The Story. This book continues the plight of Teofil and Anastasia who are exiled from their homeland because of their faith in the one true God who they know as Deu.
After an adventure that almost takes Ana’s life, they arrive in Ulmbartia where they encounter others who believe as they do. But just like them, their new friends do not possess a copy of the last part of the sacred writings.
However, some of the traditions of their faith have survived, though what these things mean, none can say.
When circumstances separate Teo and Ana, they take wildly different paths. He commits himself to finding a copy of the New Testament but refuses to turn his back on what he considers his first mission — to protect Ana.
Strengths. In my review of the first book, I voiced concern about a theological point — specifically how people without Christ were coming to God. In The Gift, I thought Mr. Litfin did an admirable job reflecting what Scripture says about those in relationship with God prior to Christ’s coming. The clear emphasis was on the hope for the Redeemer King.
Once again, I found the look at Christianity from the eyes of those who have the promises of the Messiah without the knowledge of who He is to be particularly interesting.
The story was fast paced and interesting, with lots of danger and intrigue. New villains surfaced, as deadly as those in the first volume. In addition, the main characters battle their own doubts and fears.
Plus, this is the kind of fantasy I enjoy. I was happy to pick up the book, glad to be in the unique world Mr. Litfin painted.
Weaknesses. While I enjoyed The Sword, I thought The Gift was a stronger book. And yet …
My main quibble is with the characters. I find them to be thin. Their motives are clear but not in the least complicated. The changes in their goals or moral fiber happen quickly, even easily, and often over night. In addition, the action takes place at a breakneck pace so there really isn’t a lot of time to develop the characters in the well-rounded way I enjoy most. However, I’m sure there are some readers who prefer it that way.
The story had a particularly interesting twist at the end, and I thought the climax was foreshadowed, at least in the brief way the rest of the story unfolded.
[Alert: Spoilers] However I thought there were a few holes in the plot such as what became of the people in the Sanctuary after the Overseer left and what became of the sell-out Knight of the Cross and his little defective son. I also wondered how Teo who was banished from one country seemed to operate there freely. I wondered why he could defeat the Iron Shield in their first engagement but had so much trouble with some of the lesser skilled foes he faced later. I wondered why he didn’t keep shouting to Ana to trust him or even tell her in their native language what he was plotting rather than let her take his place. [End Alert]
Little things, to be sure. But those holey spots kept me from being completely immersed in the story.
Recommendation. While I wasn’t immersed in the story, I still enjoyed it and am glad I had the chance to read The Gift. Overall, I thought the book was a fine sophomore novel that showed stronger writing than the debut it follows.
Again, this one will be a book those who love fantasy and who want a story with a Christian worldview will enjoy. I suspect there will be more Litfin fans coming on board because of The Gift.
This review first appeared at A Christian Worldview of Fiction.
Special thanks to Crossway for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book to review.