The Conqueror by Bryan Litfin

The Conqueror (Constantine's Empire, #1) by Bryan M. Litfin

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

In the fourth century Roman Empire, Brandulf Rex grew up as a Germanic barbarian, but he found a new life as a spy for the Roman army. However, not all is well in Rome as Constantine is trying to rise to power. Elsewhere, Junia Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, is caught up in local politics as she tries to use her time to help the church. Inevitably, Brandulf and Junia cross paths and are forced to go on a quest together.

Plot & Storyline Quality (0 points)

For all of Bryan Litfin’s assertions about how much of Christian fiction is derivative, The Conqueror follows one of the cheesiest and most worn-out plots ever. It offers nothing new and falls into familiar pits, such as absurd romantic situations, fake death scenes, and villain monologues. Historical information dumps are about the only unique elements in the novel, but they interrupt the story’s flow and make for awkward reading. Also, huge time jumps cause the narrative to hop from one thing to the next. The plot culminates in an outlandish climax scene that leads to a desperate attempt for a follow-up book. In the end, due to all these problems, no points can be awarded here.

Character Development (0 points)

Obviously, the time jumps and information dumps wreak havoc on the novel’s characters. Each character is one-dimensional and stock, offering no reasons for why the reader should care about them. Dialogue is either bland or obvious, ruining opportunities to create realistic conversations. The characters are merely pawns in the narrative, being directed where the author wants to them to go without being naturally developed. Because of these issues, no points are given here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, The Conqueror offers nothing original or creative despite the author’s complaints about the Christian market’s problems. While we’re in full agreement with his assertions, there’s no evidence that he’s actually trying to do anything about them. Litfin’s first fiction book lazily borrows from age-old fiction tropes and fails to generate anything worthwhile or new. This novel is certainly not ready to be adapted for entertainment, but it’s clear that Christian publishing companies will put out basically anything these days.

Wish List Rating: 0 out of 10 points

The End of the Magi by Patrick Carr

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Patrick Carr is back and is trying out a new genre – Biblical fantasy. Biblical fiction is a literary genre that desperately needs creativity and new kinds of writers. Thankfully, Carr does both. His story, set around the time that Jesus Christ was born, is a revolutionary idea that paints the traditional, but historically and Biblcally inaccurate “three wise men” in a whole new light. Myrad is the adopted son of Gershom, a secret member of the king’s magi. The magi are an elite group who are advise the king and approve his decisions. However, this is only part of their job. As we all know, they’re keeping track of time to see when the Messiah will come. Myrad has suffered from a clubfoot all his life, and it has kept him one step behind (literally) everyone else. When he has a dream about the future, Gershom sees his gift and takes him to the palace to become a magus. But on the very day when he is to become such, Gershom and the majority of the other magi make a decision King Phaartes and his wannabe queen Musa don’t like. As punishment, the king orders the mass slaughter of all the magi, save for Myrad and a handful of others. Myrad escapes (mostly) and runs into a merchant named Walagash. The two join forces, and Myrad soon learns that life on the road is unpredictable, and the course of his life has been forever changed. After all, he’s following the star. To find out what happens to Myrad and the other characters, read the book!:) No really, read it, it’s actually worth your time.😃 The End of the Magi wades through this section with few errors. The plot is excellent, per usual for this author, and the storyline holds the attention from cover to cover. There are no continuity errors, and the story takes several unexpected turns up to the very end of the story. Additionally, there are several reveals throughout the plot that make for an exciting read, and the startling attention given to historical detail is impressive. The main error to speak of is minor – the eventual romance feels a bit tacked on, but the dialogue between the two characters in question is so good that there’s not much else to say. Other than that, there is a sequence that it is hard to believe the character lives through – but this is fantasy, after all – and a few dialogue sequences that are just a hair long. In spite of this, there is not space here to list the remaining positive aspects. Suffice it to say, Carr earns just short of a perfect score here.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, Carr’s character development is excellent. Myrad is an imperfect protagonist who learns from his good and bad decisions and – realistically – changes as a person throughout the story. Walgash is a great minor character and father figure who adds a lot to the plot, but in my opinion we could use fewer references to his hugeness and strength. However, as this is not an error, but an opinion, Carr isn’t marked off for it. Rashan is a surprisingly good character who gets better as the story continues. Additionally, the antagonist(s) are believable and the secondary characters make meaningful contributions to the plot. In short, there are no errors to speak of here.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Carr earns a half an x-factor point in originality for actually having the magi visit Jesus when he was a young child instead of an infant, because nobody does this. He also earns a full point in creativity for his unique depiction of the magi and his commitment to historical accuracy. As such, we believe this novel would make an excellent Christian series. The storyline would need very little alteration, and Carr must be involved in the screenwriting process if the characters are to be interpreted properly. Excellent novels such as these leave no excuses for filmmakers to continue to ignore this valuable moviemaking resource.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points