Book Write-Up: Refugees, by R.A. Denny

R.A. Denny.  Refugees (Mud, Rocks, and Trees, Book 1).  2017.  See here to buy the book.

Refugees is a work of fantasy.  The chapters are in the first person and alternate among different characters.

I am not sure how exactly to dive into this review, so I will start by commenting on some of the characters who stood out to me.

Emperor Zoltov: Zoltov is the emperor of the Tzoladians.  There is a prophecy, and he interprets it to mean that his deposed brother will rise from the grave, gather together the mud, rocks, and trees, and defeat him.

Baskrod: Baskrod is a fisherman and a prophet.  He is unpopular because he worships the high god Adon, whereas others worship other gods (as well?).

Amanki: Amanki is friends with Baskrod.  He loses the woman he believes to be his mother at the hands of mud beasts, who are vicious horsemen sent by Emperor Zoltov.  Amanki is handed a seal by a woman, and the seal, the woman, and Amanki all turn out to be important.  Zoltov wants that seal, thinking it is the key to treasure.

Brina: Baksrod tells Brina that she has a destiny.  She is to travel to Tzoladia, in accordance with the prophecy.  The problem is, she has to tell a council this to get its permission, and the council does not believe her.  One of the councilmen gives her the sort of speech that God gave to Cain in Genesis 4!

The book has an intriguing premise, and R.A. Denny’s creativity is evident.  The prose is not compelling, but it is formal.  The book was not exactly my cup of tea.  Part of that was my fault.  I read a few pages each day, and maybe that led me to lose sight of the big picture; sometimes that happens when I read books that way, and sometimes it does not.

But I do not think that my reading strategy was the only reason that this book was not my cup of tea.  What are other reasons?  Maybe I felt jolted continually by the alternating perspectives.  R.A. Denny did well to mark the character narrating each chapter (some authors are not so generous, unfortunately), but it was difficult enough for me to become acquainted with a new fantasy world, so maybe I preferred a smoother ride.  Perhaps the book would have been smoother had its prose been in the third-person omniscient and there were fewer main characters.  I also wondered, at times, what was holding the whole story together.  And there never was a time when the story came alive to me—-though the story of Zoltov and his royal family was definitely interesting.

Then there was the religious angle.  I do not mind that, as it is to be expected in a work of Christian fantasy.  But this is about the fourth Christian fantasy book that I have read in which someone is considered controversial or bizarre for worshiping Adon, or Adonai, or Elohim.  Maybe I feel that this theme has gotten old.  Or—-and this is what I would prefer to say—-perhaps there is a way to explore that theme in a fresh manner.  I do not recall much in Refugees about what the characters believe is at stake in terms of their religious beliefs.  That may have improved the book (and, if that was there and I missed it, its salience would have improved the book).

Finally, while Denny did well to have a map and a list of characters, she would have done better to place those at the beginning of the book rather than the end.  As I said, jumping into a new world and trying to figure out what is going on can be daunting.  Putting those things at the beginning could have gently introduced readers to the fantasy world.

I read this book and wrote this review at the request of the author.  My review is honest.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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