Title: The Crown and the Axe
Author: Darcy Fornier
Series: Prince of Sunland, book #1
Major Themes: Fantasy Stories, Truth, Responsibility, Faith
Synopsis: When his father realizes Dierk needs to learn to care for others and be responsible, Dierk is sent off on a journey around a kingdom—one that will answer many questions, as well as teach him some valuable lessons.
A few months ago, an author contacted me, wondering if I’d be interested in reading and reviewing The Crown and the Axe. Though I tend to be pretty picky about the books I read, I ended up deciding to give this book a shot—and what a lovely story! It was different than I expected, in some good ways and some not-so-good ways, but overall, I ended up enjoying the read. If you enjoy historical fiction (in this case, light fantasy) with a good underlying Christian theme, this might be down your alley.
Though he is Crown Prince, Dierk is expected to live as any other squire on Duke Ebner’s estate. He’s been sent here to learn to be a good servant, to understand the needs of his subjects, but Dierk is more interested in enjoying his time than actually learning. When he fails to inspect the saddles one day as part of his chores, and a friend of his falls and breaks his arm, Dierk isn’t too worried about it—until his father calls him home and tells him he is not being the responsible young man he should be. Deciding he needed to teach him to be more responsible, the King sends Dierk and a trusted friend off on a journey, disguised as traveling woodcutters. Things get harder, though—as a woodcutter, Dierk doesn’t look any different from the other peasants around him. Can he learn the lessons he needs to learn, without having to drop too much of his pride?
The overall tone for The Crown and the Axe is not what I was expecting—it’s a gentle, yet very clear allegory of where our pride can take us—and not the direction we generally wish to go. I was greatly surprised by this story, actually. Most medieval fantasy books I’ve read had a light Christian flavoring to the stories, but focus more on the glories of knighthood and conquering kingdoms. This book instead focused on the common people—and a troubled young man who desperately needed to learn a lesson.
Even though I enjoyed it, I also found the Christian theme slightly odd as the story went one. At first, through at least the first half of the book at least, I really enjoyed it—but then I realized that almost everyone of importance the main character came in contact with were supposedly sincere Christians—and I did struggle with that. It doesn’t seem very realistic, unfortunately. This book also had the church and state working very closely together, and Biblically, I don’t agree with that.
In saying that, though, I’m not sure The Crown and the Axe could be told any other way. It’s got some dark tones to it, but only to show what evil can make us do—and really, that is horrible. I’ve had to wonder before why the Devil’s servants want to serve him, since they are not treated that well, either, but it must be the greed for power—and that’s shown in this story. The ugliness of what the Evil One can inspire us to do is shown here—carefully, but it’s there. And that’s why I don’t think I will be reading this to my younger siblings, as much as I’d like to. For older readers in their teens, The Crown and the Axe would be an excellent book. It’s a gripping story, with a great theme on learning to be responsible.
I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Though I really enjoyed reading this book, I am not planning to read it to my brothers—much as I think they would enjoy it! I appreciated the whole light vs. darkness that is portrayed in this story, but some of the descriptions of how people were tortured were just too much to make it worth trying to read as a read-aloud. But in saying that, I think books like this are important to read, because the light of Christ shines through so clearly and shows the results of evil so well. It was, in my opinion, brilliant. If you don’t mind your children reading about someone being tortured—almost to the point of death—then I’d recommend it as a great young adult read.
My only other concern with this story was the view that it’s okay for Christians to kill people. That’s one belief that I do not agree with, but it was a stance taken in this book. Overall, though, the book was very well done. If you do want specifics, here they are:
There is lying in ch. 1, 3, 30, 34, and 38. “For pity’s sake” is used in ch. 3. “Great thunder” is an expression used multiple times throughout the book. People swear or curse in ch. 4, 27, 30, 31, 39, 42, 43, 45, and 48 (a vow on the Bible). “Heaven knows” or “thank heaven” is used in ch. 14 and 18. “Mercy” is used as an exclamation in ch. 18.
People die or are killed in ch. 4, 11 (parents force their children to drink poison, and the main character comes across them as they die), 12, 22, 23, and 37 (suicide by starvation). An evil curse is talked about in ch. 4. People are hurt in ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, and 45, mostly due to fighting between boys. Divination and witchcraft are talked about briefly in ch. 14, 25, and 32, and there is some talk of demons holding a place captive in ch. 33, when one character says he’s seen some. A woman is dying from childbed fever in ch. 19. A man tells his son—and we switch back in history to see—a continued sequence of a time when he was tortured terribly by an evil woman. This happens in ch. 25, 27, 28 (pretty awful), 32 (also very awful with some description), 33, 34, and the boy sees his scars in ch. 35 with some description there, as well. Men are badly hurt in ch. 36, 44, and 45. And men’s lives are threatened in ch. 36, 42, and 44.
Kissing is mentioned in ch. 7 and 21. There is flirting and touching between unmarried people in ch. 8, 9, 15, 17, and 20. A boy is tempted to kiss a girl in ch. 18 and the epilogue. A house is on fire in ch. 17, and a church is on fire in ch. 37 and 38. A man talks about his past sinful life (not in detail) in ch. 33. There is prophesy over a girl in ch. 4. A man starts praying in tongues in ch. 34. A Christian man says, in essence, that “I would not have faulted you for killing that man” in ch. 47—I can’t agree with that statement.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults