CSFF Tour: Return of the Guardian-King

Christian Fantasy. What comes to mind? For many, the first word to pop up is, “Contradiction.” If you’re sold on Fantasy as a genre being wicked prima facie, Karen Hancock’s novel Return of the Guardian-King (Legends of the Guardian-King #4) probably won’t be able to persuade you otherwise, even if the publisher has classified the genre as “Allegory.”

And it is, but if you’re in this group, you’ll still take issue. Whether you insist his name is Yahweh or Jehovah, it will bother you, as has me, that she changed God’s name to “Eidon” that this is Greek for “I saw” will not improve matters. Hancock could sit down and write out an explanation detailing every Christian allegory in the book, and even if her arguments for the validity of her chosen symbols were so compelling, you could think of no response to them, you would come back with an attack accusing her, in so many words, of blasphemy for setting an allegory in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress in a Tolkien-esque epic.

If, however, you loved Tolkien, and appreciated Pilgrim’s Progress, but thought it a tad too obvious, I suspect you will be absolutely delighted to find both married in this novel, if you haven’t already discovered it. You won’t be phased in the least that the copy editor missed a few things. You won’t be bothered by the exposition/telling. You probably won’t read too deeply into the allegorical elements.

Normally, I would discuss the theology, but I am not familiar enough with fantasy, or the series, to dissect this one.

It’s mentioned, for instance, that Carissa was married to someone else before she married her current husband, and that the previous husband raped her after their divorce, but it does not state the reason.

My gut reaction instinct is the reason was abuse, which certainly may be reason to live apart from a spouse, but despite the predominant view in the protestant church ,I have not found a plain scripture where abuse alone is mentioned as freeing a woman to remarry. As she’s already remarried, and for all I know, her ex-husband committed adultery as well, and the bible also gives indication a remarried woman should honor her vows to her current husband and not return to her first even though she did commit adultery in remarrying, though women in such situations do need to confess their sin to God and get the past under the blood of Christ so they can be blessed in their current marriage.

Over all, though, while I enjoyed the allegory surrounding the light and the various demonic beasts, creatures, and sicknesses, and at the end grew more appreciative of her inserting a kind of crystal ball to contrast this demonic device against the Godly visions, I simply am not up to dissecting this one theologically. My apologies.

But, in terms of literature, Hancock certainly knows how to keep her reader guessing, and managed to make believable a situation with two spouses madly in love falling apart because both thinks the other only sees it as a marriage of convenience and are too busy respecting each other’s non-views to tell their spouse they badly want to consummate this marriage.

If Christian Fantasy/Allegory is your genre of choice, let me end with one suggestion: Start with book one. I felt lost more often than was comfortable.


  1. Thanks for this review. I haven’t read the novel, but the divorce issue you mention does sound problematic. Of course, such things do happen; it’s appropriate to depict immoral behavior in fiction as long as the author neither wallows in it nor approves it. Having not read the book, I can’t comment further.

    On a side note, is part of why I became Catholic: no divorce, period. I find that best matches scripture and the development of Christian theology.

  2. The reason for the divorce was adultery on the part of the first husband. This was explained in the second or third book (can’t remember off the top of my head). I was concerned like you when the divorce was first mentioned because the explanation wasn’t given at the same time. It was never stated implicitly, but the extra-marital affairs were revealed and the reader left to assume that was the reason.

    The second part of my review examines the theology of the series. Hope you’ll stop by and join in the discussion.

  3. I think that Carissa’s husband is dead or was dead before they married. I read the first book YEARS ago so I didn’t even know that Aramm had a sister.

    This is the final book and yes, I agree that it was a little confusing. But I’ll talk about that on Wed.

    I won’t finish it before the tour is over but I liked it a lot. But you are right–people who don’t like fantasy won’t like it at all, because it’s fantasy with dragons, etc.

    I LOVE it!

  4. Oh, yes, Andrea … you have to go back and read the others. They explain everything–well, almost. 🙂 They do fully explain Carissa’s situation … how, when she couldn’t bear a living son to her husband, he set her aside for a mistress, who did. Carissa is also very much part of Abramm’s journey in the first book (they are twins, and in that story, she’s the one who still believes he’s alive). Anyway, yes, she had full biblical justification for the divorce.

    Fascinating post!

  5. Author


    I am relieved(though all the more sorry for her) that there was biblical just cause and the author simply neglected to mention it. I also remember wondering why we never heard from the man. It’d have been nice, as a reader, to have one of the characters mention if he was dead.

    I have strong opinions of issues of theology and the bible, but I’m also an avid reader who enjoys most genres. The ending seemed a bit too soon, tthough after 400+ pages, I don’t know how she managed that, but as a writer I can understand feeling rushed. It ends with him leaving–again–and I’d have liked to see the final reunion.

    So, it’s true I had concerns, but I still liked the book on an entertainment level. My main focus on this blog, though sometimes you can’t tell it, is the advice column, and as such I feel obligated to that audience to hit on issues that tend to come up there, hence the aside answering a question before a divorced person reading this writes in to ask it.

    When reading for review, I’ve been trying to examine it through three sets of eyes–mine, the fans, and the critics. In my way of thinking, if I can head off the criticism, or warn off, any of my readers who if they read it are likely to leave a far-worse “review” on amazon, etc., that benefits both that reader and the author.

    I admitted the changing god’s name thing bothered me personally (I know we’re supposed to be unbiased in our reviews. Which is why I try to be honest about my biases in reviewing.) But it’s also her book,not mine, and she probably has valid justification for it. As my husband pointed out to me, we’ve translated both the father’s name and the son’s into other languages, YHWH becoming, traditionally, Jehovah, and Yeshua becoming Jesus. I like to think he’d reveal himself in another world/culture with the same name, but maybe instead of “I saw” “Eidon” in the book’s old tongue meant “I Am” and “Tersius” (or whatever they changed Christ’s name to) meant “He saves” in their tongue.

    The unfortunate thing is I haven’t had time for reading apart from reviews lately, so as much as I’d like to, I probably won’t get the opportunity to take my own advice.

    Davidson: In general, rather than specific to the novel at hand, I agree. Too often, I’ve seen divorce treated too lightly in protestant churches (such as I attend) and media. It’s interesting to me, we criticize Catholics for the role tradition plays there, but we have our own traditions, and some of them do violence to the bible. Even in conservative protestant churches, tradition adds, at minimum, “abuse” to the bible’s list of just causes for divorce, when it is simply not there, I double checked last night. But we’ve established poor Carissa did have cause.

    Btw, Chris,for the most part, I loved it to. Compared to secular fantasy, it was pretty clean.

  6. Andrea, in my review, I mentioned that I thought publisher Bethany House did a disservice to the books by not promoting them as a unit a la Tolkien. Can someone read them as a stand alone? Well, yes, you did. But so many of the questions and confusion that must have come up are all answered in the first three books.

    For me, there’s nothing better than that anticipation of the next, long awaited book.

    Thoughtful interaction with the book. Excellent post and it generated some great discussion.


  7. Hee tee hee, well, in *my* review (the second one), I mentioned that, since it’s a four-book series, the ending really deserved more words.

    Although, methinks Ms. Graham might want to steer clear of my review (the second one).

  8. Author

    That’s reverse psychology if I’ve ever read it . . .

    I had the same sense about the ending, that it’d be even worse for those who’ve read the whole thing.

    Miller: Yeah, I got through it okay, but would have gotten much more out of it if I’d been able to read it 1-4. Some series are written so the books can stand alone. This is not one of them 🙂 While it could be argued she should have filled us in, that would have likely brought her up to 500 pages, which would severely limit her audience.

    The publisher definitely should have given her more time. From what I’ve read on the tour, they rushed her, and it really shows (though her skill does as well, of course!) The fans would have preferred the longer wait for a more satisfying finale I’m sure.

    She should probably make up for it with a fifth book . . .

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