In this fast-paced science fiction novel, Scovil raises intriguing questions about what constitutes humanity while weaving Christian themes throughout the narrative. For example, the change in how Ricky reacts to people and situations once he is no longer affected by bodily urges is entertaining, but the obvious emotional longings he feels still mark him as human, as does his desire to follow God once he discovers he is real. While the book doesn't follow the typical interpretations of the prophecies of the end times common to most Christian novels, it does include many of the same ideas associated with the Antichrist and the persecution of believers. Filled with suspense, sci-fi action, thought-provoking ideas, and technological advancements that seem reachable in the not-too-distant future, Scovil's story has a lot going for it.
Reviewed by John E. Roper, US Review of Books
"The guard led them in, and Arthur was barely able to stifle a gasp of shock -- Baba-death was huge, bloated like a human puffball, massively fat -- boss monster, 500 hit points, grey power (metal magic) … in much better shape on the card."
The most exciting part of Arthur Pye's day is playing the card game Rune Matrix with his friends. But as he places a card into play one day, he is thrust into the fantasy world of the game, and his life becomes a whole lot more exciting. Guided by Joyful-mercy, the Great White Owl, Arthur must undertake a quest that will test his mettle—and his faith. As he proceeds in his travels, Arthur's knowledge of the game and his courage drive him forward past friends and foes and onward to his destiny. To return home, Arthur only has one option: he must play the game.
This book successfully takes on two tough young adult topics: bullying and religion. The epic quest Arthur undergoes is a clear allegory for overcoming your obstacles and adversaries as well as putting your faith in a higher being. The protagonist is a typical 12-year-old, wet behind the ears and more than a bit whiny, which makes him easy for young adult readers to relate to. He has some troubles at home and is often picked on. The fantasy world of the card game is where the book truly shines, though; it's thriving and colorful, with many curious inhabitants from unicorns to water spirits. As he proceeds on his adventure, Arthur becomes aware of a mysterious Game Master pulling the strings; and to surpass the seemingly impossible, he is told to call on the power of God.
The message is clear to Arthur and to young readers that whenever you need help, God will guide you. This lesson is taught without preaching or coaxing, but rather through a fun and exciting way that makes religion more accessible to tweens. As Arthur grows, so does his confidence and faith. Behind the fantastical adventure is one boy's journey to believe in himself—and in God.
Reviewed by Yuliya Geikhman, US Review of Books
"'Oh Game Master, give him the strength to get through his Abyss!'"
Arthur Pye has returned to the Land of the Heart after asking Game Master Jesus’ help with Sid, a bully at his school. In the Land of the Heart, Sid is a dragon in need of aid after being hurt by a giant. Arthur is the only person who can assist Sid and keep him on the right path of forgiveness. Just as Arthur must forgive Sid for bullying him, Sid must learn the same lesson by forgiving the giant who hurt him. As Arthur tries to help Sid, Sid is seduced and drawn off the righteous path by Dark Nemesis who promises him revenge upon the giant who hurt him. It is Arthur's quest to show Sid how to turn away from his hatred and forgive those who hurt him. Not only must Arthur teach Sid, but he himself must also abide by this rule of forgiveness and learn to love his enemy.
Scovil is a grandfather of two and father of four raised in the Anglican Church. Although Scovil has changed churches, he still strongly believes in God. Scovil’s favored genre is science fiction and fantasy. Now retired, Scovil focuses his attention on taking his preferred genres and turning them from magic-centered to Christ-centered stories. He has proven his talent with this novel. His enlightened main character must work through many difficult tasks to reform the school bully. Arthur and Sid both must work together and power through many burdensome lessons encountered in this game land. They both must learn to forgive, love, and follow the path of Christian beliefs in order to overcome this quest from God. Scovil teaches these lessons well as his readers follow the boys’ strenuous adventures through the Land of the Heart.
Reviewed by Megan Bain, US Review of Books
"“…Arthur is the only one who cares for you, Amy, and is the only one who can help you in this place."
Young teenager Arthur Pye suddenly finds himself in a cloud of gloom and realizes he’s in someone’s Land of Heart. Readers of previous volumes of Allen Scovil’s The Parables of the Game Master will be anticipating stirring surprises in Part 3. Arthur must rescue Amy, who caught the attention of Game Master Jesus when she was prayed for in church. Arthur must show her that she is loved so she can extricate herself from the dangerous realm she landed in after too many video games and zombie movies. But how can a boy talk to a girl about love without sounding creepy? After much guidance, Amy learns how to elude her captivity and overcome her demons, gradually absorbing the remarkable idea that someone really loves her. In the plot mix are lies disguised as truths, magic tricks to set doubters on the wrong path, and a dark secret about Amy that Arthur discovers after he has, to his astonishment, fallen in love with her.
This enthralling fantasy is infused with concepts of divine love and salvation. Canadian Scovil believes religion can trump techno-toys in his books for young adults. He has a penchant for descriptive naming: bad guys include “Pride-of-life” and “Guilt-layer”; forces of good are “God’s-Majesty” and “Wonder-Counsellor.” But even with God’s help, there is free will. Amy must truly want to banish her demons, while Arthur must persist even when the enemy seems overwhelming. This competently composed saga includes illustrations by Teresa Scovil and a brief recap of Books 1 and 2 to help new readers join in the flow. Scovil’s well-thought-out, action-packed series is overtly and daringly Christian. It will appeal to teens of that faith and might draw in other young readers with its fast-paced, twisting plot and engaging characters.
Reviewed by Barbara B. Scott
, US Review of Books
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
"At the start of the next lap, Arthur braced himself against he knew not what; and then he was floating naked again and feeling more pain."
Arthur Pye, aligned with the greatest force for good—Game Master Jesus—faces his toughest assignment ever: improving schoolmate Rick, a teenager completely dominated by self-protective pride. In this fourth in Allen Scovil’s The Parable of the Game Master series, young Arthur learns what it means to suffer for the sake of others as, assisted by a donkey named Daisy and other angelic spirits, he enters Richard’s profoundly dark and dangerous Land of the Heart.
Arthur is beset by poisonous thorns, biting insects and other demonic devices as he and Daisy circle around a mysterious mountain peak like Joshua at Jericho to help the unrepentant Rick. Is his effort doomed to failure? Maybe, because Rick refuses to admit his flaws, overcome his lying, and seek divine comfort. Even with Arthur’s support, Rick will face multiple challenges in the Abyss of Nil—and a crippling catastrophe Outside—to break free of his arrogance and let the Game Master come into his life.
Throughout this series, Scovil demonstrates that by following Game Master Jesus good things can happen. This story contrasts simple, straightforward Christian ideals exemplified by Arthur with the limitations of Rick’s hot temper, need for dominance, and secret, deep-seated fears. In an especially timely segment, Arthur, guided by the Game Master, befriends an autistic classmate, teaches him to play chess, and helps him overcome his dread of being bullied. Scovil writes with confidence, at home with current slang and comfortable with long passages of dialogue to spin his yarn. The story stands well alone, though the author has provided a quick summation of the earlier volumes for those new to series. Young readers will appreciate this fantasy, which provides basic food for thought about Christian values within an imaginative, teen-focused, rapidly changing storyline.
Reviewed by Barbara B. Scott, US Review of Books
RECOMMENDED by the US Review