Peleg may not be a character widely remembered from the Bible. He was the son of Shem, grandson of Noah and is mentioned in Genesis 10:25. He is also the namesake of a series written by Matthew Christian Harding called, "The Peleg Chronicles." The series, published by Zoe & Sozo Publishing, is set within the time of Peleg's life (approximately 2249 to 2010 BC according to The World of Peleg information from the author's website). I was provided with a copy of Book One called Foundlings for the purpose of this review.
The back of the book clearly indicates, "No Magic, No Evolution, No Humanism." So when I began reading this aloud to my kids, I was a bit surprised by the mention of a witch in the very first paragraph (I have always associated witches with magic). Harding gives a reason for his inclusion of witches at his website under Commonly Asked Questions:
He explains, "Witches do normally practice magic, though I have not portrayed any in this book and I will not in future books. She does prophecy a curse over Lord McDougal. Scripture speaks of false prophets and curses. Her "curse" affects the unbelievers because of their superstitions, i.e. they believe that Lord McDougal is going to die. The "bad guys" then want to make sure that happens. She is part of the plot development which shows a society that is going further and further from God's truth."
The book offers a parallel story line of primarily two sets of characters (some of whom briefly intersect in the story) along with some supporting characters thrown in for good measure. You have on the one hand, a rather clumsy awkward Lord and his faithful shield-bearer who are followers of the God of Noah. Along another story line is an orphan boy and his wolf friend who helps him out of many a scrape. The characters are travelling to Hradcanny but even after finishing the book, I'm still a bit foggy on the objective of their respective journeys. Perhaps this becomes more clear in the second book.
The story has many positive elements: a contrast of the depravity of those who follow false gods with the virtue of those trying to follow the God of Noah, characters who exemplify courage in danger, forgiveness, loyalty, and faithfulness to serve the Most High God. There are some harrowing escapes and a good bit of suspense throughout as you often wait a chapter or two to find out whether someone has lived or died. Followers of God often quoted Scripture. It would have been helpful to have references given (if not within the body of the text, at least as a footnote in each chapter).
My younger two who stuck with the book consistently begged for me to continue reading (actually the 10 year old was too impatient for me to finish it and read it on her own). I have to admit to feeling a bit annoyed that the book leaves the reader hanging quite precariously--it really comes to a crashing halt. However, Book Two is already available for purchase, so you don't have to be in suspense for long (I know my younger kids will be begging for us to buy it).
There were so many characters with unusual names, that a pronunciation guide would have been helpful. Also a brief introduction to the cast of characters would also have been a good addition.Weaknesses
Harding admits to using "out of place artifacts" within the story line. From his website, he lists references to the following: "Greek Fire, metallurgy, advanced math, physics, optics, cartography, engineering, etc." within the book. Harding's position is that archaeological finds support the presence of such advancement (that those believing in evolution either ignore or reinterpret). Without some further substantiation, I'm not sure I'm persuaded on that point. Those elements actually made my older kids (15 and 12) lose interest in the book at an early stage. My 10 and 7 year olds, however, were totally unfazed by those details.
A couple other areas in the book that distracted from the story line were names and language usage that did not fit the time period. Harding does admit to taking names from more recent history but that unfortunately makes it difficult to really feel as though you are immersed in the targeted time period. Characters named McDougal and Fergus sound more like names from the Scottish highlands rather than ancient biblical history. As for the language, out of place phrases like "thinga-ma-eaters", "hobbledy-hoy", "okay" and the frequent use of contractions greatly diminish the authenticity of the dialogue. I will grant that such liberties do add to the book's readability and also added touches of humor (sort of like watching Laurel and Hardy try their hand at a biblical reenactment).
While the quoting of Scripture is a marvelous element in the story, the inclusion of a reference to Luke 12:5 ("fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into Hell" Foundlings, p.25)also takes away from the historical setting (since the New Testament would not have been recorded at the time of Peleg).
What We Thought
In spite of the weaknesses mentioned above and perhaps a bit foggy plot line, the book was enjoyable. There were moments that my 7 year old burst out into uncontrollable laughter at the descriptions of Lord McDougal's clumsiness. And there were incredibly touching moments of loyalty between characters. Also a very strong appeal to follow the one true God. It's not often you find a book that has woven so much Scripture into a book. Historical hiccups aside, my younger kids found the book a fun read. I admit to glossing over a few parts about torture or pagan sacrifice (and a brief reference to cannibalism). I think the story will especially appeal to boys with the battle scenes and the strong male characters. Having some Scripture-quoting heroes in a child's literary repertoire is definitely something to encourage.
Ordering InformationOrders can be placed online through the author's website. Foundlings can be purchased for $11.95 from the order page. Book Two is also available for $11.95. Copies come autographed by the author at no extra charge. Shipping is free.
The author states on his website, "I would be happy to answer any questions you or your children have concerning the book. And after the third book in the series, God willing, we intend to make a companion book, investigating the historical, Biblical, and character building themes throughout." It's refreshing to have an author willing to address reader questions! And the author does include information at the back of the book explaining how one can become a follower of Jesus--with Scripture references--making this a non-threatening way to introduce unbelieving friends (who like action-adventure stories) to the Savior.
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Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Foundlings by Zoe & Sozo Publishing for the purpose of reviewing and sharing my honest evaluation. The opinions expressed are my own and no additional compensation was received.