Water Keep by J. Scott Savage is the first book in the new Far World series. It follows some pretty well-established themes for fantasy writing: the hero and heroine are orphans who are out of place in the worlds where they find themselves. They have to work together and see beyond their inadequacies to “save the world”, so to speak. Though the underlying themes may be pretty standard, the writing is still fresh and entertaining. It’s a grand adventure and does a great job of drawing in young reader and holding their interest through out.
What caught my eye about it? Well, it wasn’t really the first few paragraphs. It was creepy enough to catch my eye, but it also felt a little bit like jumping into that lake of cold water. I felt a little culture shock as Mr. Savage pulled me into Far World. I stumbled over the new words and descriptions a bit. Really I didn’t realize I’d found a book I could really love until I met the boy Marcus. The minute he came rolling on to the page in his wheelchair I knew he was someone I really wanted to get to know.
I also appreciate the subtly woven in value messages of the story. Magic doesn’t solve everything, but good people with good values can certainly get things done. I loved the way that Kyja is introduced and the way she needs to look inside for her magic. I love that it’s not exactly the kind of magic she is looking for or thinks she wants. One of the greatest messages of the book, for me personally, comes from the following passage. “The real power of magic lies within you. Who you are, what you do, and most importantly of all, what you may become.” Kyja finds herself most when she thinks about others who are important to her, those she loves and those she helps because of her own internal goodness. It’s little stuff, not magnanimous. If she tries to focus more on herself and worry about not being like everybody else around her, she loses her ability to see what is best about herself.
If you know what you’re looking for you can find familiar messages from both the world of fantasy literature and the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are thoughts on helping others just because it’s the right thing to do, and not judging people by the way they look. In fact, one of the mentor characters advises Marcus and Kyja that their weaknesses will become strengths. Hmmm, I wonder where I’ve heard that before? (Ether 12:27)
Water Keep would make a great read for the middle-grades and a good choice for reading aloud at story time as well. Don’t forget the awesome discussion questions at the end. They really bring out the wholesome aspects of the book that society often overlooks.
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