A Christian parable with an action-adventure twist.
The latest from Hoyer (In the Absence of Orders, 2007, etc.) takes place in a secluded valley called Thanoton, where the weather is permanently cloudy and the residents are taught that “the only thing outside the valley is a wasteland with creatures ready to devour anyone that enters.” Some residents follow the teachings of an ancient group known as the Children of Light, worshipping in secret to avoid punishment by Thanoton’s despotic king. Aided by a complex web of covert organizations and savvy double (and triple) agents, three teenagers set out to restore the valley by studying and following a text called The Book of Prophesies, after they hear messages from a mysterious Whisperer. The plot’s Christian underpinnings are plain; for example, one leader reminds his fellows: “We are here for the people, to set them free—free to worship the Light of the Word. Our highest purpose is to glorify Him.” Readers of all religious persuasions, however, may enjoy the book’s classic action-adventure elements; espionage, secret messages and daring escapes abound. All that duplicity, however, eventually becomes hard to follow. New characters keep popping into the story, and their abundant abilities to deceive one another and operate in secret under an oppressive regime increasingly push the limits of plausibility. Even more confusingly, the original main characters are largely absent from the book’s second and third acts, making the narrative feel disjointed and sometimes directionless. Still, Hoyer draws some compelling shades of gray out of what could have been a black-and-white tale of good versus evil, giving even the heroic characters space for flaws and keeping readers guessing about their true motivations. Reflecting on his own shortcomings, for example, one character thinks of the Whisperer: “He chose to use people to accomplish His will….He uses even their failures to accomplish His purpose.” Although they are couched in Christian terms, this novel’s nuanced values will likely resonate with readers of any stripe.
A big-hearted but unfocused adventure tale.