Spirit Fighter, the initial installment of the Son of Angels: Jonah Stone series, is the first book published by Jerel Law. According to the “About the Author” section of the book, Law is a pastor with seventeen years of full-time ministry experience who “began writing fiction as a way to encourage his children’s faith to come alive.”
I decided to review this book because the content and characters have some striking similarities to the novel I’ve been working on for a couple years now. The main characters are part angel. They have special superhuman abilities. They are on a quest to rescue a parent from the clutches of fallen angels.
The book is published by Thomas Nelson and is classified as Juvenile Fiction/Religious/Christian/Fantasy. The cover shows a scene from the book showing the main characters, Jonah and Eliza Stone, fighting the ancient biblical creature known as Leviathan, aided by their family’s guardian angel, Henry, in front of a New York skyline. I mentioned last week that it is usually safe to judge a book by its cover. This cover tells me that the book is an exciting biblical fantasy aimed at middle-school readers familiar with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. After reading the book, I can say that the cover fits it well.
The plot goes like this: Jonah Stone is a thirteen year old boy who isn’t very good at sports (he fails the tryout for the basketball team) or school (his genius little sister consistently outshines him). Discouraged, Jonah does what his dad, a pastor, tells him to do, pray. The prayer activates his angelic heritage and Jonah gains super-strength. His parents explain that Jonah and his siblings are one quarter angel, or quarterlings, and that their mother is one half angel, or a Nephilim. Jonah uses his new-found strength the next day to take care of the bully subplot, only to come home to discover that his mother has been kidnapped by fallen angels and that he and his sister are the only ones who can help. Thus they set out on the journey, aided by the family’s guardian angel and a fancy watch that gives heavenly instruction. The pair relies on their abilities, supplemented by the Armor of God to find and save their mom.
In the end, I didn’t care for this book. I had really high hopes, because if Spirit Fighter does well, publishers will see the need for books in this niche genre and my own book will stand a better chance of being published.
Here are a few of the reasons why I felt this way about the book:
– The author writes with an agenda. I believe in writing a story for the sake of the story. If it happens to teach something along the way, all the better. But writing a story that sets out to teach something is not fair to the narrative. This may be a good way to write an exciting sermon, but a poor way to tell a story.
– The characters are one-dimensional. They don’t undergo any great change as a result of their journey. In spite of being endowed with incredible powers, the main characters relate to situations the same way throughout the novel. They don’t grow. In reference to writing with an agenda, the characters seem to exist solely as a device to tell the reader how he or she should be living.
– The story made leaps in logic. There is a scene where Jonah and Eliza come upon a castle in Central Park that they need to break into. The castle is heavily fortified and guarded by evil spirits. How do they get in? Obviously, they need to to reenact the scene from Joshua and the battle of Jericho. Why do they assume this will work? It’s a hunch. That’s it.
– There was very little depth to the story. The only minor subplot that the main character had to deal with was resolved by the fourth chapter. This left the entire rest of the book to read without anything to make the story or characters richer.
– It was very preachy. I don’t have a problem with any of the content philosophically, but when a large percentage of the dialogue is taken verbatim from the text of the Bible, the author is going to lose me as a reader. Copying is lazy writing. And by including so much scripture, the book will only appeal to parents and kids who are greatly opposed to mainstream/secular books.
It isn’t my goal to tear down the book, and certainly not the author. As his first published work, Law takes on an ambitious tale and gives flesh to an invisible world. The novel is imaginitive and fast-paced. It is well-suited to a young audience and portrays a large amount of scriptural ideas in a way that younger minds might understand.
What I’m afraid of is that well-intentioned people will buy this book as a gift for kids who like Rick Riordan’s novels or the Harry Potter series. Those kids won’t like Spirit Fighter.
I hope the next book in this series is better. I really do.
I’d still like to prove that there’s a place for Nephilim in YA books.
** Tomorrow is the big book giveway. Come back to see how you can win!