Review: Klavan – The Nightmare Feast and The Emperors Sword

I already wrote a bit on the first book of this trilogy a little over a month ago, and I don’t want to repeat myself too much here, but I want to make sure I address the series in total. And as I said previously, I love this book in physical form just as much as I did in audio. In fact, I might have loved it more, but I tend to enjoy reading fiction over listening to it. Either way, these last two books were maybe even more gripping than the first book. I was pulled page after page with the story because I just had to finish it. Even knowing how the story ended, there were still some surprises for me along the way. I would love to also speak on specific scenes and imagery that Kalavan incorporates into his book, but to do so would majorly spoil the plot. But there were a number of scenes that fascinated, horrified, and even enlightened me. Klavan pulls no punches to create vivid word paintings. Needless to say, if you like realistic fiction with relatable characters in a fantasy world (almost like urban fantasy), you will love this series.

But it wasn’t only the story I loved. Klavan, after all, had a message within the pages of his books. As one will find in the story, people face deals with the devil that aren’t always obvious at first, and it is easy to comply because even though you didn’t say yes, you also didn’t say no. You might dislike a thing, but you don’t actually reject it. Doing the right thing, unlike the glamorized fairytales we all grew up with, rarely means glory. Usually, it means quietly and steadfastly holding to the truth in your day to day to day life in spite of the culture. Sometimes it means putting your job or life on the line. Whatever it is, doing what is right and good means sacrifice. It means saying no, even to yourself. And after you have done everything, to stand.

Along with that theme is another or searching for the meaning of wisdom, and here are a couple of minor spoilers. Austin is repeatedly told to let wisdom reign and each man go his way. But as others ask him, and as he asks himself, what is wisdom? Whose wisdom is it, and how does that affect our way? That question is eventually answered for us.

“Wisdom is to love the good. And to everything lovable that is not good, you must say ‘no.’ Again and again. Every day.”

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 

James 3:13-17

To “let wisdom reign and each man go his way” we must say “no” to everything that is evil. To go our own way and be walking in wisdom is not liberalism, libertinism, or even libertarianism. We must submit our will to another, to a great, unchanging truth. To love the good and choose wisdom is to love truth, goodness, and beauty that is from above. It is to have the freedom and responsibility to do good. Otherwise, we will become slaves of our passions and, ultimately, to evil itself. But we cannot do it on our own. We need the help of Another after we have been reborn in water, submitting us to the will of God. In the most beautiful and subtle ways, Klavan captures this idea pretty well through his writing.

And here is the ultimate reason I love this series. It is not just an engaging story with complex characters and a gritty plot. It is real and good and true. It does not wrap a plot around a point but teaches while it paints. It is good writing, and it is the type of fiction I love most. I can get lost in the story and come out ready for life. And if I can’t recommend a book like that, then I’m not sure what book is worth reading.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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