Thursday, January 11, 2007

Trilogy Discussion: Eternal Warriors by Theodore Beale

*** Warning: This is more of a discussion than a review. There are likely SPOILERS throughout. Do not read this if you're looking for something to help you decide to read these books. This is a discussion for those who've already read them.***

As another has stated in a similar, if more specific review, there are basic biases that some of us have, and they should be stated at the outset. I have frequented Mr Beale's blog for years and am a regular commenter there. In fact, were it not for him and his blog, this blog would not exist. That said, since I am attempting to review all three books at one time in one post... I am going to limit it and avoid the standard format. Upon request a standard format book review may be provided. Also, I did not read the books in their chronological order. I was feelin' a little Star Wars that week, so I started with The World in Shadow, then read The Wrath of Angels, then finished with the War in Heaven.

Book I: The War in Heaven

From a purely subjective standpoint this was by far my least favorite of the books. It just didn't have the hook the other two did. Honestly if I had read this one first I wouldn't have read the other two, and it would've been a great loss. The negatives:

Character: Christopher's skeptism waxes and wanes randomly. While in the other books he is rock solid and his actions are as predictable as your best friend's, in this one the author seems to know what he wants to do with him, but he doesn't know how to make him do it... consequently Christopher jumps around like a puppet with unpredictable strings. His motivations are overlooked and inconsistent, which would be fine for a teenager, if the author had convinced you that it was done diliberately. In this case he doesn't. This struck me as odd, considering that Christopher's character strikes me as almost completely autobiographical in nature. But Theo's been transformed since those days, and I wonder if the change has been so complete that it even affected his ability to relate to his past. It wouldn't be the first time. At any rate this book should've been a fantasy version of Conrad's great A Heart of Darkness. Sadly it falls way short. There is no journey to darkness for Christopher. There is a light switched that gets flipped one way for evil... then there is a journey into power... not deeper into evil... then at the end its flipped again... and poof.. he's good. Its all difficult to accept.

Character: The twins are not particularly twin like. Not at all. This at least is maintained throughout the books though again, it doesn't strike me as deliberate. For example, in this book Holly references her twinness and is a little put of when its not noticed enough. Are they twins or aren't they?

Fun Factor: I didn't know how else to head this criticism so I went with that. This is by far the least readable of the books. Its not hard to follow or overly complex... it's just irritating. For every excellent battle scene... there is a lame one. Plus the whole thing was eggregiously anti-climactic. The Lord may not be have to actually exert effort to defeat Satan... but that doesn't mean it won't happen with style! Help a brother out here. Yes... God wins in the end and all is good and well... but its not very fun.

Character: As much as I was biased in favor of this trilogy, I was biased against this book... but I didn't know it until I got into it. I hated Christopher. I can understand a teen atheist fascinated with the cool aspects of the fallen. What I can understand is, once it was demonstrated that his atheism was false... where was his critical thinking? Why, when he was moved to start to question everything, did he question nothing? Thing of this as one specific example of the same criticism above.

Setting: For an overtly Christian book, the endless droning about the beauty of satan and the glory of this or that demon or this or that demonic structure... and the almost... dismissive discriptions of Heaven and the Lord were irritating.

Plot: I understand that the constant references to various Geek Games gives this book considerable Geek Cred... but I apologize... I cannot for a second accept that the strategical mind of a 16 year old Geek is superior to that of Angelic Generals who witnessed our world's creation. There are limits to suspended disbelief.

Sky's blue, Water's Wet, First Books suck. That's just the way it is. So it is with practically everyone. One must learn on the job. From the next two reviews, I believe you will see that at least in my opinion, Mr Beale clearly did.

Book II: The World in Shadow

First let me say that it is not necessary to put yourself through War in Heaven to enjoy this one. Hints are dropped about Christopher's previous ordeal, but as I was reading, I simply vaguely aware that he'd been through some bad voodoo mess and it had all worked out, though changing him and scarring him up a bit. It made him a great deal more likeable, and the wondering made it more interesting. Think about it like the opposite of Vader. Knowing the good guy was once a Dark Side Bad Ass somehow makes him cooler. But knowing the Bad Guy was once a do-gooder kid doens't quite help as much.

I loved this book from begining to end. Except of course the soccer parts... but they were well executed. Gone are the clumsy character issues so prevelant in Christopher in WiH. I wish I had reviewed this one before reading WiH... as I am sure I had some negatives for it, but its so much better in comparison I simply am at a loss. I may have to re-read it.

If the first book is Christopher's.... then this book is Jami's. It focuses on her a great deal more, and honestly her character doesn't fit at all with the girl of the first book. I can accept the change, as like Christopher she is now a christian. Unfortunately the change is such that she's to different. Everything is different. To different to quickly. There is no development. It just instantly is. That's hard to accept. Its the same problem with Christopher in the first book, only with him it happens twice, first when he goes bad, second when he goes good. Now I only bring it up because this is a critique of the whole trilogy, not just the one book. If you've not read WiH then you won't notice this. You will only know Jami as the tomboy of the twins... so again, in the order I read the books, it worked out fine.

The two antagonists of this book, at least the human ones, are tempted and fall at a much more relaxed pace than Christopher did. Its well reasoned and the psychology fits a great deal better. Without giving anything away I'll just say that the book focuses on a high school shooting rampage and the psychological and spiritual battles that lead up to it.

The one nit I can pick is... Where is Christophers super-bad sword from the first book?

This one is way more fun that the first. So much so that I literally read it in one morning. Its edgy and dark and strikes me as anything but a Jesus-freak book.

Book III: The Wrath of Angels

By this point its clear Theo knows what he's doing, especially in a marketing standpoint. People love things that they are familiar with. In the first two it was Geek Games... in this one it is the continual reference to legend and literature. Everything from Excaliber to the Loch Ness Monster is hit and if you remember Midsummer Nights Dream you'll find yourself chuckling most of the way through this.

I dearly loved this book. The action and character aspects were not just better than the other two... they were excellent by any standard. I'll leave you with the biggest plus, and biggest minus.

Consistancy. This is Holli's book, but a few things from the first two are either changed or ignored. Holly's angel for example describes her as being the least in tune to the spiritual world, but in the first book she was by far the most in tune. She saw and felt things her twin could not. Also... the enormously powerful artifact that Christopher wielded so often in the first book is ignored not just in this book but in the previous as well. Its referenced as only a cross around a kids neck... and yet several times when the kid really needed a weapon... it was no where to be found.

My biggest gripe of course... Where was Herne at the end? The whole intro is devoted to him.. He kicks ass in one section, or at least it is so mentioned.. Puck is ordered to go find him... and then that's it. He's never mentioned again. WTF????

Plus: As good as the action is... its the dialog in this book that Mr Beale should be the most proud of. Its clever, but not to clever. Its humorous. Its realistic. Its smooth. Honestly... its the best written dialog I've read in a fantasy novel... maybe ever.


If Mr Beale could go back and rewrite The War in Heaven... and I'd wager he'd like to... this would be a bona-fide rock star of a trilogy. The other two are that good. While traditionally the second book of any trilogy is the weak link, in this case, its clearly the first. Its just clearly not up to the standard of the others.

As a trilogy though I highly recommend it. Or at least, reading the second two, and perhaps skipping the first.

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