Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Thorn; Book One The Chronicles of Gan, by Daron D. Fraley
I have enjoyed some LDS novels that mix magical/supernatural elements and LDS elements (what was it? Nephite in Tennis Shoes or Nikes or whatever?). The Thorn runs in a similar vein in that on this particular planet there are prophesies about Christ's birth and a future, personal visit to the people of Gan. I don't think this is a "where did the lost tribes go" story, more of a "Moses was shown more planets besides Earth and this is one of them" (See the Pearl of Great Price) story. I've always wondered what such a world would be like, so I welcomed the chance to read this book.
Basically, you have the descendants of three brothers, Daniel, Gideon, and Uzzah, living on Gan. The tribe of Gideon hasn't had great success in maintaining good relations with the other two tribes and their despotic leader, Manassah, begins a war of conquest to bring all the tribes together under his rule. He sends troops to the tribal seat of Daniel to capture/kill the judge there, Samuel, and maybe abduct Samuel's son and heir Jonathan along with the sceptre they have hidden, "The Thorn".
Jonathan manages to escape with the sceptre. He later meets up with Eli, an Uzzahite priest and old friend, and Pekah, a peace-loving Gideonite soldier. Jonathan wants to stop the war in it's beginning stages to forestall horrendous destruction. The rest of the story follows the three men as they try to convince those of the various tribes they come upon to let reason and familial ties bind the tribes together again.
I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll just mention that there are battle scenes, just a little bit of romance (no steamy kissing scenes, thank goodness), and more than a little religious teaching.
My feelings about this book are...complicated. Overall I liked it, but there were elements that made me feel uncomfortable. Not in a "this book gives me a bad feeling" uncomfortable, more like, "should sacred ordinances be presented in this way" kind of uncomfortable. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have a certain view of Christ's gospel. Those of other Christian denominations may not understand the gospel in the same way. While I feel that the "doctrinal" elements are consistent with what is found in the King James version of the Bible, and in part, the Book of Mormon, it just feels weird seeing these elements in a fictional/fantasy setting complete with glowing rocks and crystal swords. It's that weirdness that somehow prevented me from totally immersing myself in the story. I think that's okay though. Some of the best books WILL make you a little uncomfortable, make you think, make you examine yourself and your world, make you question your preconceptions and force you to look at thing/ideas differently.
LDS elements aside, I thought it was a decent first novel. I liked the characters (well, the good guys) although I think the plot could have used some more development and the good guys were almost too good. The obstacles they had to face were, in my opinion, too easily overcome. I think an author has to be sparing with the "deus ex machina", as it were, because it's in the overcoming that characters learn and grow. Because of this I think perhaps this book might appeal more to the younger teenage readers who may not have cut their teeth on the Lord of the Rings series. I don't have any problem with letting my kids read the book. I also look forward to seeing the next book in the series and I expect that as the story continues, Mr. Fraley will certainly hone his writing skills further.
You can purchase The Thorn here.