Armor of God: The Paladin is the work of Tracy Lesch. According to Amazon’s bio, “Tracy Lesch is an award-winning writer of Fantasy, Suspense, and other Speculative Fiction. He is a former Dungeons & Dragons illustrator, radio, and television personality. His work has appeared in books, magazines, and online venues.” That’s why it surprised me that I didn’t like the novel.
Excerpts of Armor of God: The Paladin won him Writer of the Year from the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference and his Christian Writer’s Guild mentor is Eva Everson—author of Chasing Sunsets (Baker/Revell 2011), This Fine Life (Baker/Revell 2010), and others. Tracy is a member of Word Weavers and the Christian Writer’s Guild. I can understand why excerpts of Armor of God: The Paladin won awards. Depending upon which excerpts, by itself some sections are quite well written:
“I cannot win with my own human hatred or bloodlust, but only with His righteous anger. No human could possibly stand against the unholy evils I have seen.” (Location 208-209)
“The silver was exquisite, beautiful as I softly polished the blade. When I looked closely I could see tiny rainbows in the mirrored surface.” (Location 178-179)
The novel is about a monk named Captain Jean Baptiste who is fulfilling a role as “God’s own Paladin.” He seeks demons and kills them. Part of the description states, “the hardest demons to vanquish maybe those that lurk within the human heart. What lies ahead for the one mortal on earth who can summon the very Armor of God?” There were so many problems with the novel.
Each chapter does not designate a place or date (i.e. Germany, 1505). In chapter one the line where Jean, the Paladin says, “As long as I pursued the Quest, I was very hard to kill,” made me take a pause. Also, as the talons of the monster attacking Paladin begin to tear him a part, a sword “magically” appears in his hand saving the day. Both of these items lesson the high stakes.
Why should I continue reading if Paladin is very hard to kill? Chapter two had no designation of time or place and when I read the name, “Germany,” I felt confused. Obviously, this was the past on earth, but when and where? Shouldn’t there be historical references as the story takes place on earth in the past? Chapter one also confused me because I could not tell if this was a man or a woman. If one didn’t read the description of the novel, one would be wondering about this until more information is discovered later in the novel. Voice is another issue.
Right away I don’t like Paladin. He’s arrogant, conceited, and self-absorbed. I couldn’t imagine why any farmer or lay person in that world would invite him into their house. He’s overly dramatic. The novel is written in first person and so it gets you into the head of Paladin. There are also classic writing mistakes—things most of us would get critiqued for in our own Word Weavers group.
Chapter two continues to leave the reader in a dark fog. This short chapter is all conversation with no beats, tags, or description. At this point, I have no idea who is talking to whom. Then, Tracy manages to commit massive info-dumping for several chapters as Paladin sits down with Gustav and Anna and recounts his life story to them. From chapter ten to chapter fourteen Paladin’s dialogue is mostly unbroken. The reader is forced to read his entire history in dialogue. Typically, novels I read do not force the reader to sit through what I would call a “lecture.” It loses its tension here and my interest. Then, there’s the preachy dialogue.
“No, that is not what I mean. Do you commune daily with the Lord, is He part of every moment of your daily life? Do you pray?” It didn’t sound natural. While I was reviewing this novel, I was also in the midst of reviewing, “Scream,” by Mike Dellosso. He had a great example of showing why a character should believe in God instead of telling by mixing in relational issues associated with being a believer in a family of non-believers and showing the fear of the demons (hence, the screaming) in each character. I think there was way too much telling in Tracy’s novel.
The novel didn’t stir my emotions, excite me so that I looked forward to returning to its pages, or make me feel sympathy to Paladin as I neared the end of the novel and learned more about his family. I think the plot and story have potential, but in its present form I wouldn’t read it again. When I finally discovered some good emotional paragraphs I became excited because some humanity finally comes through in Paladin’s character.
Overall, I rated this two stars. To judge the novel yourself, you can buy it on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.
*Book given by author to review.
Kicking Eternity by Ann Lee Miller takes on a subject that is like talking conservative politics at a Green Peace convention: home schooling. And she tackles the subject in an endearing story of love and friendship.
Raine grew up home schooled by a father who believes a woman never has any authority. Once she marries, her husband then has authority over her choices. We meet Raine at the start of camp. She’s a Bible teacher with a murky past. Cal, a typical, surf-board-hit-over-the-head dude who loves to surf, drink, and live unfettered begins to flirt with Raine. Drew is just getting over a past love that dumped him after high school. Cal is an unbeliever hired to teach art by his brother, Jesse who hopes the Christian camp would have an effect on Cal. It’s Raine’s crush on Cal that sends this home schooled girl into spiritual turmoil.
Raine has a passion for Africa. Against her father’s wishes, she intends to fly to Africa and teach Bible. There’s more than passion behind her yearning for Africa. Family drama, sexual attraction, and the fear of falling in love with the right man before she can flee the States for her dream makes camp more than just a pause before the rest of her life. The story’s wonderful unpredictability and characters drew me deeper. I thought of the story even when I had to step away from it and still now, but not all of it was good.
I gave Kicking Eternity four stars. I would read it again, but I didn’t care for the father’s attitude or how the story seemed to back up that attitude with Drew affirming her father’s archaic beliefs even towards the end. That’s very damaging for someone who comes from an abuse situation. Raine is twenty-one and is an adult. Her motivation for going to Africa should be brought into question as you get deeper into the story, but the father’s attitude is never addressed properly. Raine’s mom appears not to hold any authority either when Raine argues about her dream of going to Africa. Yes, her father is concerned for her safety, but that attitude where she has no choice unless a male figure makes it hits a raw nerve. Since not enough story has been given to Raine’s father to dissect if this attitude is abuse, I am not ready to penalize the entire novel for something I disagree with.
Ann bravely shows the good and bad of home schooling in this interesting story. The love story cannot be predicted at first. Both Cal and Drew are falling in love with Raine, but it’s unclear how deep that love goes until you’ve gone most of the way through the novel. It’s a wonderful read and very diverse. Some of the elements in the story are unusual in a Christian novel, but not offensive; it’s real life, real temptations, and real forgiveness.
*Book given by author to review.
The Art of My Life by Ann Lee Miller challenges the Christian reader with its sometimes explicit content. The novel thoroughly explores the relationship between Cal and Aly and Cal’s addiction to pot.
In her last novel, Kicking Eternity, Cal submitted to his addiction to pot after being rejected by Raine for someone else. Aly is angry because Cal slept with Evie, a drama queen and pot addict. Cal has spent several months in jail and in The Art of My Life he is determined to lead a straight life to earn Aly’s love. Aly is now a bank loan officer and living as a Christian. Her past reputation continues to haunt her mind and others reminders of her mistakes hurt.
To interrupt the story is the budding romance between Fish and Missy. That story was distracting. I really didn’t like Missy or Fish. Fish was truly an unpleasant character and while necessary to the storyline, I wish he didn’t have his own point of view. Other people will probably disagree. Ann did a great job in presenting each character with individual personalities and voices. That’s not an easy talent to achieve as sometimes every character no matter the inflection of voice in dialogue can sound like the author.
Ann’s novel is unique, getting into the uglier side of the life of an addict and the temptations involved in once having been sexually active. For those under sixteen years old, the novel is too explicit.
While Ann doesn’t write in the traditions of secular romance scenes, the scenes depicted do take a step past the edge where it’s too visual. I’m not sure how I feel about it since I do appreciate the struggle being illustrated there. Too often Christian novels don’t touch upon sexual temptation. To successfully, show rather than tell of the struggles a young girl might endure means getting into the dirty side of life. Ann does this, but I’m not sure I like how far she goes with it.
In the Christian world, her novel would probably be criticized because of this content and the heavy drug use illustrated, but in the secular world this would be considered tame.
I liked the flow of her last novel, but I felt the flow in The Art of My Life kept getting interrupted by Fish and Missy’s issues. I would have rather seen no point of view from Fish or Missy, and focused on Cal, Aly, and Cal’s mom and grandparents. Ann is probably going to use Missy and Fish in her next novel, if I were to hazard a guess by how much time these characters received in The Art of My Life.
The danger Aly and Cal faced towards the end of the novel escalated the conflict and the necessity of Cal getting rid of his pot addiction. Ann shows us the side of weed that most people who promote the so-called benefits of try to hide. Her writing of this story almost reflects a personal experience possibly with people who had this addiction. There’s a passion behind her words as she wrote Aly and Cal’s story. The nice thing about each chapter were the snippets of Aly’s “blog,” that give us a little more of Aly’s thoughts.
Overall, I struggled to come up with a rating for her novel and hovered between a three and four. A couple of grammar and/or typos were not distracting, but because of how well she showed pot’s addictive nature and the damaging effects it can have on families, I gave The Art of My Life four stars. The story of the weed’s dangerous effects on people and family upstaged Cal and Aly’s love story.
*Book given by author to review.