3 out of 4 stars
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Lies in the Shadows is a Christian fantasy novel by Jessica Schaub. Set in the kingdom of Evania, it tells the story of King Julius, who must protect his kingdom during a series of heinous attacks in the surrounding lands. Terrified that his people will be next, King Julius must discover who is behind the onslaught and how to stop them, all while concealing a secret that could mean the end of his crown.
I know seeing “Christian” in the book description will make some people shy away from this book. Don’t. There are many examples of truly excellent fantasy out there (Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings) that have Christian themes but can still be enjoyed by any audience. This is one of them. Whittled down to its bare bones, it is a story about good versus evil. It also explored themes such as the roles of men and women, fate versus free will, and sacrificing your personal gain for the greater good. In other words, don’t judge a book by its religion.
Upon finding out that nearby settlers are being terrorized and kidnapped, King Julius of Evania becomes determined to stop the attacks. Working with other neighboring lands, he soon comes to the conclusion that it is the work of evil shapeshifters called Leviathans. The Leviathans take the form of large animals to defeat their human victims and they are defined by a lot of classic monster tropes- they require blood, they turn their victims by biting them, and they can only be defeated by pure silver. Many of the inhabitants of this world believe Leviathans to be only folklore (and who can blame them), but King Julius has heard the stories of his ancestor defeating them. He believes the attacks on his neighbors are the work of these evil creatures, and trusting in the True One will help him defeat them.
As if things weren’t difficult enough, King Julius soon discovers that the heavy secret he carries with him is not the only one in his family. When the family history that has been hidden from him is finally revealed, he learns more about evil than he bargained for. The Christian themes come in to play here as the evil “Woman of the Gate” joins the cast of characters and the assistance of the pure White Dove is necessary for King Julius to overcome her.
I enjoyed this story a great deal, especially after the exposition was finished. One problem that I find is common to fantasy stories is that there is a lot of necessary world-building, especially if the author is introducing their own types of creatures such as here. There needs to be enough description so the reader isn’t lost, but I find it usually slows the pace of the story. Lies in the Shadows was no exception, but once the story hit its stride, it was hard to put it down.
One surprise was that there was a bit of feminism included in this book. When I hear “Christian,” I automatically think traditional, but a theme of this story was women in leadership. A large part of this story explored whether a woman needs to give up her femininity to be a good leader and the differences in how women and men show strength. It was a very interesting thread to explore and the author draws her own conclusions at the end.
I gave Lies in the Shadows three out of four stars. It was a bit slow to start but once the pace improved, it became riveting. I enjoyed the character development of King Julius and the growth he showed by the end of the novel. Lies in the Shadows is a great choice for lovers of the fantasy genre.
Lies in the Shadows
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