April 28, 2011

Book Review: Sir Quinlan & the Swords of Valor

When it comes to Christian fiction, few things delight me more than well-crafted allegory. Which makes it seem somewhat odd that Sir Quinlan was my first experience with Chuck Black’s work. But regardless, this book had me hooked from page one, and I couldn’t put it down.

The story begins with Tav and Twitch—two young knights in training for the service of the Prince of Arrethtrae. Their training is basically just a hobby for them, an enjoyable pastime. But then Tav’s uncle Baylor, who his family considers just a little bit shy of sane, shows up and tells Tav that he wants him to come and join the Swords of Valor. Baylor claims that a deadly war is engulfing the kingdom of Arrethtrae, and that they need men willing to leave everything and join in the battle.

But no one—neither Tav nor Twitch—has seen any sign of a war being fought, so why leave a comfortable and peaceful life at home to chase imaginary enemies and fight unnecessary battles? Tav refuses his uncle’s offer. Baylor offers him two days to think about it and make his final decision.

It is Twitch, however, who finds himself seriously thinking about what it really means to be a knight of the Prince and what a life of service really looks like. It is Twitch who meets Baylor two days later and offers his life in service as one of the Swords of Valor.

At first it seems like the life he’s always dreamed of… until disaster strikes. It is a disaster so terrible that the Swords of Valor disband completely. And it is Twitch’s fault. Ashamed and convinced that he’s incapable of serving the Prince, Twitch returns home.

But his destiny won’t leave him alone, and before long he finds himself back on the road of service to the Prince. Back on the road to rejoining the Swords of Valor. Back on the road to becoming Sir Quinlan.

As I said before, this book had me hooked from page one and held me until the end. It has a classic plot filled with page-turning drama and delicious, breath-taking action. Best of all, there is a deeply moving and convicting message woven through the story. Unlike a lot of attempts at allegory, the author doesn’t pause the story to ‘preach’. The reader knows the message is there and understands what it is saying, but Chuck Black has done a stellar job of weaving it seamlessly into the natural structure of the story.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is a book I will definitely be coming back to for a re-read, and there will be many more of Chuck Black’s books joining Sir Quinlan on my bookshelf!


I received this book free of charge from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my review. A favorable review is not required; Waterbrook is committed to gathering honest opinions about the books they publish.


  1. I've read several of his books--I found them good, but not really meant for those familiar with the genre...like, if you've read Narnia, LotR, etc...it falls slightly flat

  2. I agree that the scope of the stories is somewhat smaller, and you don't get quite as much by way of world-building as you would with, say, Lewis or Tolkien, but I think allegory has to be approached with a somewhat different mindset than general fantasy. With fantasy, you're reading it for the adventure. If there's a message woven into it, great, but you don't read it for that purpose. With allegory, on the other hand, you basically read it for the message. If the message has been crafted into an epic adventure, so much the better.
    That's my personal opinion, anyway, as a somewhat-biased lover of allegory. : )

  3. But I approached it expecting fantasy, and I prefer "applicable" over "allegory" most of them time. Like, the only entirely allegorical work I read was Pilgrim's Progress, and that's a classic.

  4. If you liked The Pilgrim's Progress, have you read The Holy War by the same author? I've read the Pilgrim's Progress four times and love it, but in my opinion, The Holy War leaves it in the dust. It's an amazing read!


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