Monday, April 21, 2008

The Begotten: A "Gift" and a Challenge

The Begotten by Lisa Bergren presented me with both a gift and a challenge. The gift was an interesting, enjoyable story with strong characters and well paced action. The challenge was that of theology and speculative historical fiction. In this essay, I will treat the literary aspects of the book. Tomorrow I will explore the theological ones.

This week I have been reading The Begotten along with The Order War, a secular fantasy novel by L.E. Modesitt. I hate to say it, but most of the time when I'm reading a Christian novel at the same time as a secular one, the Christian one does not fair well in comparison. This time I was happily surprised that Bergren held her own against Modesitt. She has done a remarkable job of transporting us back to the 14th Century and drawing a picture of a woman discovering and coming to terms with not only being "Gifted" with the gift of healing, but being the Nexis of a gathering of other "gifted" ones preparing for a spiritual battle against evil forces.

Bergren's characters are well drawn individuals coping with being called to a mission by God which will put them in opposition not only to an evil force, but also the religious establishment, and in the early Renaissance being at odds with the church didn't mean getting a letter of reprimand from your pastor, it meant being tied to a stake and burned in the public square. I was somewhat disturbed by the tacit approval of the Inquisition when applied to heretics instead of attempting to convert then and counter their false doctrine with the truth, but I guess Bergren was trying to be true to the mood of the time. We will talk more about these issues tomorrow.

I find the story to proceed at a reasonable pace. However, those who like a fast-paced novel may find this one a bit slow. If you are looking for men at arms crossing swords on every page or wizards blazing fire across each chapter, they is not the book for you. For me, this is refreshing. Too many of these books spend so much time keeping the "action" going that we don't have time to get to know and care about the characters.

I must say that there are times when Bergren depends too heavily on narration and inner monologue to convey background information and some of Lady Daria's (the main character) conversations with her priest seem more like sermons in disguise.

Nevertheless, on balance, this has been an enjoyable read. However, it has raised some theological questions and a few impacting the philosophy of Christian writing. I will be touching on those tomorrow. In the mean time read what others are saying about this book.

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Jill Hart
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Rachel Marks
Melissa Meeks
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise
Karina Fabian


Blogger Christopher Hopper said...


Well written initial thoughts! I agree about her book holding its own. The first third seemed a bit slow, but I thought it picked up nicely, especially for a book, as you say, that was more about the characters than the battles (and I'm saying this as a die-hard Gladiator and Braveheart fanatic!). Although, Lawhead does this, too, and keeps me riveted (St. Patrick was a VERY drawn out saga, as was Byzantium).

Look forward to reading your thoughts on it's theology.


April 22, 2008 at 7:42 AM  

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