17 May 2013

'Fortress of Mist' by Sigmund Brouwer

 Fortress of Mist: Merlin's Immortals 2
Waterbrook Multnomah, February 2013

Following Thomas' conquest of Magnus, the young ruler must now lead his people into a new era - one which is sure to reveal dark forces at work behind the evil undercurrent that controlled Thomas' kingdom for so long. 
Who will stand with Thomas to fight against the mysterious Druids? After being abandoned by Sir William, of his remaining "adopted family," who can he trust? Can he trust either Katherine or Isabelle with his secrets-or his heart?

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This is my first review of a book from Waterbrook Multmonah, so thanks to them for giving me a free copy. 

To start with the positives Fortress of Mist did seem to be well-written and engaging. For a work of YA fiction the style did not seem amateurish or over-simplistic, and with some great use of description and language (and a beautiful cover!) The concept and storyline seemed original, and there were some well-drawn and interesting characters. Thomas of course the hero I liked, but also to some extent his shady comrade the Earl of York. For a children’s book it handled some of the subject matter, such as the power politics quite well, in a way that younger readers could understand.
Not all of the characters seemed well developed however; some were perhaps a little one -dimensional or simplistic. Some of the plot devices too seemed a little over-used or predicable. Lots of special potions slipped into food over and over again, or characters disguising themselves as older people.
However I had a couple of major issues with this book. 

I have not read the first book, and so don’t know much about the back story but it combines a real historical setting with various fantastical elements such as druids, and a group of supposedly immortal human beings who seem to be followers of Merlin. I know druids really existed- but not in 14th century England as they were all wiped out by the Romans in the 1st century (who did not try to convert them as the novel claims). 

Both seem to be possessed of supernatural powers of some description (or at least are clever at making people think they are). One of the ‘good’ immortals is described as going into a trance-like state to gain knowledge. The resemblance of this to certain practices in the occult should not, I think, be overlooked.

Another was that it contained a lot of misconceptions about the medieval period, such as the claim that most people were illiterate, and associated science with magic. As a student of Medieval History, these irked me, not least because they are just plain wring (at least for the specific setting of 14th century England anyway), but also because of the way that Medieval people were depicted as superstitious fools supposedly almost entirely ignorant of science, medicine, and even military strategy.

Thomas for instance derives most of his strategic (as well as scientific and practical) knowledge from his secret books of ancient ‘wisdom’ because supposedly his Medieval English fellows were so ignorant and narrow minded that they hardly knew anything. I felt that the depiction of the supposed backwardness, unpleasantness and 'darkness' of this period seemed to be exaggerated. 14th century people certainly knew more than this book gave them credit for, including certain things which supposedly only the druids and Immortals knew about like astronomy.
There were a couple of plain old errors too- like the ‘Scottish’ warrior from Carlisle which is in England or the claim that nobles just allowed peasants to do most of the fighting in battle from their position of safety. 

There were references to the church and clergy, which are to be expected. Generally the former was depicted as a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution, which was in many respects, true. A good Christian was a friend and mentor of Thomas the hero, and wanted to teach him about Christ and true Biblical Christianity- not the false version the church represented.
A character called Katherine also makes a comeback who supposedly taught Thomas about God in the last book. Yet perhaps she and her fellow immortal Hawkwood depended too much on cunning, their ‘secret wisdom’ and dubious special powers?

Overall Fortress of Mist is not a book I would feel comfortable about recommending because of the inaccurate things about history it might cause people to believe, and some of the spiritual implications.

1 comment:

  1. I read both books in this series and you really have to read both to get the whole story. I really loved them both and can't wait for the next one.

    BTW--I have 5 giveaways going on at my site this week if you're interested in stopping over. Hope you have a wonderful week!

    Diane :)


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