Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: Foundlings by Matthew Christian Harding

Author Matthew Christian Harding's storytelling days first began at the requests of his young children at bedtime.  His creative tales would sometimes last for months as he developed characters and wove intricate details into the storyline. Then, one day his wife, unaware of the verbal escapades going on in the evening, began to sit in on the storytelling and soon became his biggest supporter in putting his stories to paper.

Foundlings,  Harding's first novel, is the result of that encouragement.  Set at the time of the Tower of Babel disbursement, Foundlings is described as a cross between Christian fantasy and historical fiction.  It attempts to give an accurate portrayal of the confusion and mayhem that may have taken place at that time, with wandering beasts, confusion of languages, lost and retained technology, and conflicting groups and religions.

The author brings this story to print with a strong intended message, rather than just entertainment, and categorizes it in a number of ways, including Creation Fiction, Leviathan Literature, Behemoth Books and Young Earth Dragon Fiction .  You can read about the author and his explanation of these categories at the Zoe and Sozo Publishing website.
From the back cover:
There be dragons. There be giants.   And God: our maker, our help, and our righteous judge." The Warrior's broad hand rested upon the eager shoulder of the boy. "Does it not stir your soul?"

It was in the days of Peleg, when the world was divided.  After the flood of Noah, after the tower of Babel and the dispersion, when men wondered where they were upon the earth, and where their fellows had gone to, when beasts were more numerous than men - predators in the world, in the water, and in the air.  But men struggled and fought, carving their place.  And in the process of time they once again began to multiply upon the face of the earth.

The story revolves around the the plight of two child characters, Susie and Thiery, to escape from becoming sacrifices by dragon cultists.  Sir McDougal, his shield-bearer Fergus, and dwarf Gimcrack come both to their assistance and put themselves in danger as well.

When I read the synopsis of Foundlings, I was excited to dig in.  I appreciate fantasy fiction and thought the setting and time period quite unique.  My 13-year-old daughter picked up the book first.  When I checked in with her later, she told me storyline was a bit slow going and she had set it down for awhile.  After picking up Foundlings on my own,  I had to agree.  It took me a good 100 pages to start to get wrapped up in the storyline.  There was a bit of jumping from scene to scene and numerous introductions of characters, that initially it was a bit hard to follow.  However, while I did eventually pick up on the concurrent story lines and able to see how it all fit together, it wasn't the only issue I had.

Though the book as a whole comes from a Christian perspective, there was a dark element to Foundlings that interfered with my enjoyment of  the story.   I found the Dragon Priests, with their hooded attire and dragon tattoos, along with their drive to find human sacrifices, to be a bit creepy for the age range intended for this title.  There are no gory details, but there was one scene that described the beginnings of a “Cozen Sacrifice” where the victim, being prepared by her soon-to-be graveside, was rescued from a drugged Dragon Priest. Granted, good always prevails and the victims and characters of the story are never actually sacrificed, but I felt there was too much emphasis on the cultist and evil element for the target audience (ages 10 and up).

I typically don't have such a reaction to well-placed and purposeful evil in a storyline and have greatly enjoyed other fantasy fiction with a good versus evil plot. In fact, I tend to have a difficult time with books that are all rosy and predictable. I really liked the premise of the book.  However, it wasn't one that I particularly enjoyed.  As a result, I didn't require my daughter to complete the book, especially since it hadn't already grabbed her, and did not suggest my son read the title.

However, many of my fellow Crewmates did enjoy Foundlings and I suggest you visit the Official TOS Crew Blog to read their reviews for another perspective.

If this is a title that you suspect you may enjoy, you will also be interested in the second book in the series, Paladins, that picks up from the absolute cliff hanger in the first book.  A third in the series, is planned for May 2011.

Foundings, offered through Zoe and Sozo Publishing,  can be purchased for $11.95 at the author's website, local bookstores, and through major online retails.  It also comes with a “Good Read Guarantee”.  If you or your child doesn't love the book,  keep your copy, and they'll send you your money back.

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 have received no other compensation.

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.


Debbie said...

Good review Heidi. Though my son and I both liked the book I had a hard time writing the review. You did a great job explaining the book and the things you and your daughter struggled with. Have a great weekend.

Jenni said...

Great review! I like the look of your blog- clean and simple. Very nice!

Heather said...

I was interested to see your review. You really explained it well--very good writing! I just finished mine and it is a bit odd for a review! I ended up talking about how I enjoyed it...but it did have the frightening elements....

Michelle Smith said...

Thanks for this review. I have wondered about it for my own children.

I also wanted to let you know I tagged YOU!

Blossom said...

Very thorough review of this book. I didn't read it all the way through myself (I couldn't get into it) but my ds liked it a lot. I really appreciated your views on the dark side of this book.