I am trying to be better about reviewing middle grade books as my niece and nephew are getting to the age where they are voracious readers, and I want to be able to talk to them about their books. So here goes! “Keepers of the Flame” is the story of seven kids (all 13 years old) embarking on their birthright. This birthright states that all first born children are to become Keepers of the Flame: an order dedicated to protecting, serving, and bettering their communities by offering religious guidance. Over the decades, many people have gotten away from this birthright through taxes, or they join the order but aren’t true to their god—Jaoal. This has allowed something dark and vile to grow strong on the mountain where the young Keepers are trained, and by the time our main characters get there, the battle between good and evil is about to begin. There are so many important themes that are touched upon in this book that it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll be sharing with the young kids in my family!
The writing of the book is simple and easy to follow, however the names of the characters and locations can be rather complex, especially for younger readers. There is a name guide in the book, but be aware that they may need help getting a firm grasp on some of the names. The only thing I think kids may get a little lost with is the sheer number of characters. There are a lot of people to keep track of and the POV sometimes shifts between them from paragraph to paragraph, so the reader does need to pay a little more attention or they may lose track of which character they are following at that moment. Additionally, there are some dark—and a bit disturbing—themes and imagery in the book; namely: not everyone makes it to the end. Nothing is graphic, but if your youngster is a sensitive reader then perhaps hold off on reading this just before bed so you can talk about those instances when they occur (most happen well past the half-way point). But the story is otherwise fine and easy to follow along with some truly lovely fantasy elements so the reader won’t get lost in any complex plotlines. There are also some adorable sketches included in the book that I, personally, liked looking at and absorbing the details of!
Now, as for the content of the story itself, while this is a religious allegory and sticks true to some of the classic bible stories, it wasn’t so overt that if, for some reason, you want to avoid something blatantly Christian, this is a great book for that. It is obvious if you know what to look for and are familiar with the tales already, but if not, it reads more like a cute adventure story where these seven kids are training to be an order that essentially protects people across the land. In fact, the kids spend most of their time helping one another, overcoming adversity, building friendships, handling bullying in a healthy way, and training for an Olympic style game tournament at the end of their first year of joining the order. I found the subtlety of the lessons touched upon to be refreshing for the Christian genre, for I never once felt preached to or that anyone was “lesser” because their faith wasn’t as strong—initially—as some of the others. So yes, while the plot centers on faith and the conflict between God and the devil, it’s mainly about the power of faith, love, and friendship, which is such a great message for young kids, especially in our world’s current tumultuous climate.
So while I may not be the best reviewer for middle grade books as that isn’t the genre that gets me out of bed in the morning, I found “Keepers of the Flame” to be rather cute, charming, and a great free read book for a child who could use something with a positive message. But since the names, number of characters, and the POV jumps may be a little confusing for young readers, this is a 4 star for me. That being said, as my nephew is in the fifth grade (my niece in the third), I can’t wait to give this book to them for Christmas! And thanks to the author for providing me a copy for review and generally being a wonderful human being!
Click the book images to see them on Amazon!