An intriguing but uneven fantasy aimed at Christians who find strength in their faith.


From the Towers of Light series , Vol. 1

This debut middle-grade fantasy uses the well-known Christian song “This Little Light of Mine” to spin a tale about three children fighting against an impending Darkness.

Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan have a happy life with their parents despite the fact that the Heathlands is being overrun by a mysterious force known as the Darkness. Their father, a Master Artificer with the Mighty Mercenaries, must leave home to fight against this evil invader. But before he does, he builds a Tower of Light, akin to a lighthouse, in their backyard. The parson from their church brings a lantern to place in the Tower. The family sets the lamp ablaze by singing “This Little Light of Mine” and keeps it going by remaining faithful to God through prayer and worship. Not long after the siblings’ father leaves, he is reported missing. Their mother must go after him, leaving Lauren in charge of her two younger brothers and tasking the siblings with maintaining the farm and keeping the light in the Tower burning brightly through their faithfulness. In the wake of their mother’s absence, the children discover that things in their town seem to be getting worse, as a mysterious bishop ousts the parson from their church and a vagabond in the trappings of a Mighty Mercenary begins to stir up trouble. What’s more, the kids have discovered weapons seemingly made for them to use in the fight against the Darkness. The Heathlands is a vivid, American frontierlike setting, marking it as unusual in the fantasy genre, which usually takes its cues from medieval Europe. Though Brokken’s series opener effectively focuses on each of the three children in turn, offering rich details, they lack complex characterization. The story portrays the kids as overly credulous and obedient. This is perhaps intended to distinguish them as good Christian role models, and the earnest tale is very much written for devout Christians. While the novel should appeal to that target audience, this strategy prevents the children from feeling like fully realized characters.

An intriguing but uneven fantasy aimed at Christians who find strength in their faith.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69722-402-3

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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