C.S. Lakin’s Gates of Heaven series continues with The Land of Darkness, a story woven of three threads: traditional fairy-tale, fantasy quest, and Biblical allegory.
The first part of the story travels familiar fairy tale paths: After her mother’s death, a young girl, Jadiel, suffers under the harsh treatment of an abusive stepmother, but receives supernatural help from an unexpected ally. Her travails hark back to such classic stories as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, and The Wild Swans.
To save her bewitched father, Jadiel must undertake a perilous journey to obtain the leaves of a legendary tree. Her quest brings her together with apprentice woodcarver Callan, who is on a quest of his own, seeking a mythical bridge inscribed with wondrous designs he hopes to emulate in his own work.
In the second half of The Land of Darkness, the quest and the fairy tale begin to intertwine with a Biblical allegory that folds together prophecy, parables, and the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. The twin mysteries of Jadiel’s trees and Callan’s bridge are revealed as they follow an eccentric guide through a land of illusion into a reality more profound than either legend or history.
Where the allegory in Ms. Lakin’s previous Gates of Heaven books has at times been obscure and subject to multiple interpretations, The Land of Darkness makes the clearest connection yet to the Bible’s salvation narrative, which will please some readers who have struggled to confirm that link but might dismay others who preferred the more subtle allegory.
All readers will be happy to discover more winsome characters, narrow escapes, mysterious puzzles, and a beautiful, magical fantasy realm whose borders continue to expand and reveal new delights. Characters and memorable spots from previous stories make cameo appearances, most notably King Adin from A Map Across Time (whose knowledge of an ancient language provides a pivotal clue) and his fabulous city of Sherbourne.
In summary, The Land of Darkness is another showcase of skill and artistry from an ascendant voice in Christian fantasy, and a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<