The Sword, by Bryan Litfin. Paperback.
is Litfin's first novel, but as a college professor he is certainly not
new to writing. It doesn't always read like a first novel, and there are
more than a few moments of skillful writing.
This is the first
volume of a planned trilogy, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic
earth of approximately 2400. Many things from the Old World, including
technology and religion, have been lost in the last few centuries. This
allows Litfin to cobble his land of Chiveis from aspects of ancient,
medeival and prairie cultures. This gives us a unique world that
nonetheless has a familiar feel that allows us to fully enter the
narrative as readers.
The core relationship of the novel is
between manly man Teofil and womanly woman Anastasia. They rescue each
other regularly, and (this is not a spoiler) they fall in love by the
end of the novel. The crux of the story is Teo's discovery of an ancient
scroll, which is in fact an Old Testament. He, Anastasia, and a small
group of others begin to study the work, realizing that the religion of
the land is very different from this ancient religion. This group comes
to believe in the truth of the religion of Deu, the one true God.
powers that be, most notably the High Priestess of the land's religion,
knows of the religion of the cross, and has made it her mission to make
sure it does not take root in the realm. As is typical of Christan
novels, the villain's motivations lack subtlety.
When word comes
to her that the scrolls have been recovered and a group is studying
them, she demands that the young new King outlaw the religion, and has
empowered her forces to execute followers of Deu. The book ends with the
small group in hiding, and Teo & Ana riding into the unknown
borders of the land.
The world-building aspects of The Sword have
some strengths, although every character who becomes a follower of Deu
seems to adopt the beliefs and practices of modern American
evangelicals. I understand the marketing aspects of knowing who your
audience is, but this does seem unlikley. I am encouraged by the few
hints that the greater believing community has a more diverse history,
and certainly hope Litfin develops this in the series' remaining two
Christian novels often follow predictable paths, and this
one certainly treads much familiar ground. Little new or unexpected
happened here, but the characters and setting were strong enough to
convince me to read book #2 in the series.
This review originally appeared at Alan's Eyes and Ears.