book, I found a great deal of talking when what I wanted was action. There are two battle scenes, one about halfway through and another at the end, that I thought were handled well. But I wanted more, and felt that the book would be stronger with them.

Like I said, it’s a rich world, but didn’t strike my fancy as much as I would have liked.

I give it three stars out of five.