The Broken Way

Ann Voskamp's style is hard for some people to take. Her books are prose poetry, and those who are interested in a strictly academic systematic theology will be disappointed. I find that her writing style is the most common criticism by people who don't like her books. I, however, love the way she writes. It's like an amalgam of T.S. Eliot and Bonhoeffer.

Another criticism I've heard of Voskamp is that her theology is heretical mysticism that perverts the gospel. I read one "discernment" blogger saying that she could hear the whispering of the serpent through Ann Voskamp's writing. I honestly don't get this one at all. I didn't find any trace of bad doctrine in this book at all. Maybe she emphasizes things in a different way than I would, maybe she uses non-standard theological vocabulary, but what she is presenting here is a pretty solid theology of suffering such as Martin Luther would have undoubtedly approved. She's also probably more well…

Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain


It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.

It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had more teen dystopia books than Big Brother had cameras.

This all goes to show why, ranting aside, it’s such a pleasant surprise to find a children’s book that is doing its own thing, a book that has its own story to tell and doesn’t try to squish into a pre-made mold. Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain is such a book. It has a premise that has probably occurred to many RPG gamers over the years. Why are all these different creatures living down in the dungeon? How do they eat anyway (being in a dungeon and all)? What keeps them from all killing each other before the adventurer arrives. Why are there jewels and treasures lying around everywhere? The answer this book gives is Thisby. Thisby lives in the Black Mountain in the Land of Nth and works as the gamekeeper. She feeds the creatures, cleans their dens, and makes sure that the dungeon is kept ready for if a foolhardy adventurer happens to wander in.

Thisby is good at what she does, but not because she has any secret powers or magic. No, like the great naturalists of the past, Thisby keeps good notes and has a keen mind for detail. She knows all the quirks of all the creatures in the dungeon because she has observed each one and recorded her observations. When a royal visit goes awry and Thisby finds herself trapped in the dungeon with Princess Iphigenia, the two uncover a plot that could endanger all the creatures in the dungeon (and the entire Land of Nth as well).

 Thisby Thestoop is a book with a lot of heart. Thisby is kind, resourceful, and brave. She’s certainly not a conventional hero, but she knows herself and doesn’t long for much beyond her circumstances. Except maybe a human friend. The book has a wonderful collection of supporting characters, including Thisby’s talking luminescent slime friend who she keeps in a jar and uses as a lantern. The plot is not always completely surprising; there were a few twists I saw coming from a long way off. However, it is unique, well-written, and fun. This book caught me by surprise and it was a delight to read. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series.

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