Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour: Sharon Hinck's THE RESTORER

Meet Susan, a modern-day soccer mom who is pulled through a portal into another world, where a nation grappling for its soul waits for a promised Restorer to save their people.

Susan has always longed to do something great for God, but can she fill this role?

That's one of the blurbs for THE RESTORER that you'll find on Sharon Hinck's website. And while I loathe the term "soccer mom", I think it's useful in its way to peg the character for prospective readers in the female-dominated CBA reading audience. This is a gal like us. She's married. She's a mom. She is busy. Too busy, maybe. Maybe she simply doesn't have enough time for herself. Yes, CBA's majority demographic can "get" this woman.

That's why, if you're someone who mostly reads romances or women's fiction, and you tend to glaze over in the eyeball region at the thought of reading, gasp, a speculative fiction novel. Gimme a few minutes:

What can I do to get you to try Sharon Hinck's alternate reality Christian fantasy THE RESTORER?

I aim this specifically at those of you who do read Women's Fiction in all its manifestations.

And I aim that specifically at those of you who enjoy fantasies with swordplay, battles, good heroes, menacing villains, and fish out of water.

This novel is a hybrid. Women's Fiction meets Alternate Reality.

Let's have a couple definitions for those of you who might be unclear.

Alternate Reality (aka Parallel Reality):

Parallel universe or alternate reality in science fiction and fantasy is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with our own.

Women's Fiction:

Women's fiction is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of literary sub-genres that are marketed to female readers, including many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, "chick lit," and other sub genres.
If you read either of those two genres, then I'm tellling you, try THE RESTORER. And even you guys who may have second thoughts--Women's Fiction? Ugh!--need to calm down and give this a chance. (Hey, we women have been reading your guy stories for ages, and if we can enjoy testosterone fueled fiction with hardly a female hero in sight, then I think you need to sit down and be big enough to try fiction with a mom hero.)

THE RESTORER opens in our world, our time, where a Christian housewife is smack in a bad emotional and spiritual place. This is good. A character with a big need, a void, a hurt, is a character that makes you want to follow them through their journey. In this case, up to an attic for a time of devotion.

(I know, you're thinking, yawn, a devotion. How Christian Fictiony cliched. And hey, I"m with you. I hate devotion and sitting-in-a-pew-listening-to-sermons scenes myself. They tend to be wholly static.)

Ah, but, we are given this solitary moment for a glimpse into our character's need, and we don't stay there long. This is the establishment of the real world and the real world woman, but the real world will be gone soon enough, and the woman's identity is about to take a marked 180.

The soccer mom in this world is a hero in that world. Or at least, chosen to be a hero. It's up to her to take up the mantle--and sword--and the calling's attendant special powers and become the hero that the One (ie God) has selected her to be. She is an alternate reality Deborah, but all along, we know she is still that mom. And she has no guarantees of getting out alive. That's the nature of the calling: death might be at the end of The Restorer's service.

Even so, our purposes may be bigger than we may know. Do we surrender to the calling and the Higher Power Who calls? Or do we seeks to escape and be safe?

(Safety versus danger in calling is the theme of my current WIP, so, hey, it's one I like to read.)

Let me give you a link to an excerpt which includes some of the opening above of THE RESTORER.

That opening novel is a perfect "easing into" point for Christian Women's Fiction aficionados. But rest assured, if you enjoy fantasy of the heroic alternate reality sort, then the novel morphs into that while retaining a significant percentage of the WF flavor. That doesn't mean this is only for women. This means that while women, especially Christian women, especially Christian women who read CBA romance and WF, should be thoroughly hooked by that beginning, readers of fantasy should find themselves shortly thereafter equally hooked by the events in the fantasy world.

On the plus side: The novel has a nice zippy pace, the action gets going fast (ie, I didn't have to sit through days of angst and devotions, yay!), and the dangers start multiplying in short order. The new world had a particularly cool set of villains whose particular weapon requires a cure that proves the power of worship. I liked the conflicted secondary character, Kieran. I really enjoyed the council scene, but then, I love when there's intrigue and political machinations. And, hey, some nice surprises/twists. I especially loved the penultimate one. Heh.

On the minus side: I found myself slightly losing interest in a part in the very latter portion of the novel, a couple scenes that felt padded. But that's minor. And I do have a thing for an alternate world seeming to be so utterly whitebread and Northern Euro. (Which I mentioned before, so won't beat the comatose horse here.)I also felt bombarded by names in certain part, names for characters that were decorative and never came to life. And I didn't really feel her missing her kids. It didn't come across vividly enough.

Ultimately, this is truly an entertaining read, a fast-paced one, that offers us a look at a reality that has echoes of our own--especially if you're familiar with your Old Testament--but is still its own world.It's not graphic in either the violence and certainly is subtle in the few areas that address conjugal matters, so nothing here should offend the typical CBA reader. It's kid-safe, without being dull.

So, have I tempted you at all to get a copy of THE RESTORER? Yes? No? Come one. Tell me.

I'll try again tomorrow to sway you...

Meanwhile, a snippet from an interview posted today at Galactic Overlord's Writing Blog:

Jason: What do you see as Susan’s major challenges in the story?

Sharon: Like many of us, Susan is ready to serve God in any way He calls her – as long as He explains Himself to her. LOL! She faces some extreme surprises and unusual battles—but I’d argue that many of us do, too. It may not involve a literal “other world” but we sometimes are hit with pain that we can’t find a good reason for – and we have a choice to pull away from God in disillusionment, or surrender more deeply and trust Him with the “not knowing.”

Visit my blog tourmates:
Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Russell Griffith
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver


Shannon said...

I actually think it's more a hybrid of *mom-lit* and fantasy than women's fiction and fantasy. :-) But that's just my ever-so-humble opinion.

John said...

If they want to get a copy of the book, your readers can stop by my blog. I'm giving away a copy.

Oh, and I have an interview with Sharon as well. :)

Mirtika said...

I hold to a more secular-traditional view of what "Lit" books are, the voice they need to have, the sort of humor or wit or satirical bent, they hyperbole. So, no, this is not Mom Lit in my view. Granted, CBA has a watered down definition of the "Lits", cause what I've seen them call "Lit" is not "Lit" by the original sense in any way other than it has female protagonist and addresses female issues. I still hold that for it to be LIT, whatever the prefix, it must have that particular voice.


Daniel I Weaver said...

Did you put those definitions up there for me? :)

While I agree whole-heartedly that this is a "woman's" novel, I do think men should give it a read. I won't promise they'll enjoy all of it's aspects, but they might just be better off for giving it a try. Sharon's main character is very richly portrayed and highlights the female hero as someone to be reckoned with.

I enjoyed your review, Mir. Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by.

God Bless,

pixy said...

Some great thoughts, Mir, as usual. :)

Becky said...

Here's another example of why I think readers should flock to The Restorer--it appeals to people of varying tastes. I think it's safe to say that you and I write fairly different kind of fantasy, right Mir? You favor darker urban fantasy, and I write something closer to traditional epic fantasy (minus the traditional creatures, if that makes any sense). Yet we both love Sharon's book. I think she's done a good job of creating characters we care about while giving us a fast-paced plot.


Vicki said...

Always enjoy your reviews, Mir.

Sharon Hinck said...

Mir, I love your writing voice in your blogs so much, I can only imagine how awesome your novel writing voice is. :-)

Great thoughts. It cracks me up that you liked the council scenes, because I HATE those. Political infighting - ugh. Knowing someone liked them made me feel much better about the agony I went through in writing those scenes.