Through New Eyes

Through New Eyes is the quintessence of James Jordan. Jordan always takes his readers by the hand and whirls them through a wonderland of symbols, connections, ideas, and paradigms. It's always a fun ride, and he always challenges his readers to think more deeply about the Bible. For that reason alone, Jordan is always worth a read.

In this book Jordan is trying to reawaken readers to the rich depth of symbolism in the world God created, especially as that world is described in Scripture. After taking time to talk about man, the animals, the structure of creation, plants, trees, stars, planets, rocks, and gems, Jordan specifically focuses on the repeated pattern of covenants in the Bible. He shows how with each new covenant there is a new heaven and new earth, better and more glorious than the one before. I had already read Peter Leithart's A House For My Name, but in Jordan I see the seed from which many of Leithart's ideas germinated.

The downside of Jordan is that he go…

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.