Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Book Review and How to Properly Write Christian Characters

So remember I was complaining about the lack of good characters in the Christian fiction I've read?Well, I've found a book that breaks the mold, and I'd like to try to convince you all to read it too.
I ordered The Follower by C. F. Barrows a few days ago and had it shipped to my house. It arrived yesterday and I began reading it that afternoon, because I've heard good things about it in a writing group I'm part of (the author happens to be a part of the same group) and I was procrastinating homework. I finished it last night and was raving about it to my family for a good half hour afterward, then went online and wrote a review and posted it to amazon and goodreads just so I could talk about it some more.
This is that review:
THANK YOU C. F. BARROWS FOR A GOOD CHRISTIAN FANTASY.I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I don't read a lot of Christian genre fiction, and have been largely disappointed by the ones I have read. This book was the complete opposite! I loved reading it and found the characters thoroughly engaging (my usual problem with Christian fiction is the characters). Right off the bat reading this, I could tell it may be a challenge to remember all the characters. There are quite a few and a lot of the names sound extremely similar - a list of the characters and who they were would have been very useful, along with a map labeled with the different nations. However it is so worth putting in the effort to remember the names! Barrows managed to capture two common struggles that exist in Christianity perfectly: the struggle of a believer to unconditionally trust God, and the turning away from God some believers experience when faced with a tragedy ("why would a loving God do this?"). I feel like this book was a perfect representation of those and I really enjoyed watching the characters overcome their indivdual struggles.Spiritual aspect aside this is still a fantastic book. All the characters had unique struggles along with unique ways of dealing with them, and I loved trying to piece together the different backstories. The plot was complex and well thought out, with a good mix of mystery, drama, action, and romance. I especially enjoyed the climax, which was so not what I had expected but was at the same time a perfect way to conclude the plot. If you haven't read this but enjoy fantasy, READ IT. I am now off to track down the second book. A salute to Barrows for a novel well written.
My main complaint about Christian fiction is the characters, as I have now probably said too many times. As I stated in the post about honoring God in writing fiction, they tend to be perfect Christians with no troubles trusting God or keeping faith. They exemplify all the good traits we want to develop as Christians and none of the flaws every human being has. If they do mess up, they are gently chastised by another perfect Christian character, take the message to heart, and immediately change their ways (thereby going back to being perfect). As a result they seem like cardboard cutouts with a knack for getting under readers' skin with their perfection.
I would like to point to Barrows's book as an example of how NOT to end up with that problem.
Her characters are REAL. At the start of the book we have a large cast of characters, only one of which is what translates into a Christian. Another used to be a Christian (Barrows calls them Yawveh-Followers) but fell away from faith when faced with a tragedy and doesn't understand why anyone would trust God. Yet another feels like God betrayed her, and yet another is the equivalent of Jewish. The rest don't seem to have much of an opinion on the matter but certainly aren't Christians. All of these characters have diverse backgrounds which caused unique struggles and fears and all that other good stuff.
The Christian wasn't bland, either. True, at first he seemed to have an extremely strong faith and even tries to evangelize several times to other characters. However, he has a hatred for one particular character, complains, and engages in other normal human behaviors. Towards the end of the book he even struggles with his faith. THESE ARE THE KINDS OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTERS I WANT. The kind that is relatable, real, flawed.
I felt like The Follower was a truly accurate representation of Christians and following God, not the glorified versions I've read before. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful, because I think that the world does really need good Christian books and good Christian authors who are willing to show that being a Christian isn't a cakewalk. It's hard just like anyone else's life; the only difference is that we have a God we can turn to and put our hope in. Not hope that one day life on earth will be perfect, but hope that He will bring us through life's struggles, make us stronger, and eventually take us to heaven to live in His presence.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." - Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)
So. Read The Follower if you like a fantasy with dragons and good characters and drama and fights and angst and a true representation of Christianity. If you do read it, or already have, comment below and let me know what you thought. 


  1. I THINK I NEED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE. I have the same problem with perfect Christian characters, and I would love for it to start changing.

    1. Read it. What do you have to lose?
      Plus you'll be supporting Carissa from GTW.

    2. Read it. What do you have to lose?
      Plus you'll be supporting Carissa from GTW.

  2. I've heard a lot of good things about this book. I may pick it up after I get an opening in my reading list. It's hard to find a good balance with Christian characters. I do know several that do a great job though. Thank you for the review. :)

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