The Merchant of Death (Pendragon #1) by D.J. MacHale

Merchant of Death

The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale

Publisher: Aladdin
Release: 2002
Reading Platform: Apple Books

Synopsis: BOBBY PENDRAGON is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby.

He is going to save the world.

And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternative dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution.

If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning….

Review:  I find it only fitting that my return to book reviewing begins with the series that started it all. About ten years ago, in the midst of my early teendom, I stumbled upon this little gem of a novel by D.J. MacHale. The Merchant of Death became the catalyst for my interest in YA fiction and kindled a passion for sharing my thoughts on the many novels I voraciously read. You could even say that the Pendragon series as a whole marked the embarkation of my journey through website building, blogging, and written commentary.

The inspiration was so thorough that I began a fan club for the series, appropriately called Dark Matter. (For those familiar with Pendragon lore, you will know what I’m talking about!) The site evolved into an all-encompassing book club and eventually became my stepping-stone into the wider world of book reviewing and spiritual pondering. I don’t know why I never got around to a proper review for the books in this legendary series. They were certainly formative to the imagination and creativity of thirteen-year-old Ty. Perhaps, knowing how special they were to me, I was afraid of failing to do them justice. Well, a different state of mind and a decade later, I’ve decided to remedy that. And so, without further ado…. Hobey-ho, let’s go!

Like many of my favorites in the genre of YA fiction, The Merchant of Death is approachable to a wide array of ages. Contrary to what some might think, I value brevity and inclusivity of speech over obtuse language. The ability to reach a larger audience is sometimes more valuable than catering to the literary minded. In this case, The Merchant of Death succeeds by not alienating those of a younger age group who would benefit most from the themes of life it presents. But of course, one could argue this praise is better directed to the genre at large. My point is that some books are hastily judged by their intended audience instead of the potential universality of their content.

The greatest aspect of this approachability I keep waxing on about is the relatability of the protagonist, Bobby Pendragon. As a perfectly ordinary teen who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances, we are coaxed into reflecting upon our own life and the seemingly uncontrollable events of our own destiny. Many of the trials and tribulations Bobby faces mirror our own struggles, albeit embellished by fantasy. We see him endure the loss of his old life, a shattering of preconceived beliefs about reality, and his trust in important life figures put to the test. But most importantly, we see him make mistakes and endure the consequences of his actions.

By resisting his destiny and the call to do what is right, Bobby inadvertently causes the death of someone who was trying to protect him. The ripple effect of this mistake shapes the entirety of his proceeding journey. Whereas before he had a protector and a guide, now he and his comrades are more alone than ever. But as you will see later on, in a matter of fate, this occurrence was necessary for Bobby to confront his own selfish desires and rise to the occasion of fulfilling his greater destiny.

The character development of the protagonist witnessed in the first novel of this series alone is enough to continue reading. There is a bit of a redemption arc in here as we learn that Bobby forgives himself for being afraid of his destiny. His mistakes were a direct effect of fearing his newfound responsibility to the welfare of an entire people and civilization. By overcoming his fear and riding the waves of fate, he was able to save the lives of hundreds of people and become a better person in the process. As we see at the end of this particular journey, he marks this realization with a telling statement:

I feel as if I learned a few things. I learned that it’s sometimes okay to think like a weenie, so long as you don’t act like one—at least not all the time. I learned that it’s okay to be wrong, so long as you can admit it and are willing to listen to those who may know better.

As already hinted at, a major allusion of The Merchant of Death is the great tapestry of fate that is woven out of an unpredictable pattern of causes and effects. The theme of providence or a higher order guiding one’s destiny is prevalent at every turn. Where Bobby’s mistakes seem to be terrible setbacks, they are in fact serving a greater and unseen purpose. It encourages one to have faith that everything will turn out right in the end, even if it seems impossible at the current time. As the credo of the mysterious Travelers in the series goes, “This is the way it was meant to be.”

In a nutshell: D.J. MacHale embarked upon an epic and wholesome journey with The Merchant of Death. There is so much more I wish to say about this series, but I must save some musings for my reviews on the proceeding novels. I tried to keep plot specifics as vague as possible so you can find out more for yourself! As a very formative read in my early years, I can’t give this fantastic story enough praise. Filled with themes of friendship, destiny, and redemption, there is enough food for thought to satisfy the appetite of any reader. If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones here.

MacHale, D.J. (2002) The Merchant of Death. United States: Aladdin

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

There are times when the tumultuous emotion of a novel hinders an honest opinion. There are even times when the unexpected twists of an author’s imagining leave the reader with a quiet sense of baffled awe. Combined, these factors may result in a truly interesting review. Being only the second novel by Hemingway I have had the chance to read, A Farewell to Arms has left a powerful, albeit mournful impression.

The story of a troubled ambulance driver during World War I, coupled with a thoroughly depressing conclusion, is classic Hemingway. Various themes including the morbid nature of war, the relationship between love and hurt, and the patterns of human nature can be found in this novel and even recurring in much of Hemingway’s literature. The unemotional male protagonist, Henry, is the the product of these themes, a victim of life’s suffering and its many complexities.

There are aspects of A Farewell to Arms that require a slow mental digestion to appreciate the soul of the novel. Overall, I found the direct and terse prose of the writing a very accommodating feature to Hemingway’s themes. Henry’s mental dialogue quickly gives insight into the persona of the character. He is constantly besotted with various internal conflicts, all of which could lead to a certain self-understanding, but fail to do so as the book draws to a closure. The reader is left unpleasantly perplexed, in an unsatisfying way. This was obviously Hemingway’s intention as an artist; he was a crafting a portion of his spirit into words. The ending of the novel could be likened to the author’s state of mind itself.

One of the most poignant themes or messages of A Farewell to Arms is the terrible price of war. Throughout the plot, readers will notice that Henry is progressively distancing himself from the harsh realities of blood and warfare. With his highly direct method of writing, Hemingway uses powerful imagery in a casual way to provoke understanding within his readers. The pain, brutality, and at times utter chaos of Henry’s situation is seen as a character building (or possibly degrading) force in his life.

A Farewell to Arms was by no means written by someone who fully condemned war, but rather embraced the inevitability of it. Throughout the novel, Hemingway expresses his sentiment that war is merely the product of an already dark and tyrannous world. He accurately portrays the fickle nature of humanity; at times we can be cruel, and at times we can be murderers. However, we are also capable of compassion, integrity, and even nobility, despite society’s frequent attempts to forget or dispel true love. Yes, in a nutshell, A Farewell to Arms can be said to condemn war. However, I believe this sentiment is deeper and much more faceted in the mind of Hemingway.

A second theme prevalent in the novel, and also one of Henry’s chief struggles, is the often correlating relationship between love and hurt. In the beginning of A Farewell to Arms, Henry and Catherine (his newfound lover) find comfort in each other. They find solace from their own mournings and inner demons. This relationship evolves dramatically throughout the course of the book, and soon becomes a driving force in either’s life. Henry becomes torn between this unprecedented love for a woman, and his drive to get back to the front as soon as possible.

Henry understand the importance of his love for Catherine and how meaningful this type of bond can be in times of war. He realizes the emptiness of concepts such as honor and duty in the face of true love. This realization results in a terrific internal struggle. Henry repeatedly must come to terms with the “numb” mentality he adopted during war in order to open his heart for the woman he loves. Henry struggles with openness and sincerity but always manages to make a connection with Catherine.

I believe Hemingway was expressing one of the great morals of life: love in the face of fear, destruction, and tyranny can compel the inner compassion of a person to manifest. There is no force as powerful as love, save possibly fear. Henry is besotted by both, an onslaught of emotional turmoil that rips apart his conviction and decimates his previously held superficial values. The genius of Hemingway is his tendency to be completely realistic. He has the remarkable ability to capture the true essence of human nature.

All in all, A Farewell to Arms is a powerful symbol of the relationship between love and war in a man’s heart. It is an accurate description of the havoc a relationship can wreak on a man’s mentality. This novel is an incredible sentiment to what it means to be human, and the subtle intricacies of the human psyche are portrayed with striking accuracy. Hemingway captured the mutual destruction of both love and war. I could recommend this timeless classic to any reader, just for its invigorating if depressing breath of reality. However, some may dislike the harsh honesty in the authors word’s and cold precision in which he utterly nails human nature. I for one, appreciate this sincerity, this side of the story that only a few of the great classics sometimes expound upon. A Farewell to Arms is truly one of the most powerful pieces of literature when it comes to the effects of war on humanity. Readers should look for the connections and cause & effect relationships in this destructive, yet powerfully insightful novel.

The Breeders by Matthew J. Beier

The Breeders by Matthew J. Beier

The Breeders by Matthew J. Beier

Publisher: Epicality Books
Release: 2012
Image Source: The Author


The homosexuals, once an ostracized social minority, have taken over the world. They understand the angers of an overpopulated planet, usurped government power, and created a culture of perfectly engineered families. But Grace Jarvis and Dex Wheelock are heterosexuals—part of the government’s highly controlled backup plan for reproduction—and they have a problem.

Grace is pregnant. Dex is the father. It is a crime that has only one consequence: banishment to the Antarctic Sanctuary, an isolated biological reserve where reproductive criminals are allowed to exist in peace, without disrupting the rest of civilization. Yet there are rumors that genocide has already begun and that the homosexuals are finally setting natural breeders on a path to extinction. This leaves Grace and Dex with only two choices: to succumb to the tyrannical regime, or run. 


Review: The Breeders by Matthew J. Beier is a heart wrenching story of love and hope. The author manages to weave an intimate tale of lovers while making a vast foray into controversial social issues and life values. Published in 2012, The Breeders has the potential to become a modern classic. Within its pages lies discovery and realization on an unprecedented level, one that could strongly impact culture and make one think twice about the fundamental values of being human.

As a dystopian thriller, The Breeders takes place in the late twenty-third century. Technology has advanced, if not quite as extremely as one would expect. Society has shifted dramatically and not necessarily for the better. The world has finally recovered from the “Bio Wars,” which almost brought about the total extinction of humanity. The remaining population is considerably smaller and dictated by a highly conservative regime of sexual politics. A world government retains almost absolute control, even placing restrictions on the natural birthing process. Even more shocking is the fact that homosexuality is the new norm. Heterosexuals have become a minority and are in a constant and accelerating state of degradation.

Matthew J. Beier has concocted a tale of masterful proportions. His goal in writing The Breeders was to provide a different perspective to the intense debate over gay marriage. What is generally considered normal in our society has been reversed, only to provide insight for issues our nation is currently undergoing. Beier found inspiration in the 2008 ad campaign for the National Organization for Marriage, which likened gay marriage to “a coming storm.” His vision is to give people the opportunity to “step into the shoes of those they are speaking out against.”

The Breeders has captured the beauty of two individuals trying to find value in a world where their kind must endure the condemnation of society. Solace cannot even be found with friends or family who struggle to hide their blatant disapproval. The mere act of producing a child via unplanned and natural reproduction has become taboo in this backwards world. The protagonists must face their own insecurities if they ever hope to find peace at the end of the road. The storyline was one of those that actually made you stop thinking and feel your way through the novel. Understanding the motives behind Beier’s characters can only be done by stepping into their very shoes and feeling for yourself why they made certain decisions and chose particular paths. The humanity in his words was refreshing, almost reminiscent of Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games. While reading, I felt the pain of Dex Wheelock as he struggled with the fear of taking responsibility for his own child, and I could almost taste the tears of Grace Jarvis when she realized she may never see her beloved father again. This is the kind of book that makes one realize how wonderful and terrible it is to be human. This is the kind of book that bridges the gap between sorrow and joy.

Throughout the novel, readers will began to recognize the plot as an exaggerated reverse-scenario of our own society. In the world of The Breeders, intolerance toward heterosexuals is rampant. In our own world, the exact opposite is occurring. Hate crimes against gays and lesbians happen every day. The LGBT community is constantly under attack for being ‘unnatural’ and ‘sinful.’ This ideology is based on the literal interpretation of scripture, dogma, and an outdated viewpoint of humanity. It’s a simple and sad fact that people are willing to condemn others for falling in love with someone of the same gender. I question any authority that justifies limiting the definition of love. This is a fundamental gift all humans can partake in, one that is all-inclusive. Gender and other worldly characteristics cannot inhibit the pure and relentless power of affection. I am confident that Matthew Beier will share this wisdom with the populace and stand by his dream to help people see that humanity is “only as strong as it is united and as weak as it is divided.”

While reading, I also stepped into the shoes of its author and began to understand the impact his life experiences have had on his integrity. Living in a society where being honest about yourself leads to prejudice and disdain is a carving experience. It whittles out a character like no other. Something truly remarkable about a book is its ability the capture the soul of the author. The Breeders has done this and more. The character of Beier is evident in every sentence: his passion, hope, and even a bit of fear. Matthew Beier is truly an exceptional individual, one who understands the difficulties of living in a largely intolerant society. I sympathize with him and know from what direction he speaks from. To find the willingness to reconcile with those who are opposed to his orientation is a courageous action. I can only hope to channel this courage when facing life difficulties of my own.

Even though The Breeders ended (spoiler alert) on an incredibly dismal note, Beier was able to implement a sense of hope into the reader’s experience. As the protagonists Dex and Grace were deceived by the very people they thought were helping them, the novel begins to show its true spiritual colors. Left to die in the frozen and apparently uninhabited wasteland of Antarctica, the couple with their infant child realize how futile their efforts have been to evade government. Everything the reader hoped for seems to be lost, and one may even end up hating the novel because of it. The author intended to write the end as emotionally honest as possible, which proves his persevering integrity. This was his intention, yet Beier could also not devise the ending to be entirely hopeless. By the fleeting glimpse of a rainbow, Dex departed life with God’s promise that life would go on. The story ended with a sobering and eye opening enlightenment. The empowering and stunning realization of The Breeders is revealed, and readers are instilled with hope that even the “worst of life may merely be a prelude for what is to come.” It was the perfect ending, one that speaks of life’s gift and the great mystery afterwards.

The Breeders is one of the most heartfelt books I have read. There is sincere passion and inspiration between its covers. It’s one of those incredible works of literature everybody should read once in their lifetime, even if they disagree with what the author advocates. It definitely provides an enlightening perspective, and together with refreshing characters, a strong storyline, and superb writing, grants for a truly gripping read. It is my strong desire to see literary works like The Breeders impact society for the better. Intolerance only breeds conflict and creates a rift in our nation. If humanity is to rise above and meet new, more problematic difficulties head-on, we must realize how impeding our petty quarrels truly are. Denying rights for homosexual couples, including marriage, is a mindset that causes harm and threatens to derail any sort of political compromise. Personally, I can say that it hurts. Being unable to express your feelings for someone you love is heartbreaking and depressing. I severely hope that ‘traditional marriage’ advocates will someday understand the pain they inflict upon homosexuals who are otherwise no different from themselves.

There is a bigger picture to life than trying to oppose the suffering we all endure. We can let it tear our hearts and minds apart, but we can also realize that it is a gift in itself: the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, grow because of our hardships, and appreciate the occasional moments of awe that comprise the foundation of spiritual experience. When death finally rolls along, we can depart reveling in the knowledge that life goes on, and what lies ahead is the ultimate mystery. I thank Matthew J. Beier for making this review possible and for unknowingly handing me the answer to a long-standing dilemma. All in all, I recommend this novel to readers who are not afraid to open their eyes. I recommend The Breeders to the ones who need it most: the hopeless, the inhibited, and the downtrodden. For all of those who need to hear it, this book has a message that rings loud and clear: It gets better.

Beier, Matthew J. (2012) The Breeders. United States: Epicality Books

Lowering the Wall by Gregg Ivers

Lowering the Wall: Religion and the Supreme Court in the 1980s by Gregg Ivers

Publisher: The Anti-Defamation League
Release: 1999
Genre: Political Opinion

Lowering the Wall: Religion and the Supreme Court in the 1980s is an intriguing analysis of the erosion of church-state separation in a particular decade of American History. The author, Gregg Ivers, warns of the degradation of several important original intentions of the founding fathers. Written in 1991, this book provides a timeless insight into the dynamic and often conflicting political mindset of the 1980’s.

With Lowering the Wall, Ivers has guided us through the disturbing evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court’s standing on two of the most important concepts expressed in the Constitution: the freedom of religion and worship, and the separation of church and state. He repeatedly expresses his concern that during the 1980’s, the Supreme Court began to noticeably depart from these vital constitutional values. 

One point that was consistently stressed by Ivers, was the rise of religious fundamentalism, or the rigid adherence to a religion in American society. This rise in zealous activism occurred mainly under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Indeed, many fundamentalists received the backing of the Reagan Administration in various pursuits to undermine the concept of the separation between church and state. A couple of these shifty endeavors included reintroducing prayer to public schools, and influencing the content of school curricula and textbooks. These rigid fundamentalists also sought to benefit from government support (i.e. monetary endorsement) in a plethora of ways, including religious displays at the public’s expense. At the same time this was occurring, intolerance toward less mainstream religious practices grew.  As one could reasonably infer, Ivers’ feelings toward these happenings are in no way supportive. 

The author also provides an integral background of the original intent of the Constitutional Framers. They, being our founding fathers, sought to give citizens a choice in personal worship and religious practices. The government was to maintain a neutrality, and through the two religion clauses of the constitution, the Founders sought to find the balance between governmental support for religion, and lawful encroachments upon religion. Ivers points out the irony in today’s situation; Supreme Court Justices professing fidelity to judicial restraint, or choosing to limit the exercise of their own power, while the ‘law of the land’ is seen to continually depart from the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution. It seems from Ivers’ point of view that adhering to original intent is not one of the prime principles of many Justices. 

Probably one of the more important aspects of Lowering the Wall was Ivers’ analysis of the relationship between majoritarian religions and the court, particularly the Rehnquist Court. Indeed, the author brings attention to the indisputable fact that a certain deference has been shown toward mainstream religious practices. Sadly, this respect and acknowledgement has not been extended to many unorthodox or minority religions. Minority groups, such as Native Americans, Black Muslims and Jews were all “overlooked” by the current court of the 1980s, which intended to minimize the importance of their personal religious beliefs while grossly over-promoting the importance of counteractive government interests. The rise in mainstream religious fundamentalism was obviously highly suppressive toward those of the non-mainstream variety, and Ivers is only too quick to point this out. 

As any perceptive person could see, Gregg Ivers is a man with an opinion. He knowledgeably demonstrates his take on the relationship between religion and politics of the 1980s. He aptly attributes the increasingly restrictive attitude toward unorthodox religious beliefs to the rise in religious fundamentalism under the Reagan Administration. Indeed, I believe Ivers was attempting to uncover the root of the problem: Reagan himself. In his presidency, Ronald Reagan appointed a total of 376 judiciary positions, the most by any president. Three of these were Supreme Court appointments, which reveals that Reagan’s personal opinion held great sway over the entire judiciary system of the 1980s. 

In Lowering the Wall, Gregg Ivers places obvious emphasis on the biased nature of the courts in the 1980s. This political issue may be of no interest to some, but I find it a highly important matter, even today. Some may shrug this book off as a good example of liberal “nonsense,” but I would dispute that claim. Ivers obviously favors the adherence of original intent, and who but the most staunchy of corrupt politicians could favor otherwise? At the time Lowering the Wall was published, Gregg Ivers was the Assistant Professor of Government at American University, and I am sure anyone who shrugs off his credentials is more than a little ignorant. This author provided highly legitimate sources to back his claims: direct accounts of the court cases concerning the scope of what his book covers.  It is my hope that this author’s writings continue to be read by interested individuals and persist long into the future. 

Lowering the Wall: Religion and the Supreme Court in the 1980s is one of the most intriguing books I have ever had the chance to indulge. I must admit, the dry nature of Gregg Ivers’ writing style was a mild hindrance to the readability, and yet I still enjoyed pondering his opinions. Ivers’ goal is to bring awareness to the lowering of the wall between church and state in the 1980s. This slow but evident transformation of the government’s interpretation of the two religion clauses took place over a decade. The evolution of America’s outlook was heavily influenced by a largely conservative judiciary branch and the president himself. This book left me with the impression that government is not always progressing in the right direction, and may actually take steps backward at times. I believe this happened in the 80s, and could even be happening now. 

Readers should approach this book hesitantly. Although dry, it is strongly opinionated. Ivers is very straightforward with where his allegiance lies when it comes to the political battlefield. The way Ivers explains the reasoning behind the turmoil of the 80s largely places Republicans at fault. In this case, I don’t know If I could blame him. It is of my opinion that all religious beliefs and practices are equal, or in fact, one and the same. Different names have similar meanings, and diverse practices have origins akin. By law, in the United States, government is to give no preferential treatment to one religion over another. Religion cannot be endorsed, nor can it be condemned. I believe this entire system was based on balance, of which our founding fathers were the prime constructors. Irreverence or a failure to adhere to this concept can only lead to more turmoil, and disrupt the already precarious relationship between government and the people. I urge and implore the people of our nation to open their minds, to see the broader outlook. This is vitally important if we are to remain unified and stoic in the coming times.

Overall, Lowering the Wall is an excellent read for those whose hearts are set on politics. I found it interesting myself, but than again I am a bit of political speculator. Gregg Ivers is truly an intelligent individual, capable of expressing his opinions in a subtle, yet lustrous manner. Readers should strive to understand the connections Ivers frequently demonstrates, and understand the points he makes about the referenced court cases. All in all, I discovered this book to be well-rounded and quietly powerful. 

Ivers, Gregg. (1991) Lowering the Wall: Religion and the Supreme Court in the 1980s. United States: Anti-Defamation League

The Cloudy Corners of Creation by Mark Tate

Publisher: Outskirts Press.
Release Date: 2012
Image Source: link

Synopsis: Dr. Tate has written an introduction to the subject of the paranormal for seekers of all faiths, especially Christians. He has surveyed a large number of books, articles, websites, television, and radio programs in his presentation of the subject of the paranormal for those who might normally shy away from the subject. Included are chapters on UFOs, near death experiences, prophecy from non-Christian sources, and a host of other subjects. Anyone interested in the paranormal from a sympathetic but questioning perspective will enjoy this read. 

Review: When I heard of this book, I knew I had to request a review copy. The Cloudy Corners of Creation is right up my alley; a book that comprises an open-minded take on spirituality and a speculative look at the paranormal and occult. Mark Tate is a brilliant author and human. He is strong and resolute in his faith, yet still sympathetic towards those of differing beliefs. He realizes that ignorance is not the path to tread and takes steps to learn from non-Christian sources. One quote from his book on page 71 proves how open he really is and gives insight on a momentous yet true vision:

At this point in time, what is most needed in this world is understanding between different spiritualities and religions of the truth of who and what they are, what they practice, and what they believe.

This truth rings clear throughout his book as Tate tries to uncover or at least bring attention to the cloudy corners of God’s great creation. I can’t commend him enough for his bravery of walking where other Christians fear to tread. I hope his actions inspire others to blaze their own trails and realize dogma can be interpreted in more than one way. 

There was a tremendous amount of research put into this book, enough to satisfyingly back up the evidence Tate gives on the possible existence of the paranormal. The only criticism anyone could have is a lack of strong conclusion. Tate presents many questions in his book—with the support of strong evidence—but doesn’t wrap it up in a superbly satisfying way. I personally don’t consider this a failure. How else could one conclude a book on pseudoscience? Definite answers cannot be given. Instead, readers should look for insight that the author offers on spirituality and the fate of humanity. As he states on page 152:

…Perhaps God’s voice is quietly being whispered through many diverse places by diverse peoples to warn the world—You have used and abused the poor, the needy—men, women, children—all created in the image of God—for all of human history. You have raped and pillaged the earth—given by God to humanity to care for—for hundreds of years. You have acted as though the most evil things—murder, rape, neglect of parental duty, civilization’s laws, and your own consciences—taught by all religions—were approved by God or gods—you have made the end to be near—and it is…

If this message is to be taken literally, you will understand its foreboding nature. Humans have sinned nearly incessantly in all of recorded history. When Judgment Day arrives—if there is such a thing—our fate is sealed in a nice high quality envelope. Postage paid. Are we to pay for our misdeeds? Will God have mercy? Currently, faith is providing the only answer.

From reading The Cloudy Corners of Creation, I have learned much. I realize that we have to look at the unknown with both our eyes and our heart, and only then can understanding the truth become possible. I thank Mark Tate for this stunning realization.
All in all, as my first ever non-fiction review, things went pretty smoothly. The Cloudy Corners of Creation is an insightful read on the more speculative aspects of nature. Readers who are interested in the paranormal and occult with undoubtedly savor this. I look forward to a possible interview with the author which is always a plus. So until then, faithful readers, au revoir! 
Tate, Mark. (2012) The Cloudy Corners of Creation. United States: Outskirts Press

Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle #4) by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: 2011
Image Source: link
Other Titles in Series: Eragon (#1), Eldest (#2), Brisingr (#3)

Characters- 20/20
Plot- 20/20
Writing- 20/20
Originality- 20/20
Recommendation- 20/20
Overall- 100/100 or A+

Synopsis: It began with Eragon. . . . It ends with Inheritance.
Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now, the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.

The Rider and his dragon have come farther than anyone dared to imagine. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaesia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the spellbinding conclusion to Christopher Paolini’s worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

Review: Reading the Inheritance Cycle has been a journey like no other. Truly a phenomenal and capturing series, it has forever established a spot in my heart. I will never lose the memories of thoughts I garnered from my first time reading it. Inheritance, the final chapter of the series, was a bittersweet conclusion. Truly one of the best books I’ve ever read, the ending saddened me. I was terribly reluctant to finish it. I feel as if a dear friend has been lost. . .

Despite my evident nostalgia, the tremendous positive feelings I experienced during this recent read evaporate any melancholy that could be lingering. Inheritance brought about the excitement and stay-up-late-to-read nights that any reader worships and yearns for. Indeed, you may be wondering why I rated this book so perfectly. The same happened with Brisingr—my honest reviewing skills have fallen short. I could not and will not find anything wrong with this novel. I love it so.

One of the main things that really struck me about Inheritance was Eragon and Saphira’s round-world revelation. When the trio (Glaedr included) was traveling to Vroengard, the home of the ancient riders, they ran into a storm of colossal proportions. A description from page 471:

“Since dawn, the clouds had only increased in size, and up close, they were even more intimidating. Near the bottom, they were dark and purplish, with curtains of driving rain connecting the storm with the sea like a gauzy umbilical cord. Higher up, the clouds were the color of tarnished silver, while the very tops were a pure, blinding white and appeared as solid as the flanks of Tronjheim. To the north, over the center of the storm, the clouds had formed a gigantic flat-topped anvil that loomed over all else, as if the gods themselves intended to forge some strange and terrible instrument.”

The storm continues to give Saphira problems. The wind continually tries to push her off course, while the rain is blinding and threatens to completely diminish what remains of visibility. Forced to rise above the storm, Eragon uses energy from Glaedr’s eldunari to enact a self-preserving spell—one that preserves body heat and provides a stable atmosphere to breathe.

As they rise to a seemingly impossible elevation, the clouds thin and stars begin to appear. Eragon is enamored by the sheer beauty and colors of the twinkling lights. But even more amazing, as he finally lowers his gaze to the horizon, Eragon notices something unusual. Instead of the sky and sea meeting in a straight line—as they should—the juncture between them curved, like the edge of a huge circle.

“‘The world is round,’ he whispered. ‘The sky is hollow and the world is round.'”

This revelation was momentous, a true milestone in the character development of both Eragon and Saphira. Such illumination can only result in a drastic change of mind-frame. Throughout the remainder of the novel, readers should note the effects this had on the actions and thoughts of both, especially in the effort of finding their true names.

The paths of both Saphira and Eragon to finding their true names was another momentous event in Inheritance. Much introspection was put into the effort as they both struggled to uncover their aspects, even flaws. It was a joyous event when Saphira finally found hers, yet dampened by Eragon’s slight jealousy. Out of frustration from lack of insight, he decides to go for a walk.

Eragon is away for the remainder of the night. After clearing a rubble strewn courtyard in the ruins of Doru Araeba (the fallen city of the riders) he perches atop a stone pillar, simply ruminating. His ruminations lead him on an inner journey of self-reflection.

“Then, as the first rays of dawn brightened the eastern sky over the ancient island of Vroengard, where the Riders and dragons had once lived, he thought of a name—a name such as he had not thought of before—and as he did, a sense of certainty came over him.”

“. . . And then he gasped, and he found himself both laughing and crying—laughing that he had succeeded and for the sheer joy of comprehension; crying because all his failings, all the mistakes he had made, were now obvious to him, and he no longer had any delusions to comfort himself with.”

“‘I am not who I was,’ he whispered, gripping the edges of the column, ‘but I know who I am.'”

This is the ultimate personal enlightenment; finding who you truly are. All of your flaws, your mistakes, become evident when you truly realize your identity. After reading this, I wondered if it could happen in real life, an illumination of the highest. It is true that anything is possible.

All in all, reading Inheritance was a profound spiritual experience. Just as Eragon endeavored to find his true name, I delved into a deep state of introspection, finding comparisons in my own life to Eragon’s revelations. I gained much from this novel, probably the most I’ve ever received from fantasy. Realizations into the true nature of freedom, justified leadership, and fear were only a few. The greatest and most profound would have to be a new outlook of self. I understand now, that we are always changing. Our identity does not remain fixed. Actions and decisions of the past determine who we are now. To me, this is sacred knowledge. Who we want to be in the future can only arise by working on our actions now, at this very moment.

Overall Grade: A+ 
A truly remarkable conclusion to Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance proves to a be more than any reader bargained for. Not that it’s a bad thing. A thrilling, heart-grasping, and rich fantasy, Inheritance combines a fight for freedom and marvelous revelations of the self. Readers will enjoy the immense character development that took place in Eragon and his comrades. Indeed, finishing this series, understanding that it is finally over, may be a more than sad event for many.


Paolini, Christopher. (2011) Inheritance. United States: Alfred A. Knopf.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Sometimes the task of reviewing a book can be quite daunting. This could be great for the book, or it could express the readers ill-favor. Sometimes though, the reader may just be at a loss of words as to how to begin. This is an obviously tough predicament for the reviewer but if books were alive, I’m sure they would be flattered. Finding words to describe the particular complexity of certain literature is a task that must not be taken lightly, especially when reviewing William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. There is a quote out there in the world of literature that I can understand.

“Some books should be tasted,
Some devoured,
But only a few
Should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
-Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Lord of the Flies is truly a book that should only be “chewed and digested thoroughly.” The content is not lightly absorbed and the symbolism can be subtle to discern. I was completely enthralled while wrapping my mind around William Golding’s allegory. Lord of the Flies is not just a fantastic story but also leaves the reader with a powerful moral that is truly iconic. To grasp what I am trying to impart, and if you have not had the chance to read it yet, an overview of Lord of the Flies may be sufficient.

The story takes place in the midst of a raging war, where a plane evacuating a group of schoolboys from Britain is shot down over a deserted tropical island. Two boys, Ralph and Piggy, find a conch shell on the bottom of a lagoon which they use to call an assembly. The boys who arrive range from young, aimless children or “littl’uns” to older, more tempermental “bigg’uns.” Jack, the clever leader of a boys choir attempts to secure a position for himself as Chief but Ralph takes the position by popular vote. Jack assumes leadership over his choir as hunters. Together the boys try to build a simple society in which to coexist until rescue arrives. Their attempts were disastrous.

The theme of Lord of the Flies attempts to trace the flaws and defects of society back to the flaws of human nature. The moral of the book is that the condition of a society must depend on the ethical nature of it’s individuals and not on a political system, no matter how perfect or foolproof it may seem. The attempted society portrayed in Lord of the Flies is an excellent example of this. The boys were unable to coexist peacefully for an extended time because their ego’s would not allow it. They fell apart and degraded into savagery.

The “Lord of the Flies” is a translation of the Hebrew word, Ba’alzevuv, which roughly means devil or Satan. In Golding’s book, the satanic forces that compel the shocking events on the island come from within the human psyche rather than from an external, supernatural realm. A lack of spiritual motivation and an overpowering domination of Ego was prevalent among all the boys on the island, except perhaps Simon, who was very morally inclined. This led to the collapse of their society because without God/Spirit, man is truly evil when left to their own devices.

The emergence of this concealed wildness is the very theme of the book. One of the boys, Piggy is the intellectual of the story. The fact that he wears spectacles is of great importance to the symbolic plot. Later on, when his spectacles shatter, it marks the progressive decay of rational thought as the story progresses. The struggle between Ralph, who is the representative of civilization and government, and Jack, whose Ego is much more evident than Ralph’s and who is a good representative of anarchy on the island is also a struggle in society on a much larger scale.

Among the many symbolic moments in Lord of the Flies, one stood out largely for me, the killing of the sow. It was a very important part of the plot because it marked a turning point in the condition of the boy’s society. The symbolism of the act was that the drive or emotions the boys felt while slaying the sow was symbolic for sexual intercourse.  It was in all ways amoral and was a great portrayal of the Devil/Ego.

The pigs head was cut off and skewered upon a stick (sharpened at both ends) which was jammed in a crack in the earth. The boys stared in awe as they watched the flies gather around the leering head which was dubbed “Lord of the Flies.” Once the boys had been fully immersed in savagery they planned to kill Ralph toward the end of the book. The death planned for Ralph involved a stick sharpened at both ends. Grim thought eh? 😉

Although the killing of the sow was greatly symbolic in Lord of the Flies, it only laid the groundwork for the most deeply symbolic incident. Simon was greatly affected by the skewered head and seemed to be having a conversation with it in the book. The “Lord of the Flies” explained to Simon, in his heightened perceptions, that he was a part of Simon, as he was of all the boys, and was the cause of the distress among them. Simon eventually loses consciousness and imagines he is looking into a vast mouth. The blackness spread and encompassed Simon’s entire vision just before he lost consciousness. This mouth is the symbol of the ravenous and unreasoning Devil/Ego conquering Simon.

Eventually, the boys on the island are rescued by a naval officer who disrupts the man-hunt for Ralph. This is where the book ends with the boys being saved. Lord of the Flies was one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever had the chance to read. I am grateful to have successfully discerned it’s symbolism and understood its moral. The collapse of a society can only be halted through an acceptance of God or Love. The true nature of humanity, without this force, is inherently evil and will cause the collapse of the most respectable civilizations. This is a great read for those who welcome deep thinking. 😉

-Ival Ty Crisp

The Shack by William P. Young

This post is from my former blog, but because of the enormous amount of inspiration I weaved into my writing, I found the need to repost it here. I hope you enjoy it!

Here I am, sitting in front of the computer, wondering how to begin. Should I be terribly forthright about what I am about to tell you? Or shall I skip around, hovering over surrounding topics and never really saying what needs to be said? It is definitely quite difficult to decide, probably one of the many outcomes of my fear of speaking my mind. Well, most things have to start somewhere I guess. So. . . . Full speed ahead!!!! ;-D

First off, I will tell you that my daily usual thoughts have been altered dramatically. In good ways, of course. And that all of this came about from reading a book. Yes, to all of those people out there knowing how much of a reader I am, you are probably shaking your heads saying “sounds like Ty.” And it is true, my life has been influenced by a book. I am proud to say it! This book I am speaking of, is none other than The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. If you have already read this marvelous masterpiece of thoughtfulness, or have heard of it, than you can pretty much guess what kind of ideas this blog post will be centered around.

During my read of The Shack, I felt fulfilled. Almost like the last piece of a puzzle was finally being put into place. To emphasize this, I will try to explain the ways I felt about my spirituality.
For a while now I have thought that some presence or maybe just intuition was guiding me, leading me to find some form of enlightenment. This has led my overall spiritual-self to growth and prosperity over the past two years. Everyday, I would realize something new, a happier way to live my life and reconnect with God. I slowly began to draw these related thoughts together, pondering them and opening up my curiosity. This was the beginning of my path to living a healthy relationship with God. Now, after reading The Shack, I feel I have at last found what I have been led to discover. Or at least, I have hit a milestone in my journey.

I bet you are wondering how a book could conjure up such thoughts, eh? I guess I will have to tell you a bit about The Shack.

Let’s start with a simple summery. This book is a story about a man whose young daughter is kidnapped. All evidence suggests that she was brutally murdered. Her dress is found, covered with blood, in a shack deep in the forest. But her body is not. After struggling with depression and family troubles, Mack, the father, receives a note apparently from God, inviting him back to the shack to meet. Mack travels to the shack and spends several days with the Trinity who show their selves in various human forms. During his stay, he discovered that God is truly the definition of love and in the end, he formed a strong relationship with God.

I really connected with the story for many reasons. It showed me that God is not the stern, imposing, and strict force whose wrath is dealt on the sinners, that some people believe he is. He is kind, forgiving, nurturing, caring, and most importantly, Love.

I am not very big on the bible. I mean, it has good intentions, and is certainly a fabulous piece of literature. But really, it’s not the word of God. It’s the word of man trying to BE God. How or why would God impose a set of rules for us to follow, if when we break them, we must repent or be sentenced to an eternal damnation in hell? Just the shame and bad emotions felt when you do something pretty wrong is punishment enough don’t you think? I believe the bible is something we should look to for inspiration, not something we should let rule our lives. Having an internal relationship with God definitely more important.

The Shack opened up my heart to God, maybe not externally, but definitely on the inside. My way of thinking has changed. I no longer feel a need to classify myself as religious, or find words to capture what I believe. That would be limiting what I feel internally. For those of you who are still confused as to what I am trying to say, I guess I could make it easier by classifying myself as Spiritual But Not Religious. That is as narrow as I can make it, except for maybe Spiritual Eclecticism.


There is so much more I wish to discuss, but by this time, I am most likely boring you with my continuous ranting. So I’ll do you a favor. If my writing is uninteresting to you, or maybe my topic of discussion is something uncomfortable to talk about, then stop here. This is a pretty good half way marking for this post. I do not wish to anger or bore you. I will now be flowing into a slightly deeper discussion about roughly the same topic, but just more detailed I guess. For those who wish to continue in my post, please do so. I welcome you to the spiritual side of me. ;-D


As I said earlier, God is truly the definition of Love. I believe this, but I am just beginning to incorporate it into my life and express it externally. That is why I believe reading The Shack was more of a milestone in my journey than the end of the road. I feel like I should explain the path I’ve traveled a bit more fully.

I cannot remember the exact date this path opened up to me but I am guessing it began about two years ago, my curiosity and openness about three years ago. It sort of started with my interest in finding my political party. I know, why would I be interested in politics? Well, I seemed sort of lost at the time. I didn’t know who I really was. Finding a political party that suited me was kind of a way of fitting in with people I thought I shared the same interests with. When someone asked my about myself, I could refer to my political party.

For a while, I simply thought of myself as a Democrat. It seemed to suit me much better than Republican. But then, once I started to learn more about the parties, I eventually just sort of referred to myself as liberal, as I still often do today. That was the first step in the broadening of how I classified myself. I am very inclined toward the pursuit of freedom. Anything that will give me more freedom, the happier I can be.

Actually, for a short period of time (a couple months) I began to think of myself as Independent. But I soon dropped that as my interest in politics began to wane. I now research the minor political parties which are often overlooked such as The Peace and Freedom party, a very small party in the state of California.

My sights next turned to culture. For a while I had a deep passion for traveling. I still do actually. I felt a yearning to learn about different people, the foods they ate, and what they believed about life. I began doing a lot of research, finding out which countries I would like to visit or even move to. I found I really liked Canada, Australia, and many or most European countries.

This interest in culture sort of broadened and evolved to incorporate religion. I began researching different religious beliefs along with my cultural research. Like I stated in my previous blog post, I was led to several different religions. They sort of gravitated on the principles of freedom to believe what you wish, a very loose set of guidelines, and an acceptance of many different ideas. I was very open-minded by this time.

Slowly, I began to realize that I had trouble following just one path. I believed that all paths were right and I could just pick and choose which one to follow. This was my time of religious eclecticism, which was not that long ago actually (referring to my last blog post).

And now, just very recently, I have gotten to the point of dropping religion entirely. I find that it is too limiting for my spiritually. Usually, it is considered a part of religion, that spirituality is encompassed by it. But I believe the opposite. I believe that religion can be a part of spirituality. Sounds confusing huh? ;-D

Well, these are the emotions I am feeling currently. I have explained the path I have been led to. I have been greatly influenced by The Shack. I find it an excellent read, worthy of both positive and negative criticism. I recommend it to anyone who is spiritual and shares a relationship with God. I hope you enjoyed my review and I wish you an excellent day. May you be blessed with laughter, joy, happiness, and Love.

– Ty Crisp