Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Tale of Manaeth

When I speak or write on the topic of literature, the one comment I always get is, "I need book ideas for boys!" I've written on this topic countless times and still people ask me, "What are good books for boys?" So, when my friend Phillip Campbell gave his new book to me, Tale of Manaeth, I just knew it would be one to share with my fellow Catholic homeschoolers. If you have boys, I recommend this book. Gosh, if you have girls, I recommend this book. The boys will love the blood, guts, and gory war scenes. The girls will love the fact that the hero is a girl.

First, about the author. I know Phillip through our Catholic homeschool group. He's a homeschool father who also provides tutoring services for local homeschoolers. Phillip is an Ave Maria University grad and currently a Madonna education graduate student. He is also the Director of Religious Education for a terrific parish in Ann Arbor.

While Phillip's book is not overtly Catholic, Tale of Manaeth was written by a dedicated and faithful Catholic. I like that. I get weary reading kid lit and weeding out the trash.

As the Curt Jester, popular Catholic blogger, wrote, "Tale of Manaeth is an old school fantasy epic written in the narrative style like the Iliad or Tolkien’s Silmarillion." When Phillip first handed the book to me he mentioned that he was concerned that the writing style might be hard on modern ears, but he had nothing to worry about. It's refreshing to immerse oneself in language that excites the soul, that makes you think about the words themselves.

Yet, it is not the writing style that puts this book at the top of my list. It's the heroine. She is a princess, living the good life, when suddenly she is thrust into a life or death situation. Not just her own life, but the lives of her royal subjects. Our heroine is Manaeth whose name is changed to Manissa. After all, she is no longer the same person. Manaeth was a young, naive girl. Manissa is a warrior queen. Unexpected, unplanned. She didn't ask for the job of warrior queen. She didn't necessarily want it. Yet, she rose to the occasion when called upon and saved the world with her wisdom, tenacity, and moral compass.

I love those kinds of heroes. That is the kind of hero a child can relate to and aspire to be. It demonstrates how everyday people living everyday lives can overcome the worst of situations and save the world. Isn't that what we all love about Peter in Narnia and Frodo in LOTR, who do things out of personal conviction, because it's the right thing to do and not out of a quest for fame and fortune?

So, if you're looking for a good read for your older tweens or teens, or gosh for yourself, I recommend Tale of Manaeth. (Make sure to ask the author to autograph for you!)

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