The Peleg Chronicles
by Matthew Christian Harding
Do you have boys who dream of adventures in times past? Boys who find anything that resembles a sword and run off with a friend into the woods to pursue unknown, hapless creatures (of the imaginary sort)? Boys who thrive on stories of brave warriors on horseback, dastardly (and hungry) dragons lurking nearby, and entire towns to save through selfless acts of courage, cunning, and hard-won skill?
If so, then Foundlings is a book you will want to add to their reading list for this coming year. It is a book with all of the qualities listed above, with just one unusual twist. This story does not take place in Medieval Europe or during the Crusades. This book "takes place in the time period of Peleg, soon after the Tower of Babel dispersion" (click here for a timeline from the website)...you know, that time after Noah's flood when the human race got very prideful about its accomplishments and attempted to build a tower the likes of which has never been seen. To halt their attempts to (again) be like God, the Lord separated them into diverse people groups and confounded their speech, making it impossible for them to communicate effectively between their groups anymore. So, they scattered over the face of the earth and the rest is...history.
In this case, it is historical fiction, with the underlying flavor of the genre of "fantasy", as it relates to the incorporation of warriors and dragons and the rise and fall of men and kingdoms. The history of this story is based upon scriptures that point to a young earth, and the existence of giants, dragons, and men living at the same time. Then there are the false gods, and of course, the evil priests vying for power.
Living and trying to survive amidst the oppressive and conniving evil creatures, are those who stand for righteousness, for the God of Noah. There are gentle giants, dwarves, Rangers, Beast Masters (animal tamers), warriors, and leige lords among those who are followers of the One True God. A side note for your consideration: one of the men in the story says he heard the tale of Noah's flood from Noah's son Japeth, yet does not believe in the God of Noah. It really makes you think about how little it takes for people to walk away from Truth, even when faced with overwhelming evidence.
What I found most interesting about this story is how effectively and realistically the author wove scripture into the story, even in a time when printing presses did not exist, so all knowlege of scripture was from hearing and memorizing it. You have to consider, also, that not all scripture we have today would have been available to the people of this novel. Yet, the book is rich in wisdom and full of God's Word in a way that brings it to life, through the actions and speech of the characters. It is humbling that these characters who own so little in material goods, have so rich a knowlege and love of God's Wod. Your children may just be inspired to learn more scripture and insert it into their battles against foes both imaginary and real.
If I have any reservations about this book at all, it would be that some children may not be mature enough to handle some of the darker aspects of the culture that is revealed. Very interestingly, I felt this book may be drawing a more realistic view of the darkness that existed in those times than the average children's book about this time period...the fear, the power struggles, the daily battle for mere survival. I think sometimes we gloss over some of the more wicked things that are in our history, and lose the reality of how richly we are blessed to live when we do and to be children of the Most High God. I would say that if you would hesitate to have your child read some of the stories in the Bible that are a bit more scary (but true), then you need to hold off on offering this book. It does discuss the horror of sacrifices, it mentions the effects of drink upon people, and it portrays the reality of the false gods that were worshiped at the time.
One thing we did in preparation for reading this book was to read Ruth Beechik's Adam and His Kin first (a fictional retelling of the story of Adam and his progeny) as a kind of lead in to the era. It is an interesting book as well, but not similar in focus or genre. Since my son is a fan of fantasy writing anyway, he wound up liking Foundlings better, though in all fairness, we found both interesting, and both offered an intriguing perspective into what might have been.
One reason Tex liked this book better was that he enjoyed the humor the author expressed through many of the characters, especially using the interactions of the main character, Lord McDougal, and his friend and shield-bearer, Fergus Leatherhead. He also liked the dwarf, Gimcrack (he was comical, without meaning to be, which makes it even funnier), and the Beast Master, Oded. Oh, and you can't forget the enormous and intimidating, but wonderful, white wolf, Horatio. I particularly liked the earnest young characters, Suzie and Thiery, and how their faith shone through their actions and words. They were true examples of the blessing of what it means to have childlike faith.
Tex also enjoyed the fighting. He is one of those kids who runs around with his friends wielding practice swords (from Vision Forum), a bow and arrows (Vision Forum again), and slingshots (okay, all Vision Forum...they've got good stuff for boys!) and disappears for hours in the woods behind the house. Nobody has shot an eye out or broken anything important yet, so I am assuming they are bashing the imaginary bad guys and not each other. He thought the battle scenes were well-done and realistic. He liked the fact that the characters weren't perfect and learned from their mistakes. Of course, I enjoyed the daring escapes and rescues, but I will not say involving whom beccause I don't want to give the plot away. It is very suspenseful (once you pass the first few chapters) and you will breeze right through the book. You will probably stay up past your bedtime just to finish it (I did).
I have to be completely honest though, and admit that there was one thing Tex did not like (and neither did I!). It was...the ending. It is absolutely, positively a cliffhanger (and I really mean a cliffhanger!), and we sadly do not own the next book. Personally, I don't mind a plot stretching from book to book (neither does Tex), but this one, well, all I can say is that if you read it (and you should), make sure you pick up Book Two at the same time. Unfortunately, Book Three isn't due out until Spring/Summer 2011 (frankly, I think that's a bit of a wait...can you write faster, Mr. Harding? Please? ;-), so you will have to wait for that one.
However, we might be able to wait a bit more patiently if we had the second book, Paladins, to tide us over...so if anybody out there is finished with their copy, please feel free to send it on over this way. We'll give it a good temporary home and have it read by the next day.
If you don't want to wait for the off chance that someone will loan you their copy of either book, you can order both for $11.95 each (autographed and with FREE shipping!) from Zoe and Sozo Publishing HERE.
Some FREE ideas for a unit study using the book Foundlings are available HERE. Plans for lapbooks and a study guide are in the works (give it a few years).
To read what others on the Crew thought of this book, click HERE.
I received a copy of this book for the purposes of offering an honest review for my readers, and I have done my best to do that here. If you have further questions about this product, please feel free to contact me.
Blessings to you in all you do (and read!)