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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