Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

The Sword (a Novel of Chiveis) by Bryan M. Litfin

Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the ‘ancient’ world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten — until a young army scout comes across a strange book.

I have read Christian fiction in the past, but I’ve found most of what I read to be a bit cheesy and, for the most part, I stay away from it (though if anyone could recommend anything well-written, I would be quite appreciative). The premise of The Sword sounded interesting, however, so I decided to give it a shot. I wish I could say that I wasn’t let down by what I read, but that would be a lie.

I still maintain that the basic premise of a society rediscovering the Bible and God is quite appealing and I applaud Litfin for such a clever idea. I really enjoyed experiencing the characters’ joy in translating and interpreting the scriptures. His execution of this idea, unfortunately, left much to be desired.

The antagonists seemed over-the-top at times, almost cartoonish. I think Litfin could have done more to make these characters much more mysterious and create more suspense in the story if he hadn’t shown so many scenes from their prospective and let readers know what they were going to do ahead of time. The pantheon of gods also seemed a bit ridiculous, to be perfectly honest — who wouldn’t desire something better when one of your choices was the god of excrement?

The protagonists, especially Ana, often seemed too perfect. Not only was she a clever shot with a bow, unfailingly polite to everyone, had exceedingly high morals, could play and sing and compose poetry, but she was stunningly beautiful too! The problem with this is that nobody, real or fictional, is without faults and there can be no development in a character if they are already perfect to begin with. Not only is this unrealistic, it’s boring.

Litfin also needs to work on making the dialogue more believable. I think he was trying to make the character’s speech patterns a bit more archaic to go along with the medieval setting, but I just couldn’t imagine anyone talking the way they did. It also seemed as if he used way too many exclamation points — they are only effective if used sparingly. Once per page is fine, but four times in one paragraph is overkill.

I know some of this may seem like nit-picking, but sometimes a new writer needs to hear these things in order to improve and become successful at their craft. Fiction writing is an entirely different beast from non-fiction, and I think Litfin might do well to read extensively in the fiction realm and see what makes other writers successful,and apply what he’s learned to his own writing.

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