Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: The Terrestria Chronicles

Ed Dunlop, Christian author, definitely has a heart for children and the Lord. Since 1988, Ed and his family have traveled in full-time evangelism offering summer camps and programs to kids, teens, and adults.

His ministry is also carried out in books for children, two of which I received for review. The Terrestria Chronicles is a seven-book series that takes the reader back to a time of castles, knights, princes, and princesses as a tool to teach children ages 10 and up of the truths of the Christian walk. From the website:
The Terrestria Chronicles allegory series was written with a three-fold purpose: to honor Jesus Christ as King, to challenge young readers to love and serve Him, and to teach them to guard their hearts for Him. The focus of the series is always on the King.

I received books 6 and 7 of the series, The Golden Lamps and The Great War.

In The Golden Lamps, the reader follows the small village of Hazah as they build a castle for protection after an attack by Argamor's dark knights. After a petition to King Emmanual, help is sent to the village to construct the castle. All starts out well, until a villager finds a golden lamp at the building site that has powers to bring about prosperity to the owner. Soon more lamps are found by villagers, turning the focus on finding more lamps instead of setting about the King's business of building a castle. Will the village return their focus to what is right?
Theme: The King's business must always be priority.

The Great War follows Prince Josiah, Princess Gilda, and the Castle of Faith in the battle of all time. Argamor and his dark forces are determined to take over Terrestria at all costs. Follow along with the struggles of the prince and princess as they discover that almighty power of King Emmanuel and the future of his kingdom in the Golden City.
Theme: The Great War gives an overview of the Book of Revelation and the power of our Lord. Prayer is also a central theme.

This series is meant to be read in order, and I did not have the benefit of being able to read from the beginning. While the books are not fully stand-alone and they would be enjoyed more being read in order, I didn't find them so interconnected that I couldn't follow along. Of the two books I read, each has a particular focus or theme woven into the allegory. Book 6, The Golden Lamps, teaches that worldly things are not everlasting and it is best to go about God's business instead. The Great War, Book 7, not only tells of the Book of Revelation, but encourages the reader in the power of prayer, or petitions in the book.

While I like the idea behind these books, I didn't really enjoy them as much as I hoped. Initially, it took me a while to get used to the writing style and get into the story. The allegory is quite obvious and the author makes sure it doesn't slip by the reader with names like King Emmanual, the Castle of Hope, the Castle of Bitterness and The Golden City. For children, this might be preferable. In fact, to attest to this, my son, whom we call Mr. Literal for his lack of ability to read into things, was able to tell me the message and representation of The Golden Lamps. However, adults and older children may not appreciate being lead down the path so obviously. The look of The Golden Lamps did appeal to my son enough that he asked to read it when he saw it and he finished it rather quickly.

One area in particular that bothered me, at least in the two books I reviewed, is that the female characters seem to be a bit weak in their faith. One of the symbols in the stories are that the men carry around books (Bibles) that turn into swords of protection. They also take parchment out of the books in order to write a petition (prayer) to King Emmanuel in time of need or for praise. The problem is, the women aren't carrying swords and it wasn't until the very end of the second book I received that one of the female characters even sent a petition. In addition, I wasn't exactly sure how this was accomplished without her own parchment and the story didn't really explain. While there was a focus on petitions/prayers in The Great War, it was Prince Josiah and other male characters sending petitions, not Princess Gilda, even when their child was deathly ill. Perhaps some stronger female characters are in the earlier books, but I was a bit disappointed in the lack of faith-filled women in Books 6 and 7, especially since I have a 13-year-old daughter.

I do like that each book has a particular theme of the Christian walk and how to carry out your faith. You can read a bit more about each book and the related theme at the website. There is also a study guide for the complete series, to get even more out of the books' teaching, available for a very reasonable price. To get an idea of what the study guide covers, you can download the answer key for free: Visits to Terrestia Study Guide Answer Key.

Perhaps my expectations were too high because I have heard many good things about this series before receiving them to review. The fact that I have heard good things means they are indeed a fit for other families and I encourage you to read the reviews of other TOS Crew members.

Each book of The Terrestria Chronicles series is available for $7.99 or the complete series can be purchased at a discounted $39.99. They can be purchased at the Ed Dunlop Ministries, Christian book suppliers, or other online book retailers. I encourage you to visit the website as there are many FREE resources available, including Jed Cartwright Adventure Series E-Books and two titles from the Sherlock Jones Detective Series. You will also find the companion series, Tales of Terrestria.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Debra said...

Huh... now that you mention it, I don't think there was a single female character in the first book. Reading it aloud mostly to four boys, I didn't even notice.

And I have to say that while I didn't love the books, my dyslexic one did. He is talking about saving up to purchase more so HE can read them. That doesn't happen often.

I should probably amend my review to include that, huh?

Heidi said...

There was one female character in each of the books I read, but neither impressed me at all. One was a minor character and just sort of there. The other ended up going to the Castle of Bitterness because she wasn't sure she could trust in King Emmanuel. In general, they both seemed a bit dense. I didn't have my daughter read the books.

My dyslexic son did enjoyed The Golden Lamps. I think the castles and knights appealed to him.