A Son Rises (Dreaded King #1)
By Catherine Gruben Smith
Young Adult Christian Fantasy
Dreaded King: A Son Rises has all of the elements of a perfect fantasy: dragons, some unique fantastical beasts, and a creative world setting with its own regions and cultures and people groups. While few can contest with Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I recognized a lot of the same thoughtful and intricate world building techniques applied by the author to Planistah making the depth of the world one of this series’s strong points. From myth and lore to food and customs, every detail pulled me into the world further and contributed to the story.
There is a unique, almost sci-fi element to the story as well. While the setting throughout the book is decidedly fantasy, space travel is the cause of Planistah’s population, and it is frequently referenced as part of their planet’s history and the origin of certain beliefs and customs. This sci-fi element is presented most heavily in the introduction which is very different from the rest of the book. So if you start there, don’t be misled.
The character development was gradual enough to feel realistic and still moved quickly enough to be interesting. This is another area where I feel like the author did exceptionally well. The three main characters were likable and relatable, and their personalities complemented each other well.
The plot moved at a decent pace somewhere between the Narnia books and Lord of the Rings. Very intense, suspenseful action scenes were evenly spaced throughout with longer narrative and a few more relaxed character interactions filling in between. The point of view is pretty evenly split between the three main characters (formatted in a way that is very easy to follow), and we get a lot of the internal dialogue as the characters process the things that are happening and consider their actions.
The premise that this populace is the result of space travel from our own planet allowed for this fantasy world to have the same God as the Christian God on Earth instead of an allegorical equivalent like most other Christian Fantasy. It’s an interesting twist that allowed the author to present Christian truths much more openly.
This wasn’t a problem for the vast majority of the book because the main focus was on truths pretty universally accepted by all Christians, but there were a few cases here and there that touched subjects that have some differing views within the Church. I personally prefer an allegory that is more cryptic for this reason – different views can more easily be overlooked if they’re knit into another belief system that only mirrors Christianity and not presented directly as Christian truths. That is personal preference though, and I’m sure many people appreciate this aspect of the Dreaded King series. It certainly didn’t get in the way of enjoying the story for me, either.
The prose was good and I didn’t notice any obvious errors. There were a few times I felt like the flow was lost or a more modern or archaic term was used which didn’t quite fit the rest of the text, but I can only say this because there WAS a well-established flow and a general theme to the word choice. It made for an overall enjoyable read.
Lastly, I wouldn’t quite say the ending was a cliffhanger per se, we at least leave the characters in a relatively safe, comfortable place (thank goodness), but there is MUCH to be resolved in the following books. So be sure you have the next in the series ready before you finish! I’m looking forward to reading more and finding out what happens next.