Monday, February 22, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Beneath the Forsaken City

Week 8: A Christian novel

Beneath the Forsaken City (Song of Seare #2)
by C.E. Laureano

Doesn't suffer from "middle-child" syndrome

Full disclosure: I accidentally read book 3 first. I tried to keep on top of when book 2 in this series released because I loved book 1, but I somehow completely missed it. Book 3 comes out and I think its book 2. Oops. 

Knowing how the story ends, I was temped to skip reading this book, but I couldn't bring myself to do that. I had to not just go on what I pieced together in book 3. I had to know what these people (because they really feel like friends, not just characters) went through that made them into who they are in book 3. That said, having read the books out of order, my perspective is a little different than it would have been if I read them sequentially. 

This book nicely picks up where book 1 left off, and ends right before book 3. This makes sense. It also fills in the gaps I was so confused about in book 3 when I thought it was book 2 (as it should)! 

As a reader you feel the tension, pain, and uncertainty of Conor and Aine (they are the focus of this book). And that's one of the big differences in this book (and series) over others. These characters feel human. They aren't sure of their path. They hesitate too long. They're rash. They're penitent. They love. They grieve. They have flesh and bones. It's not to read and empathize with them. This is a mark of a book writer.

Another mark of a good writer? Being able to craft a world of this kind and have it feel real. Many authors try and few succeed. Laureano falls in the same boat as Stephen Lawhead in her ability to craft a believable world that feels like ours, but is different. Even when she is having Conor explain and defend his faith it's believable ... most books that attempt that feel hokey. Because it's believable and not preachy or hokey this is a work that anyone can enjoy regardless of their personal faith and convictions.

All praise aside, I have a little quibble with this book - while maritally appropriate - I would prefer Laureano leave out some of the descriptions in the book, given its intended YA audience. There is nothing wrong in what she says - compared to many, many YA novels out there this is absolutely appropriate. But even if its appropriate for a married couple (and details are spared) I'm not sure it's what our young people need to thinking about. That's a personal preference.

Still, this book (and series) deals with some hard topics well that I haven't seen addressed in other YA books. The writing is far superior to others in this grouping (seriously, what's with all these sub-genre things these days?) and I believe this book, while appropriate for young adults, has a much broader range of applicability. I'd love to see it in the regular ole' appropriate adult section of a book store.

Highly recommend.

4.5 stars

This book appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016 series. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

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