The Fire Of Heaven series is a Christianity-inspired fantasy. My rating for these three books varies quite a bit from the first book to the last. The first book, Across the Face of the World, was a promising start to the story and I would rate it at perhaps three stars. I had hoped the writing would improve as the story progressed, but the second book, In the Earth Abides the Flame, was, unfortunately, a step backwards rather than forwards and it introduced elements that bothered me, so I would rate it at two to two and a half stars. The last book, The Right Hand of God, was, frankly, abysmal. Had the series started at this level I would never have finished the first few chapters, let alone the entire trilogy. I rate it at one star, and then only very grudgingly.
It is impossible to review this trilogy without getting into its Christian themes, since these form the crux of, well, of pretty much everything in the books. There are no subtle allegories here, either. If you thought that Narnia was obvious, these books are much, much more so.
The story itself somewhat mirrors the Bible and is filled with echoes of Bible accounts. For instance, there is a reworking of the story of Moses and Israel walking through the parted Red Sea. Also, there are terms and names that are directly drawn from the Bible. The deity of Fire Of Heaven is known as the Most High, which is an actual title of God in the Bible. The Fire Of Heaven also has someone called The Right Hand, which is a Biblical name for Christ. And so on and so forth. There are literally dozens and dozens of these derivations — several in every chapter. I think even readers with no familiarity with the Bible whatsoever would pick up on quite a few of them.
At times the books depart from the Bible utterly — or at least the story is retold in a way that is completely antithetical to the Bible. For instance, if you know the Bible account of the virgin birth and the conception of Jesus Christ it will probably come as a shock to read Kirkpatrick’s Christ fathered by his Mary figure being raped by the devil — which is the most radical departure from the Bible account as is possible.
So, er, how is the story apart from the religious stuff? I suppose I should really make some mention of that, eh? The writing itself isn’t too bad in the first book. By the third book it is liberally doused in clichés. The characters actually seem to become more shallow; the descriptions are trite; the dialogue is painful; and there are some eyewidening plot developments — and not in a good way. The main characters — called ‘The Arkhim’ in the second book and just ‘The Company’ in the third — are almost entirely absent in regards to making contributions to the dialogue in the last book. They pop up every so often to intrude on Leith’s angst, to shake their heads disapprovingly, or launch themselves grimly into battle.
Something I found utterly irritating about the books is that the characters are so weak. The Bible has heroes who did some pretty amazing things, but the characters in this book are the most insipid bunch of losers I’ve ever found in a novel.
The story also seems to be semi-autobiographical, in an abstract way. Kirkpatrick says that the main character, Leith, is based on his own teenage years, and I strongly suspect that the story also echoes his own life during those years (actually, I emailed him and he basically said as much). Leith certainly grapples with questions that would be common to many teenagers today. You know: “Why am I here?” semi-teen-angst stuff. I really didn’t like Leith. For that matter, the author himself says that Leith is his least favourite character in any of his books! Yikes! There’s something deeply wrong with a story when even the author finds his main character annoying. And he is annoying. He’s a whiny, self-focused sulk. By the last book people are dropping dead around him in droves and he won’t do what’s necessarily to help them because he is miffed with the characters he needs to get advice from. Were this real life it would be tragic; in a fantasy character it’s frustrating.
So there you go. It wasn’t too bad at the outset, but rather than picking up speed as it progressed, it spiraled into a cycle of being by turns irritating and then boring. I skimmed most of the third book just to see how it ended. I rate the trilogy as a whole at one star, mostly to discourage people from reading it. Across the Face of the World wasn’t terrible. It’s a shame it didn’t develop well from there.
Mark Pawlyszyn, one of our earliest guest reviewers, has always tended toward the creative side of life and had careers in music and painting before settling into his current position as the owner of Unique Images Photography. Mark has visited and lived in twelve countries and can ask for directions to the bathroom in several languages. He currently lives in Canada with his wife, Sherri.
Fire of Heaven — (2004-2007) Publisher: From a tiny snowbound village, five men and women are about to embark on a journey that will change their lives — and the destiny of their world.For two thousand years, since he was cast out from Dona Mihst, the fabled Undying Man has been plotting his revenge on the Most High. The Destroyer’s plans of vengeance are nearing fruition — and he will allow nothing to stand in his way. But one man has escaped from the Destroyer’s prison, and even though the Lords of Fear ride in pursuit, he will bring word to his people. It will be up to his sons, Hal and Leith, together with a small group of villagers, to warn their world of the coming war.