Review:  The Republic of Thieves

The Gentlemen Bastards have been manipulated by their enemies into running an massive attempt at rigging an election.  Their goal is to thwart thwart their political rivals through every underhanded means they can devise.  The catch, their political opponent is up to the same task, has a head start, and was trained by their same mentor.  Meanwhile, they need to find a way out from under the boot of the Bondsmagi who manipulated them into playing this dangerous political game.

Their opponent’s head start means that everything starts going wrong the moment they reach town.  They spend the first couple weeks in town completely on the defensive only able to retaliate in the most childish ways.  After a bit of back and forth they set up a parlay with their rival and old friend and discuss boundaries for their fight.  Once established, the real political battle quickly ensued.  And true to Scott’s writing style, we see our protagonists come up against some of the hardest challenges you could expect to face in such a bizarre political fight.  Their wits are put to the ultimate test, as is their resolve.

This story deals a lot with the Bondsmagi, their society, history, and power.  If you were intrigued by them in the first two books, this book will answer many questions and deliver many more.  I found their society intriguing and the twists and turns in the story engaging.  However, I found this story less interesting than the first two.  Perhaps this has to do with the simple fact that corrupt politics are all too real right now.  I’m not entirely sure.  Regardless, I’m still sold on this series and looking forward to the next book, The Thorn of Emberlain.  I’m disappointed that it’s not out yet, I can’t believe he thinks getting married, moving, and buying a house is more important than finishing up the next book.  I mean, come on!  We, the readers, need this series to be released on schedule!

All kidding aside, Scott’s writing style is so excellent and the story so engaging, that I really do wish the next book were out now and I could binge read it today.  Instead, I have to wait until next year, which just makes me feel like I’m back in the 90’s watching t.v. on an old antenna driven system, where you have to wait a week in between cliff hangers.  We’re in the 21st century, nobody does that anymore, we just wait for it to hit Netflix and watch it all in one weekend.  Why can’t your books be the same way, Scott?  To this end, I propose you release the rest of the series in 2018, cut down our waiting time between books by literally years, and let our imaginations run wild.  I know this will be a pressing schedule for you, since you haven’t written any of those books yet, but sacrifices must be made for the good of the fans.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.  Worth reading, but pales a bit in comparison to his other two.  I will note here, that my opinion on the overall score of this book has been challenged by my friends who have read it.  They seem to think this is the best one in the series so far, but I retain that Red Seas Under Red Skies holds that title.

Up Next:  War Psalms of the Prince of Peace by James E. Adams


Review: Getting the Gospel Right

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Have you ever wondered what the difference between a Catholic and an Evangelical Christian is?  This is a fitting question for this time of year as just a few weeks ago, Evangelicals acknowledged Reformation Day – the 500th anniversary of when a monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle with every intent of starting a lively scholarly debate about the unbiblical issues and traditions of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  He posted them in Latin as was scholarly tradition, but his points were so provocative that they quickly went viral – being translated into German and spread all around the country.

Consider theses 82:

Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.  ~ Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

Luther claims the pope is not loving, but only interested in money.  How provocative is that?!?  Each these was just as provocative in its own way.  Many poke at the pope and his authority, thus pointing at issues with the authority of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  This simple act of nailing 95 discussion points to the public debate forum for scholars to debate ultimately resulted in the church splitting.

Many of the same issues Luther posted about are the same ones that Evangelicals and Catholics disagree on today.  In the 500 years since, the Catholic Church as recanted some (but not all) of the beliefs that they had way back then.  The progress that’s been made has caused some on both sides of the divide to come together and try to reconcile their differences.   In 1994 some Catholics and Evangelicals gathered together and framed a document that has been labelled Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT).

This document sprouted controversy in the Evangelical Church as many began to wonder if the Catholics had abandoned their view of justification by works and embraced the reformation view or if the Evangelicals had abandoned sola fide – the belief that justification for sins comes by faith in Jesus alone (not by any amount of good works a person does).  As people on both sides of the divide began investigating this they found that neither side had capitulated, but they both mistakenly thought they had come to an agreement.

In 1997 a group of Catholics and Evangelicals gathered together again to see if an agreement could be made regarding the most important theological issues (ie. salvation).  What resulted is what is known as The Gift of SalvationSince many of the people at this gathering were also in attendance at the signing of ECT, this document became colloquially known as ECT II. One must ask the same questions here that were asked after the signing of the original ECT, did either side change or abandon its views?

It is with this document and this very question that Sproul addresses the majority of his book.  He takes the lengthy document they produced and dissects it paragraph by paragraph pointing out the pros and cons of what they had to say.  In the end he concludes that Catholics and Evangelicals are still divided on the belief of what is takes to save a person from hell.  The document glosses over some vital issues calling them “needlessly divisive disputes” and saying that both sides needed to spend more time talking about them.  He goes into great depth as he breaks down each point and the reader will find themselves full of rich knowledge about the Evangelical position on salvation.

Overall Sproul does a great job dissecting the documents and presenting clear Biblical truth.  One of the most striking things he said was:

Some churches require their pastors to take a sacred vow to work for the peace, purity, and unity of the church.  But if the church becomes impure in its doctrine or its practice and the pastor earnestly seeks to purify the church, he is almost always accused of disturbing the church’s peace and unity. ~ Page 23

This strikes a cord for me with how true it is.  Consider Luther 500 years ago, nailing his theses to the door of the castle, the response from the Roman Church was to try and burn him alive.  They would have none of his correction for their impure practices.  Today is not much different.  Sure we don’t try to burn our pastors alive anymore, but in many churches today if a pastor calls sin sin, he risks his congregation going on a hunt for a new pastor while they do away with him.

This instinct to attack or dismiss that which is different from what you believe is so present in our age (inside and outside the church) that you can find it readily all over facebook and every day conversations.  We as Americans are unwilling to sit down and talk with those whose views differ from our own and try to understand.  Instead we gather to the people who agree with us and in essence become an echo chamber to ourselves (2 Tim 4:3).

When we are willing to humbly admit that we can be wrong and have healthy discussions with those that disagree with us, we are in the best place possible to learn from each other and grow into more perfect individuals.  In this kind of open mindedness we are able to seek out and challenge one another to grow and strengthen our hearts and minds with solid, unbreakable truth.  I pray we all would find the humility to be humble and admit that our knowledge is not perfect and likely never will be in this life.

I give this book 3 stars.  It’s very informative and sound, but a bit dry.  I would normally only want to recommend this book to someone who either thinks there is no valid distinction between the Evangelical and Catholic or is struggling with the differences therein.

Up next:  The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

Review: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

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I became fascinated with Moneyball after watching the movie earlier this year.  Using science and numbers to predict statistical averages and win 20 games in a row is amazingly brilliant!  The book was just as fascinating as the movie, and a pure joy to read.

The A’s had one of the smallest budgets of any baseball team, their budget was just a small fraction of the big boys:

You have $40 million to spend on twenty-five baseball players.  Your opponent has already spent $126 million on its own twenty-five players, and holds perhaps another $100 million in reserve.  What do you do with your forty million to avoid humiliating defeat?  “What you don’t do,” said Billy, “is what the Yankees do.  If we do what the Yankees do, we lose every time, because they’re doing it with three times more money than we are.”

What’s so amazing about this story, is Billy saw beneath the fake veneer of professional baseball and knew there was more to it, but no one else did, or even believed him while he pushed toward his goal.  Billy was a pro player who failed, through his failure he began to realize there was more to baseball than the experts thought.  Eventually he came across statistical analysis that proved everything he secretly held to be true, and he embraced it.  In a world that told him he was wrong, he ran with it.  The other team managers and experts called him crazy the whole season for making the decisions he was making, but he pressed on and went on to set records with his team.

But even after that, his opponents didn’t believe his methods were viable and continued to lay into him calling his success a statistical anomaly.  The first person to break through the wall gets dirty, and that’s the place Billy was willing to be.  He looked outside the box of how things had always been and sought new and interesting ways to beat the system.

Moneyball is an interesting book of how one man bucked the system and proved statistics are valuable.  This book is part story and part business lesson, and is surely a must read for any business leader who wants to find a way to be more efficient with the resources and projects they have.

I’m actively thinking about these lessons and how I can make my job better and more efficient myself, and how my company might be able to push the boundaries and out smart our competition.  I’ve come up with some ideas, but the practical applications of this book are not easily implemented.

I think the lessons Michael Lewis writes about, are applicable to any field and this book is well worth the read.  (But then, I’m a numbers nerd so take that for what it is.)

This inspiring book gets 4 stars.

Up next:  Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together by R. C. Sproul

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastard series.  Scott Lynch is in the process of writing a seven book series set in a fantasy world, centered on a group of thieves.

I read the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, last year before starting this blog.  It focuses on a young Locke Lamora who survives a plague outbreak and gets sold into an orphanage for thieves.  Locke falls in love with stealing and refuses to follow the rules. Eventually the leader of his orphanage sells him off to prevent him from messing up his thieving business.  This ends up being the best thing that ever happened to Locke; he gets a caring father who teaches him and trains him to master his innate skills.  He gets a family of brothers and a sister.  Scott Lynch writes two stories side by side, the history of Locke’s past and the present events of the Gentlemen Bastards.  In both stories, you’ll see how he has a habit of writing himself into a corner.  He finds the most insurmountable obstacles to throw in the path of the characters, and buries them with it.  You’ll find yourself believing there’s no way out (and sometimes it’s even true).

This propensity for Lynch to write his stories into corners is only part of what makes him a great writer.  He also is able to fully wrap his mind into his world and tell the story as if it were written to people in that world.  This may sound like strange praise, but many writers, including Brandon Sanderson and Tolkien, are unable to do this.  When you read The Hobbit the writing is clearly designed for the children of this world as a fable of another world.  On the other hand, The Lord of the Rings, is written like a historical tale of the world in which is takes place.  It’s hard enough to create an entire world, but it’s pure trickery to move your mind into that world and experience and express things as if you were really there.

My only complaint with this series is that Scott Lynch writes like a crude, cussing sailor.  Never is that more apparent than in Red Seas Under Red Skies, which is the story of Locke Lamora as a pirate on the high seas.  This book has some of the coolest characters I have ever read.  One of them is a middle aged female pirate and mom that prompted one reviewer to write:  “Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women, they were vicous rapits and murderers and I am sorry to say it was a man’s world. It is unrealistic wish fulfilment for you and your readers to have so many female pirates, especially if you want to be politically correct about it!

Let’s considered this misogynist response to the book for a moment.  The commentator makes a rather ignorant comment about history: “Real sea pirates could not be controlled by women.”  A two second google search would prove that statement false.  Madam Cheng is one of the 8 most infamous real life pirates and the History Channel composed a list of 5 famous female pirates.  For this commentator to so ignorantly attack the author, is just pure unresearched foolishness.

Scott Lynch chose to reply to this commentator.  Rather than reply that historically this man is ignorant, he embraced his writing and said that it is wish fulfillment, because all people deserve a character they can relate to:

H.L. Mencken once wrote that “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” I can’t think of anyone to whom that applies more than my own mom, and the mothers on my friends list, with the incredible demands on time and spirit they face in their efforts to raise their kids, preserve their families, and save their own identity/sanity into the bargain.

His full reply can be read here.  But be warned it’s full of language and spoilers.

This series has been described as Ocean’s Eleven meets fantasy.  It’s action packed, risk filled, con-artistry at its best.  I’m hooked.  I’ve read all three books that he’s released so far and will eagerly continue to consume them as they release.  (My review for book three will be hopefully be coming in about three weeks.)

Overall I give this book 5 stars.

Up next:  Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Review: Daniel Commentaries

A little over a year ago my wife and I started a Life Group at our church.  We wanted to do something different than the Life Groups and Bible Studies we’d been in before and so we developed a plan for how our Life Group would look.  There are several things that we identified as important for a good Life Group.  First, a dedication to Scripture, with which we’re just a bunch of people hanging out.  Second, a dedication to living life together, which is exactly what the church is called to.  We believe that a dedication to living live together results in accountability, that ever important virtue of growing in Godly morals and right living.  Focusing on Scripture helps us think rightly about the world and its issues, but accountability makes sure we are self evaluating and examining each other so that we might act rightly.  It keeps us from being judgemental and harsh, and keeps us loving and broken before God and each other.

With those points in mind, we structured our group to meet weekly for dinner and a study.  Eating food together is one of the fastest ways to build relationships and it gives us ample time to catch up on life before diving into the Word.

For the study, I’ve noticed over the years that most Christians don’t know how to study the Bible.  The know they need to read it, and so they make a commitment to try, but they often struggle to retain what they’ve read and apply the principles of holiness to their lives.  So we thought it would be best to do one study a month on how to study the Bible, and follow that up with two weeks of practical application of the lessons learned.  The fourth week of the rotation is dedicated solely to being a Life Group and living out life together.

As we began to get our Life Group off the ground and running, we asked them what book of the Bible they wanted to study, and since they noted that they wanted to know more about prayer, they unanimously chose Daniel.  That was a shock to me.  I immediately began pondering the sections in Daniel that I struggled to understand and feared for the future of our group, but I took their suggestion and ran with it.  I purchased two of the highest rated commentaries out there (Miller and Longman) and began digging into the word on my own and looking up what the commentaries said afterward.  As my study progressed, I felt a need for a third commentary and bought Davis.

It took us nine months or so to make it through the twelve exciting chapters of Daniel, and I know I’ve been changed by my study of this powerful book, the discussions we had as a group, and from reading these three commentaries.  I have now read them cover to cover and will give them an individual review below.

Daniel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture by Stephen R. Miller

What first interested me in Miller’s commentary was a one star review (it seems to have vanished from the internet since then) that read something along the lines:  Miller’s commentary focuses on historical facts and fails to provide thorough interpretations.

This one star review sold me on buying it.  A good commentary should tell you want the text means in context of the time it was written.  Many commentaries fail on this point, which leads them to make wildly inaccurate interpretations.  Miller digs in deep to the culture of the day, the setting of the people, and provides meaningful insights into the why’s and what’s of the events.  He doesn’t skimp as much on interpretations as that one star review led me to believe, and that’s fine as the time spent in the background gave him a solid framework for good interpretation and application.

He has a tendency to argue both sides of an issues, and if you’re not paying careful attention you can find yourself believing both sides of the issues for a few moments before it all clicks.  This is good as it allows you to see a well reasoned approach to both sides and what the weaknesses are as well.

For his in-depth presentation of history and factual analysis of events, I give Miller a 5 star review.

Daniel by Tremper Longman III

Longman did a great job introducing the book and its main theme: “despite the circumstances, God is in control.”  I started off with a great affinity for this book and its simple approach to the theme of Daniel, but I quickly began dreading reading this book.

The twelve chapters of Daniel are broken into two six part pieces.  The first six are stories of what happened to Israel, Daniel, and Babylon during Daniel’s life.  The second six are prophecies that were given to Daniel mostly toward the end of his life.  In the first piece of Daniel, Tremper has at least two chapters that end with an application section that is several pages long and has nothing to do with the story being discussed.  I was initially frustrated by this, but found nothing unbiblical in those applications (other than not belonging here), and so I continued to push on gleaning what I could.

As I got into the second section of Daniel, he quickly began making statements about how prophecy is done that directly flew in the face of what the text actually said.  He would say things like “numbers are especially used in a symbolic manner in apocalyptic.”  While he tried hard to support that view throughout the book, the simple fact is that Daniel, the prophet of this book and an expert on prophetic interpretation, did not hold that to be true (see Daniel 9:2).  Further, many scholars have pointed out how the numerics in Daniel’s prophecies do work out, and so we see Longman take his bias into the text and ignore what it actually says.  Longman also takes the prophecy in Daniel 9:1-27 and applies them backward to the previous 70 years, rather than forward as is clearly intended in the text.

The other big issue I found in this commentary is Longman’s dismissiveness of people’s differing opinions.  Where Miller would bring up someone’s view and do his best to show you it intact, Longman would say “So and so disagrees with this statement, but they’re wrong, let’s move on.”  Which means you either need to have the same resources he did when reading the book or have firm grasp of the various opinions on all the topics in Daniel.  But even if that is the case, you would then have the argument clearly presented to you and Longman’s half a sentence dedicated to saying it’s dumb, and be left thinking Longman is incapable of thinking the issue through since he can’t give reasons for his disapproval other than saying “I disagree.”  (Luckily for me, many of his statements like this were directed at Miller, and I could easily see the argument for real.)

All in all, I found this book annoying and quite off topic.  I did find good Biblical truths in it, but often times those truths came not from Longman, but from the Scripture he quoted.

I am forced to give this commentary a 1 star review.

The Message of Daniel by Dale Ralph Davis

This commentary is not designed to be an in-depth analysis of history and culture like the other two are.  Instead, Davis tries to write a book that could be read straight through and give you a whole and complete look at how your life should change as a result of reading Daniel.  And I think he does this very well.  He interweaves his book with tales from modern history that paint for you a more complete picture of what is going on, and he writes some great and powerful one liners.  Some great examples:

  • “Faith knows the power of God [3:17], guards the freedom of God [3:18a], and holds the truth of God [3:18b].”
  • “The Fourth Man can always find his people.”  (This is in reference to the fiery furnace, and I think it packs a powerful punch, especially up here in Seattle where we have the Twelfth Man…  the Fourth Man is so much more powerful!)
  • “Pay attention to what Belshazzar teaches you: having clear information does not guarantee the right response.  He knew all this but did not humble his heart.”
  • Talking about Daniel 6:1-28: “This section carries a two-pronged message for Israel’s exiles: see how gracious God is in giving you favour among your captors and even with kings, therefore, don’t despair; and see how costly it may prove to remain faithful when you are favoured, therefore, don’t make an idol out of human favour.

This commentary proves to be an application or devotional style commentary, which in general I’m usually wary of.  It takes a lot of work behind the scenes in proper grappling with the text to get those golden nuggets and present them rightly.  Often times a work like this doesn’t do all the behind the scenes work; what they present is the seemingly all the work they did.  It is obvious in Davis’ carefully written book, that he did take the time and effort to write this commentary in a way the properly addresses the text, and he gives life altering words to the importance of it.

There may be a few points I disagreed with him on, but I leave that to you to judge for yourself.  This book is easy to ready, theologically sounds, and carries several powerful messages for believers.

I heartily endorse this book with a full 5 stars.


Up Next: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch


Review: Within the Sanctuary of Wings


Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the fifth and final book in the Lady Trent Memoirs.  Marie Brennan brings her personal knowledge of anthropology, archaeology, and folklore and shapes a wonderful, Elizabethan world full of dragons.

The action in this book takes a bit longer to develop than it did in books three and four.  This was a bit disappointing as reading through non action scenes at the beginning of a novel can be a bit dry and boring.  Once we move past those initial events, we get taken on an interesting journey (Lady Trent’s last) to the snow covered mountains at the edge of the country.  This particular border divides them and another country with which there is a “cold war” brewing.  Both sides have a vested interested in finding a way through the mountains, and Trent has proof of an unknown and ancient dragon species in those mountains.

This book sheds light on mysteries Marie Brennan started hinting at in the first book and slowly intensified throughout the series.  The reveal is engaging, and I don’t want to spoil it here, but it’s worth while.

Strangely I’m both glad and sad that this series is over.  The way these books were written as a memoir with constant direct statements of foreshadowing feels insulting to the reader.  Foreshadowing is a part of most great novels, but it should not be blatant.  When you tell the reader, this next statement is a foreshadow, you ruin the suspense.  On the other hand, Marie Brennan did develop an interesting world, and dealt with many issues in today’s culture.  It’s also nice to have a story with a female protagonist.  It’s often hard to find good fictional stories that center around women, which is odd since 50% of our world is made up of them.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars.

Up next:  A three book review of commentaries on Daniel:

The Message of Daniel by Dale Ralph Davis

Daniel by Tremper Longman III

Daniel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture by Stephen R. Miller

Review: Night


Night is a must read story.  It is the true story of Elie Wiesel’s experience as a Jew in concentration camps in Germany during WWII.  It’s heart wrenching and real.  It begins before Elie and his family believed that anything was going to happen, moves through their doubts about clear warning signs, moves forward into the ghetto, the march to the cattle cars, the separating of prisoners at the camps, the slave labor and malnutrition, and ends in a place that leaves you feeling the weight of the evil of these events.

This story is masterfully written, you feel like you are there, your mind will race with images that now seem unimaginable, and in the end you’ll feel a small portion of the despair felt by so many at the end of WWII.  You see the anguish of a Jew who lost his faith in the pits of evil.

I should end the review here, that’s all you need to know to want to read this story; except I will warn you not to read the intro until after you’ve read the book, there are some spoilers in there that are best avoided.  However, I can’t end here.  It’s impossible to read this story without your mind reeling with thoughts of human nature, evil, and vileness of the events that took place.  I want to take a moment to share one of the things that impacted me.  There’s no spoilers here, but if you plan on reading the book in the next little while, I might suggest you hold off on reading further.  The thoughts below will make more sense and perhaps impact your heart more, if you’ve read the story.

When the story ends, there is an added chapter with the text of Elie’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.  It’s a great glimpse into the what Elie learned through this heart breaking story, and it is full of great insight into our hearts and the thoughts and actions we ought to be taking to protect the vulnerable and innocent around us.  Consider this quote:

“And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”

What a gut punch.  Elie directly says that concentration camps happened via indifference; they happened via silence.  He also said “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”  Is he wrong?  Do you find yourself bucking against his words?

I can think of many situations today where Christians are indifferent.  They hear someone clamor with an issue in our culture or our world and their response is to ignore that issue and, often, point to another one.  Instead of getting fired up about things that Jesus hates, they sit on the sidelines in complete apathy.  This should not be!  Christians have the most reason to get fired up over injustice.  We know the God of justice, the God of love and compassion who desires that none should perish.  We know the weight of our sin and the surety of how much we deserve hell.  But we also know the great relief and joy of grace and the lifting of a due and just punishment.  That relief should push us to act.

Don’t be lukewarm in indifference.  Stand up for the victim, the abused, and the down trodden.  Stand in the way of those that would cast stones against them, protect them and show them what it truly means to know love and grace.  That’s the kind of good works Jesus called us to in Matthew 5.  That’s what Newsboys talked about in the song Shine:


Let it shine before all men

Let ’em see good works, and then

Let ’em glorify the Lord

The seriousness and weight of this book cannot be underestimated.  You’ll find your thoughts forever changed by the shear horror and evilness of humanity presented in this book.  I can’t recommend it more.

Overall, I give this book 5 stars.

Up next:  In the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Side note:  If you want to see the worst music video I’ve ever seen, go check out the Newsboys music video for Shine here.

Review: In the Labyrinth of Drakes


In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth book in the five part Lady Trent Memoirs.  Marie Brennan takes her personal knowledge of anthropology, archaeology, and folklore and creates a wonderful world full of dragons and fantasy.  Lady Trent is the protagonist and she seeks to learn more about dragons as an anthropologist in a world that is masochistic.

In this book we see Lady Trent set off for a dry arid land (very much out of her comfort zone) in an attempt to develop a method of breeding dragons that can be used for scientific and military purposes.  If you’ve read other books in the series, the latter part of her purpose may surprise you, but I can assure you it is done in a way very consistent with her character.  While in the desert country, she makes a landmark discovery about dragons and their breeding habits.  This part of the book was so fascinating, that I won’t spoil it here.  The creative genius of this discovery is something I haven’t seen in a novel before, but expect will be used by many writers going forward.

Lady Trent also goes on a harrowing adventure into the desolate desert regions and learns much of dragons, an ancient civilization, and herself.  This book is full of good character development, action, and plot twists you won’t see coming.

In my last book review for this series, Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, I gave this book 5 stars.  I also give this book 5 stars, but for different reasons.  The last book was full of action and adventure, and this one was too, but in a very different way.

Up next:  Night by Elie Wiesel


Review: The Cost of Discipleship

I’ve found myself thinking this week about all the Christians I’ve met over the years.  Some of them, when I am first confronted with the idea that they are a Christian, I find myself reeling.  The revelation comes on the back of them saying something very unChristian… gossiping, slandering, making racist comments, proclaiming love for things that are clearly called sin in the Bible, or over the years I’ve known them they’ve never once talked of anything remotely spiritual.  How can such a person exits?

This is, in part, the question Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers with his book The Cost of Discipleship.  These people believe in what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.”  By definition grace is the free gift of God’s love poured out (for now we’ll ignore the more technical definitions of common grace, efficacious grace, and prevenient grace).  Cheap grace is grace that is so “free” it has no lasting meaning.  You can sin today with no care for consequences, because you know that redemption is one free step away.  All you have to do is return to the gift giver and snatch up forgiveness; it has no cost.  Bonhoeffer puts it this way:   “Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares… Grace without price; grace without cost!  The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.”

The problems with this are immediately apparent.  Good and godly behavior, need have no place in your life because grace is always there, and for free!  Cheap grace justifies sin, but does not justify the sinner.  That is, it forgives the sin but the sinner remains unsaved.  This is what a church does when it offers community without offering accountability, when it offers forgiveness of sins without any confession or penalty.*


There have been a very few Christians over the years that when I learned they were believers, it just made sense.  Their life reflected their beliefs in their every action.  These people are the ones that believe grace comes at a cost.  They believe that truly following Jesus costs them everything.  They know that in order to be true followers of Christ they must seek him out at every turn, display God’s love in the core of their being, and always, always repent of sin and strive for a more godly way of living.  Bonhoeffer:  “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.  Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it cost a man [Jesus] his life, and it is grace because it gives a man [you!] the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”

Bonhoeffer puts grace into perspective.  He shows that being a disciple of Jesus is not an easy task.  He lays out the foundation of grace at the very beginning of his book and then spends the whole book showing you what a Christian should look like.

This is a book I’ve read several times in my life and I will likely read it many more.  What you may not know about Bonhoeffer is that he was a Christian in Germany during WWII.  He was arrested by the Nazi’s (supposedly for plotting Hitler’s assassination, though proof is lacking).  He spent the rest of his life writing letters and books from prison.  He was an intellectual and a theologian.  His books can take several attempts at reading before the full weight of them is understood, or more accurately a single sentence from Bonhoeffer can take hours to fully digest.  Since I’m a big fan of books that make you think, I am also a big fan of Bonhoeffer.  He pushes your mind and your theology to new places and forces you grapple with the weighty truths you find there; you cannot read his books and come away unchanged.

For the Christian and non-Christian alike, I highly recommend The Cost of Discipleship.  It spells out Christianity in an in-depth and uniquely engaging way.

Overall, I give this book 4.5 stars.

Up next:  In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

*Salvation does not come through good works, but our works do reflect the state of our hearts James 2.

Review: Voyage of the Basilisk

Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in the Lady Trent Memoirs.  It’s a five part series of books about a female anthropologist who studies dragons in the Victorian Age.  If you’re looking for a story to read that has a female protagonist fighting for the fair treatment of women, I highly recommend this series.  There are a few parts that I find as mild let downs, but overall this series is great!  Marie Brennan brings her personal knowledge of anthropology, archaeology, and folklore to bear in creating this wonderful world.

Before I get to reviewing Voyage of the Basilisk, I’ll point out that last year I read the first two books in the series, and since that was before this blog, allow me to give you a brief run down.  The first book, A Natural History of Dragons focuses on the childhood and first real adventure of Lady Trent.  It shows her fight against sexism in the scientific and scholarly communities and it shows a woman who follows her passions, wherever they may lead.  The second book, Tropic Of Serpents, shows Lady Trent’s second adventure, wherein we learn just how bad she is at politics and some of the difficulties being a female adventure in a masculine world I’ve never before seen in a book, but is very true to real life.

There is one downside to the fact that this series is written as memoirs, and that is the very fact that memoirs are often written with allusions to things that happen in the future (at least from the perspective from where you are in the story).  And that happens a lot in these books.  Despite that, Steph and I still like the series enough to recommend the books, but we do warn that the first two books are a bit slow to develop, but the plots get stronger with each passing book and the adventures kick off much faster in the latter books.

Now on to the review.

Voyage of the Basilisk begins with the action taking place as early as chapter two.  Lady Tent goes on an exciting sea adventure to study all kinds of dragons across the world.  She faces challenges at nearly every turn and meets some fascinating characters.

This is easily my favorite book in the series, and I am struggling with what to say to get you excited about this book while also not revealing too much of the plot.  What I can say is this, Lady Trent navigates the great seas, visiting several nations to see their specific breeds of dragons.  Along the way she learns to swim, swims with many sea creatures, and meets my favorite character in the series!  (Which I say having read all five at this point, expect the last two reviews in the coming weeks.)  We also get to see her raising her son as a single mom with a career and learning life lessons.

Based on her writing style, I think this book is a perfectly fine book to read even if you haven’t read the first two.  It might be a bit harder to follow all of her allusions, but she often describes the scenes she’s referring to, even though she’s already written about them previously.  Give this book a read!

Overall, I give this book 5 stars.

Up next:  The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer