*If there happens to be some mistakes within this review. I’m currently battling an agonizing migraine as writing this. So my writing’s incredibly disjointed for that very reason. Well not intense pain but more of a numbing sensation within my skull. So please mind the structure of this review, I’m attempting to write even with this feeling pervading my thought process. (And I believe it’s stress related.)*
Today’s entry shall be dedicated to my review of the book. And I’m also offering a copy of “The Enclave” for this month’s CSFF Blog Tour. Basically to enter, comment on any of my posts within the next three days (as I’ll finally be writing entries over the course of all three days). And I shall randomly choose a user who will then be asked to email their address to me so I may “promptly ship out the copy of the book.
Before I delve into the details of this review, I must detail my background in relation to reading Karen Hancock’s works. About three years ago, I discovered “Arena,” through a random Amazon search from a curiosity surrounding Christian speculative fiction. Upon discovery, I purchased the novel and waited with bated breath for its arrival. Once I read it, my once unfavorable opinion of Christian speculative fiction was reversed. As I once believed Christian novels to involve the trials of incredibly perfect individuals who rely completely upon God for their strength through trials that arise within their lives. While Karen Hancock incorporated that important element of relying on God. She did it in a way that felt wholly natural within the fabric of the story. And even more importantly, she created characters who were human and not caricatures of personalities of perfect faith.
I’ve read her “Legend of the Guardian King,” series and find it to be the pinnacle of Christian fiction. As with Arena, characters have natural flaws and are completely human with their interaction and struggle to grapple with the questions of faith. Truthfully, I was ecstatic about “The Enclave,” as Karen Hancock’s writing has always birthed within me more wonder and faith about a God that I sometimes feel disillusioned with. And though Enclave illustrated the faith struggle of the two main characters in exemplary fashion; one cannot help but sense the feeling of derivation of the novel’s plot structure as compared with her earlier novels.
Within the utopia called “New Eden,” there exists a strict religious rule that nearly emulates that of the Mataio. Even right down to the strange “eye” contained within one of the leaders. I could not help but easily see the striking similarities between this individual and the strange occulus of some of the characters within the Guardian King series. Mind my ambiguity of the references; I haven’t read the series in nearly a year and a half now. So my memory is sort of blurred as to their exact description.
Also, both Cam and Lacey seemed to be nearly identical to “Callie” and “Pierce,” with their faith struggles and even their budding romance. Lacey and Callie both seem uncomfortable with their romantic feelings, given the troubles of their relationship past which makes them distrustful of God’s direction with future relationships.
And add in some strange demonic jewels with possession powers and the characters near the end solidifying their faith in God, and you feel like you are treading the same waters that have already been tread through with “Arena.” Many of the story’s structure is diversified in its own unique way. But some of the same retread story conventions seemed to have made their way into the story. And for someone who reads many novels and who can easily identify the recycled elements of various novels. I cannot help but notice these blaring reiterated themes and the emulated plot progression.
I mean not to degrade Karen Hancock in anyway or to sound elitist with my review. I truly liked the novel in its own manner. And her writing continues to marvel me with her expertise in description and her expansive vocabulary; I cannot help but be very proud of her from a writing angle. Since she truly can write unlike many of her peers (though that view’s subjective). If “Arena,” or her other books have never existed; I may have loved this story and would have even deemed it the best Christian novel I’ve read in years. And this book’s definitely one of the better books I’ve read this year. But as she’s written novels that have explored these themes before and have even exceeded herself with “LOTGK,” I have to admit that it’s not my favorite of her books. But really nothing shall ever compare with her four part series that has truly refreshed my belief in God and has caused me to break free from the hold of depression on my life. And for that I truly thank God for the manner in which she’s vicariously helped others who are conflicted in their belief become more confident in their belief of God. To Karen Hancock, I hope you see the repetitive elements of this novel and improve upon it with your next.
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Heather R. Hunt
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Rachel Starr Thomson
Karen Hancock’s website
Karen Hancock’s blog
Where to purchase the book?
4 Comments Add yours
Hi Justin Thanks for taking the time to write your review, despite your migraine. I have several friends who suffer from them and I know they are wretched. Especially the damper they put on finding words to express oneself. I thought you did a fine job of it though. And thanks for being honest in your assessment as well.
Interesting take on the book, Justin. The thing I'm wondering is this: once an author has explored a theme, might they not wish to do so again, especially if it is central to their worldview? In other words, should a writer only have one book about a character coming to faith? Are all others derivative?Just asking questions.Becky
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