Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Gift (Chiveis Trilogy Book 2)

The Gift: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy)Title: The Gift
Author: Bryan M. Litfin

Series: The Chiveis Trilogy
Preceeded By: The Sword
Succeeded By: ???


Score: 7/10
How likely I am to read the next in the Series: I look forwards to it.


Normally I start with a review with a short introduction to what I thought about the book. This time I'm going to do it differently, and start with a review of the introduction of the book itself. Firstly there's the prologue. Now it's the second in a trilogy - and normally I don't like prologues in the second of a trilogy. But this was short, and in essence was the same as the prologue of the first novel - extended a bit to briefly (barely) cover what happened to the main characters in book one. I felt it didn't really didn't need to be there, but it doesn't harm the story. But what I really want to talk about of the introduction is the first chapter. The start of the novel finds the main characters (Ana and Teo) with a small group of scouts. The author uses this as a way to help remind the reader of what happened in the first book (The Sword). It's not a unique way to recap the readers, but the way Litfin utilises this tool is possibly the thing I admire most about the beginning of the book. It's easy to read - not just a long monologue about the previous book - it even misses out the majority of the story. But it shows the character of the characters, and from the first chapter we are once more identifying with and sympathetic to the characters, Ana in particular.

Except for one point, and this I felt was the biggest problem I had with the book. I had felt that at the end of the last book the two main characters feelings were pretty much sorted out. If not spelled out in words, it seemed to be pretty clear. But in the Gift it seemed to be that actually they were quite confused about each other. Maybe this is me reading too much into the first book, or not having read it in a while, but it seemed to me like their relationship had taken a step back.

Since I'm discussing the problems I found with it, I might as well discuss the other thing here. For a considerable amount of the first half of the book, I felt that it lacked direction. While events occurred which were central to the plot, there seemed to be a lot of the characters not knowing what they were going to do. And since they are separated early on, they don't get a chance to plan. The purpose only arrives when Teo decides to take things into his own hands (from what I can tell, roughly six or seven months after the start of the book. The whole book lasts a year). After this however, it's a nice story. That's not to say it's a bad story at the start - just not very strong.

I admire Litfin's ability to depict his characters different beliefs about God, or Deus as he is called in this fantasy novel. He has his believers and he has his non believers. He also has those somewhere in between. But what I am impressed by is that his believers are still human. Even Ana, the more devout of the two, occasionally has doubts about God. Most of the novels I've read with christian characters has characters that fit the molds of "Priest who is actually not religious" or "Devout, perfect believer who never stops believing" - essentially the two extremes. Litfin manages to place his characters at various positions on this scale, and keeps them there. The brief scene involving Ana's parents is another example of this.

Another thing that I liked to see is the differences between the different regions. In particular the avoidance of Ruins of Chiveis, but the embrace of the ruins of Roma. I particularly enjoyed the description of that ancient city, and it's a nice touch I thought. I won't say anything more about it, as it's a slight spoiler, but if you choose to read this book you'll see what I mean.

A couple of side comments before the conclusion of the review, firstly the scripture. generally it's translated. But occasionally it's said only in latin. In future editions, or the third in the trilogy, I would like to see translations of those at the back of the book. It's a little thing, but I don't speak latin.
The other thing I'd like to comment on, not really part of the story, is the cover art. It's impressive. Cliff Nielson has done well, and he was a good choice. If I wasn't reviewing this book because I enjoyed the first, it would definitely have drawn my attention. I like it.

Overall this book has many strengths. The characters were as excellent as before, the descriptions were vibrant and interesting. The various factions impressed me, and the links with the pre-apocalypse world also. On the negative side it didn't really develop a strong plot until midway, and the relationship between Ana and Teo sometimes seemed overly confused. It didn't invoke the same thoughtfulness as the first one did, but it was an enjoyable read all the same, and I look forwards to the final in the trilogy.

More Information

Main Protagonist(s): 1 Male and 1 Female
Main Antagonist(s): Several Male
Main Relationships: Heterosexual
Genre: Religious Fantasy
Brief Synopsis:

Hundreds of years in the future, war and disease have destroyed civilization as we know it. Much technology has been discarded and history is largely forgotten. Slowly, the few survivors have begun to build new communities, and kingdoms now prosper in a kind of feudal order. But the Word of God has been lost for centuries.

Nestled in the mountains of what is modern day Switzerland, the kingdom of Chiveis lies comfortably protected from the dangerous world surrounding it. But when an encounter between Teo, an army scout, and Ana, a farmer’s daughter, leads to the accidental discovery of an ancient and holy manuscript, life starts to change. Teo and Ana learn of Deu, the God described in their incomplete text, as their pagan beliefs give way to new faith. Fighting to know the truth about Deu and to find the missing testament of the Bible, Teo and Ana realize an ancient enemy is working against them. But how does this force know about the existence of the Scriptures? And why is it so intent on pursuing their every step? Follow Teo and Ana as their journey leads them through trials and adventures into the unknown.
- www.chiveis.com

ISBN: 978-1-4335-2516-2
Website: http://www.chiveis.com/
Amazon Link: UK | US
Pages: 410
Published: Mar 31, 2011
Publisher: Crossway Books

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