Disenchanted by Janet Ursel is a Christian Fantasy book, the first in a series titled The Coventree Chronicles. The book starts out with a group of individuals arriving in a new place by means unknown. While they are discussing how to go about starting their new civilization, a fight breaks out among them about an unnamed and dangerous book that someone brought along. But most of Ursel's story takes place hundreds of years later, when a young man named Blayn Goodwin skyrockets to the top of Coventree society as the first Wizard in a long time to have Truesight: the ability to tell the difference between truth and lies as someone says them. Blayn mostly uses his ability to try and prevent attacks and war on Coventree from the Nortlanders: people who live North of Coventree and practice Black Magic; but he soon discovers a personal connection to a higher being and a new way to understand magic.
First Impression: I find this really fascinating. Not having read much Christian fantasy, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but this book keeps surprising me. The timeline reminds me of Labyrinth by Kate Mosse--separated into "chapters" by a timeline rather than a set of events. The difference is that this one moves consistently forward in time rather than jumping back-and-forth, and it doesn't have the "mature content" that Mosse's book does. Perhaps because of the timeline, the book is moving at a fairly slow pace, but everything that happens seems to have an important role to play, so maybe it will pay off. I wish there was more about Cedric. I was fascinated by his character initially and would have liked to know more about him. Also, I wish Jane wouldn't seem so bitter as she gets older. She's an admirable character and has a lot to pass on to her son. What I'd really like more of, though, is the history of the land and how the group of people at the beginning came to be there. I know Ursel is planning to write a sequel to Disenchanted; I would love to read a prequel as well. [Side note: Shortly after writing my first impressions, Ursel posted some background information about Coventree to her blog, Gourmet Reading.) Anyway, I'm very interested to see where she goes with this story. I haven't really connected to Blayn as a main character, but I think he has promise, being so curious about the world and honest in his youth.
Conclusion: This was fantastic! There's no specific part that was my favorite, but every little piece plays into the others incredibly well. Ursel did something here that feels completely unique but also historically possible, which is very hard to do. It's interesting how Coventree and the surrounding areas were founded by a group of people who felt that Christianity was becoming synonymous with tyranny, but the people eventually start to become disillusioned with their alternate ways of life. My favorite characters were actually side characters: Cedric (Blayn's father, a wizard), Jane (Blayn's mother, an herbalist witch), Alan (Blayn's wizarding mentor), Professor Wotton (a university professor in the Southlands), and Owen (Captain of the Wizards of the Coventree Military). They each provided great balance for the story in his or her own way--keeping the evil from getting too evil and the good from seeming too bland. I also liked the parts when Blayn let himself become absorbed in an ancient manuscript. It's a multi-sensory experience: the touch, smell, and sight--all beautiful. It's the same way I feel approaching a meaningful book. The ending was a bit crazy with things happening all at once. I was going, "Wait! What magic?! What just happened?!" but in a good way. I did feel like things were a bit easy with Morwen and Peter at the end, and I wish there would have been more involvement from the Southlanders. But overall, really great book! I'm excited to see what Ursel does with the series!
Recommendation: I would highly recommend Disenchanted to anyone interested in Christian Fantasy. It's very unique without being over-powering, so even fans of fantasy or alternate histories of society might enjoy it. Don't let the word "Christian" nor "Fantasy" scare you away!
I was part of the launch party for this book (although regrettably not finishing it before it released), so I was given an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I did actually buy a print copy of this later, though, if that means anything to you. I was very excited to explore a new-to-me genre, so thanks for that, Janet! Happy reading everyone!