September 2010 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour: Venom and Song, Day 1

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Following a brutal attack that nearly obliterated their people, the elves of Berinfell fled underground, where they’ve lived hundreds of years in hiding, waiting and hoping for the day they could make their stand against their enemy and return to their home land. Instrumental in any hope of regaining their freedom are seven young elf lords, long hidden on Earth, unaware of their royal identities. Venom and Song opens shortly after the arrival of the elf lords to the world of Allyra, where they must fight to defend their people from the attacks of the Spider King and his Gwar army. They must acquire the skills and courage necessary to face a relentless foe, learn to operate as a team, and understand the ways of Ellos if they have any hope of victory.

The first scene opens with the lords in peril, a sign of things to come. Danger stalks them throughout the book and pulls a line of tension from beginning to end of this fast-paced adventure story. The plot twists and turns as it unfolds, making Venom and Song a journey of the unexpected.

Despite the pace, the authors weave in quality spiritual content on the value of sacrificial love, endurance and victory, and the pleasure of Ellos in his people. The journey that these teens undergo in finding their identity will be meaningful to those in any place of life but especially significant to pre-teens and young teens experiencing the same struggles in our own world.

The world of Allyra itself fleshes out the events and themes of the story. In addition to some “standard” fantasy races (elves, gnomes, etc), the authors have created their own unique creatures and cultures, such as the assassin race of drefids, armed with deadly claws. They also sprinkle throughout the story unusual plants, animals, and places that help bring the world to life.

Despite these strengths, there were some stumbling points for me. The sheer number of protagonists made it difficult to identify with any of them or care about their fate for much of the book, especially when combined with rapid jumps from one mind to another that occasionally left me bewildered regarding whose thoughts I shared. I admit, part of this is personal preference for a close third or first person POV and the intimacy with character these perspectives bring, though I enjoy omniscient also if done in a smooth, harmonious fashion.

But perhaps my biggest issue was in some logical errors that cropped up. For example, in one scene during the middle of the elf lords’ training, they have a mission with a specific set of parameters. If they fail to adhere to them, the exercise will be deemed a failure. Jimmy’s instructions are to “only use the words yes and no.” Yet later during the exercise Jimmy shouts “Quick! What’s next?” and “Come on!” or warns the others “Something’s coming” and so forth. Yet his failure to follow orders doesn’t disqualify their success, as they were told it would. Other similar issues plague this scene throughout. And earlier in the book, the characters flee down a cable in a certain order, but somehow the order switches as they careen down the line, and two characters which previously had several others between them collide with each other. Each time an incident like this occurred, it jarred me out of the story, forcing me to read and reread several times, thinking I must have missed something. Yes, mistakes can happen. But unfortunately, these were distracting ones.

To be honest, I hate saying anything negative about a book, so I struggled to include some of the aspects that detracted from the story. I know the incredible amount of work that goes into writing a novel, and I respect Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper for their endeavors in crafting this story. But to give a truthful review, I must admit that I didn’t enjoy Venom and Song, due in part to the weaknesses mentioned above. However, that said, I’ve heard quite a bit of positive feedback around the internet, especially from the target audience (middle grade readers). And if a book resonates with its intended audience, then it has succeeded. So while I wouldn’t personally recommend Venom and Song for adult readers, for pre-teens and early teens it may be worth checking out.

Stop back tomorrow for a discussion of spider villains!

For more about the authors, visit their blogs:

Wayne Thomas Batson
Christopher Hopper

For more commentary on Venom and Song, stop by the other tour participants’ blogs:

Brandon Barr
Keanan Brand
Amy Browning
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
James Somers
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson


  • Keanan Brand
    September 27, 2010 - 9:21 pm · Reply

    Yeah, I’ve been hesitant to say anything too negative about this book — after all, the authors are well-known and beloved by many. However, as much as I’m talking up the series to the teenagers I know, I probably won’t read any more of the books myself. Not for my own sake, at any rate.

    On these tours, I tend to go into editor mode, which (I think) grates on other readers and bloggers, so even work that I really enjoy can be closely scrutinized. However, I KNOW a book is good when the inner editor never rears his persnickety head. A few weeks ago, I stayed up all night to finish a several-hundred-page hardcover that had just arrived in the mail. Although a complicated tale with many, many characters (one set in the modern age, and another group in the Renaissance), the story was easy to follow, and I didn’t skip any pages. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for “Venom and Song”. But, dagnabbit! I wish I could.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      September 29, 2010 - 4:40 pm · Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Keanan! My inner editor doesn’t like turning off either, and I’m always thrilled when I find a book that captivates me enough that I’m immersed in the story. To me, that’s a good book. 🙂

      But I do realize that just because something doesn’t appeal to me, doesn’t mean others won’t like it…so I try to give a balanced view. And that’s one of the beauties of these tours is the variety of opinions and discussion that takes place!

  • Phyllis Wheeler
    September 27, 2010 - 9:24 pm · Reply

    Welcome to the tour, Sarah!

    You know, I never even noticed any of the inconsistencies that bothered you. Just goes to show that readers are so different. I really liked this book a lot, despite having trouble keeping all seven of the teens straight.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      September 29, 2010 - 4:44 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Phyllis! How interesting that the inconsistencies didn’t jump out at you. One of the things I enjoy about this tour is all the perspectives shared on the same book. I’m glad to hear it appealed to you. 🙂

  • Valerie Comer
    September 28, 2010 - 12:39 am · Reply

    Hi Sarah! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’ll be weighing in on Venom and Song on Wednesday, though I won’t be finished reading it by then. It only arrived on Friday and I had a crazy busy weekend.

  • Krysti
    September 28, 2010 - 11:27 pm · Reply

    Great review, Sarah! I think it’s great that you were fair to your readers and gave a balanced opinion so they know what to expect. There isn’t an author out there whose work is perfect, either, and you’re not the only one mentioning these points, so– 😉

    • Sarah Sawyer
      September 29, 2010 - 4:50 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Krysti! I want to give honest opinions, and then let others make their own decision, so that’s encouraging.

      You are so right about no writer reaching perfection. It’s a process of growth that continues as long as you write. Plus, everyone involved in the writing and publishing process is human, so there will always be errors that slip through the cracks. 🙂

  • WayneThomasBatson
    September 29, 2010 - 5:16 pm · Reply

    Hi, Sarah! Thanks for posting all three days. I somehow missed your link. But I’m glad you were honest. And there are definitely things about books 1&2 I would change if we had a do over. I’m still learning this writing thing. With every book, I gain some new insight. Endurance and Victory!

    • Sarah Sawyer
      October 6, 2010 - 1:14 pm · Reply

      Yes, there was an issue with the code for my link that caused it to be dropped off of some lists. But thank you for stopping by anyway and for your gracious words.

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