So, “Starry Messenger” paints itself as a story about a benevolent alien coming to save the world from the forces that have infiltrated it, that have set it on the path to self-annihilation. The world may appear to be this idyllic place on the surface, a near utopian, but it’s all just a smoke screen to distract from the fact that it’s far from perfect. Only a race of aliens, that are chosen by a supreme being to protect its favorite little fledgling planet—Earth—know the truth. They are sent to discover why humans haven’t progressed the way they should and haven’t joined the other enlightened races in the stars to live in true peace. This is where our main character Quentin comes in. He’s the one sent to find out what’s up with these earthlings, and in the process, discovers the true evil, and then falls in love. It’s an interesting twist on the whole aliens coming to Earth idea, but I personally found the characters to be a bit flat and the story ends rather abruptly.
“The Guardians Crest” is the third book in the “Guardians of Zion” series, and like the previous book, this particular volume makes the most sense if read in order, so you know the players etc. If you haven’t read the first two books, go do that now and then come back to this review, as there might be some mild spoilers for those books lurking in this review. Now, as is customary, the author starts the book with an introduction that 1. Kind of reminds the reader where the heroes left off and 2. Tells you a bit more of what this book is about and a little reasoning as to why Chrobak choose to start the novel the way he did: going back to when Thomas was first discovering his faith and powers. This time, however, we’re focusing on his little sister’s experiences, and the author also explains why he chose to include some of the demons this time. Normally, I’m not a fan of introductions like that because I don’t want someone to tell me what I’m about to read, but, for this book, I appreciated it because it was necessary for one very important reason: we don’t visit Thomas and where book two left off until about half way through this novel.
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 Paladin of Panama” starts where the first book in “The Guardians of Zion” series leaves off, so I recommend you read that book first, or you’re not going to understand Thomas, his desires, or the quest he’s on. In this tale, Thomas is trying to make sense of the newly appointed mission he has been given by a saint in a kind of waking dream. Only to be given another gift (or burden) by another saint in a dream, who explains that Thomas must assemble his super friends, and present the one true user with the Armor of God, making them a Paladin. It feels a little like classic King Arthur tales in that regard, but trust me, there is no sword in a stone in this book, at least, not yet. Who knows, maybe Chrobak is saving that for book three?
“Foundations of Faith” is the first in the “Brother Thomas and the Guardians of Zion” series, and is my first Catholic based fantasy read. I went to a Catholic High School but am not personally Catholic myself, so reading Chrobak’s story was both educational, and a nice trip down memory lane to my religious retreat with my school. The book starts with Thomas on retreat, where he is hounded by dark forces, forcing him to question his faith. After an illuminating discussion with Father Dominic, Thomas returns home deciding that he wants to become a priest. He’s so excited to go home and share the news with his family, and then his life gets turned on its head, and the newly awakened faith in God he’s found, gets tested, and tested, again and again.
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