Book Review: Conception, by Jennifer Hartz

Christina Vaughn is having a bad day. She’s just turned 30 and feels as if she’s peering over a cliff into the abyss of spinsterhood, doomed to spend the rest of her productive life teaching phys-ed at a Pittsburgh high school. Some birthday. No date, no prospects, no family, nothing in store but a silent, lonely meal in a cheap café.

Then a wave of vertigo overwhelms her in the café’s bathroom, and she finds herself in a green, forested world full of strange people and fantastical creatures. It’s like she’s stepped into a dream torn from the pages of a fantasy novel.

People are calling her the Savior, their only hope against an evil queen threatening to overwhelm the world with her army of monsters. Christina isn’t sure what to make of all this, until she discovers that she isn’t dreaming, and this strange yet familiar new world, Meric, is her true home. She was whisked away through time as an infant to grow up in safety, watched and guarded in secret by a shape-changing warrior, but now it’s time for her to fulfill the prophecy that has destined her to become Meric’s champion. Christina has a legacy of incredible power, but she’ll have to master it quickly if she’s going to save Meric and live to tell the tale.

Her new friends think she’s the answer to their prayers. Her enemies are terrifying—and they want her dead. Living single in Pittsburgh suddenly doesn’t seem like such an awful fate.

Conception is Jennifer Hartz’ first novel and the first volume in her Future Savior series. It’s an entertaining story blending elements of fantasy, science fiction, romance, and Christian allegory. I found the worldbuilding reminiscent of Terry Brooks’ Shannara novels as Christina gradually discovered the nature and history of Meric. The setup will seem very familiar to readers of both speculative and Christian fiction, but Ms. Hartz also made some fresh and unusual choices which I enjoyed, and the melding of different genre elements kept me interested. Characters were interesting and likable, though I felt they could have benefited from more depth and complexity. This being the first volume of five, with lots of groundwork being laid and introductions happening all around, I expect there will be more emphasis on character development in the books to come.

The story is told from Christina’s point-of-view in first-person narrative, which provided a more personal and urgent tone, but it also caused a few discontinuities as we jumped about in time. The romantic aspects of the story felt a bit like schoolgirl gushing now and again, which didn’t seem age-appropriate for Christina, but I admit I’m ill-equipped to comment on the secret musings of a maiden’s heart. Ahem.

I thought Ms. Hartz handled the action scenes well, and Christina’s application of her evolving powers to the battlefield was both ingenious and logical. There were some interesting and surprising plot twists, including a decent cliffhanger at the end that provided strong motivation to continue to the next volume in the series.

All-in-all, a fun read by a promising, imaginative new author. I look forward to reading the next book in this series.

Another nice touch—Ms. Hartz is donating a portion of her royalties from the Future Savior series to the A21 Campaign, an organization involved in the fight against human trafficking.

Jennifer Hartz’ Web site

Jennifer Hartz’ Facebook Page

Jennifer Hartz and the Future Savior Series at Desert Breeze Publishing

>>This review is based upon an electronic 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.<<

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