Posted in Book Lovers Community

Ember Falls (The Green Ember Series: Book 2)

“To bear the flame means more than only holding on to the fire kindled in the Green Ember’s rising. It means to bear the fatal flames of the enemy, to bear up under the scorching heat of these hateful days.”

Turn on the news for even just a few seconds and it is hard to deny that we are living in perilous times. Sometimes, especially when I think about my children and the world they are inheriting, I can tend to despair and lose hope. Often, it just feels like too much. When I get lost in those moments of hopelessness and fear, it is usually because I have briefly forgotten an important truth: we are living in the middle of the story. As a Christian, I have a very real faith that all will be restored and set right. I hope in Christ and trust that, because of His life, death, and resurrection, evil will be defeated and true justice and mercy will ultimately prevail. This world, these headlines, this darkness surrounding us—it is not the end. We are in the middle of the story.

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The middle of the story is hard—in real life and in fiction. And that is what I was thinking when I first read Ember Falls, the second book in The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith.  Our hero and heroine, siblings Picket and Heather Longtreader, are in the middle of their story. They have seen many victories, but the ultimate victory—the Mended Wood–still eludes them. War is upon them. They face hardship and wrestle with betrayal. They must decide if they will fight on despite the seeming hopelessness of their situation, or if they will surrender to the enclosing darkness.  It looks, in fact, very much like where we seem to be in our own story, which is why I think that Ember Falls is one of the most important books I have read this year.

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Just like The Green Ember before it, Ember Falls is a story that nourishes the moral imagination and fills the soul with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The Green Ember has been called “a new story with an old soul,” and this newest installment is that as well. It is timeless, but it is also very much a book for our times.  

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In spite of the fact that the main characters are rabbits, Ember Falls is truly a story about what it means to be human. Their struggles, their fears, their hopes, their loves—they all echo the cries of our own hearts in these darkening times. They have the same kinds of choices to make as we have. Some choose sacrifice, loyalty, and courage. Others choose selfishness, betrayal, and alliance with the darkness ravaging the land. The consequences of those choices are very real and very hard. Some wrestle with remorse, or with forgiveness. Their victories–and their pains–resonate with us and are stored up in the deepest parts of our souls.

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Our children need this book.  It is not just a good book. Although, it is a very good book. Smith’s writing is beautiful and succinct. Like its predecessor, it is full of adventure and action. (There are still lots of rabbits with swords!) It is also shocking and includes some exciting surprises and plot twists. It is even deeper and more complex than The Green Ember and, as the characters mature, the story does too.  But our children need this book because it points them to Truth. It echoes the moment of the story that they are currently living, the one being written by the Great Storyteller. This is just the middle of the story.  And as Heather and Picket and the other characters in Ember Falls live out the middle of their story, they give us and our children courage to take heart too, knowing with full confidence that “it will not be so in the Mended Wood,” and that they, too, can

“Bear the Flame.”

(Ember Falls will officially be released on September 13, but is available for preorder on Amazon NOW!)

I also highly recommend the rest of The Green Ember series and associated books by S.D. Smith: The Green Ember and The Black Star of Kingston.  Smith is the founder of  Storywarren.com, a beautiful website that exists to serve parents as they foster holy imagination in their children.  Check it out!

SD Smith

Posted in Book Lovers Community

The Black Star of Kingston

I have often stated that when I first read The Green Ember by S. D. Smith last year, I was enchanted, delighted, and completely riveted. As a frequent reader of educational philosophy and dusty tomes of classic literature, I could not imagine how it was possible for me to be so emotionally attached to rabbits, let alone rabbits with swords. But I was. I was totally and completely captivated by the world and the characters that Smith had created in The Green Ember, and I longed for more of the story. As I said in my review last month, The Green Ember absolutely begged for a sequel, but as I read the bits of backstory that Smith wove into that beautiful tale, I realized that it also demanded a history.

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Happily, Smith did not disappoint and he released a prequel, The Black Star of Kingston, last summer. The Black Star of Kingston is the first in an expected series of books called “The Tales of Old Natalia.” More novella than novel, it is shorter than The Green Ember, but it is not any less enticing. It takes place a century before the characters in The Green Ember come onto the scene, and you learn essential information about who they are, where they come from, and what they are fighting for. The main character is an ordinary rabbit with no particular recommendation on his character or ability, yet he is called on to try and save king and country in order to preserve a heritage, protect a legacy, and help to create a stability that can last for generations.  Like The Green Ember, The Black Star of Kingston is filled with memorable, courageous, and sometimes frightening characters. It is full of all of the elements you would expect in a “new story with an old soul,” such as courage, honor, friendship, loyalty, and of course, truth, goodness, and beauty. It is a hero tale, where the stakes are high and victories are not without losses. And it is a rollicking good adventure story that keeps the reader on the edge of the seat.

 

Friends, this is a book for our times.

 

As I have said before, I believe that stories form us. When we read stories, we scatter seeds in the ground of our souls. Those characters, those virtues, those adventures take root and grow into our hearts in ways that can profoundly change us. When we read of Fleck Blackstar’s loyalty and courage, something of that sense of duty and bravery is deposited into our souls and minds as well.  Smith’s writing speaks into the hearts of those of us who are watching the world darken around us and are clamoring to find the light again. This book is a candle in the darkness. The Blackstar of Kingston is a story that nourishes the souls of our children, depositing seeds that one day will grow into virtue when it is most desperately needed in our culture. We need to fill our hearts, minds, and souls with stories like these. It is my deepest conviction, today more than ever, that stories like these are a full-out assault on the darkness that is closing in on all sides.

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Thankfully, Smith is providing us with more ammunition. In addition to The Green Ember and The Black Star of Kingston, he is currently near the end of a Kickstarter campaign to publish the next book in The Green Ember series, Ember Falls. By supporting this project, you are taking your place in the ranks, helping more of these beautiful stories find their way into the hands of more families, sowing more seeds. The Kickstarter ends in just three days.  Won’t you join the cause? We need more candles, friends. Let’s light up the darkness.

 

“He had always been wise enough to see and bold enough to act. Now he was becoming brave enough to hope.”

 

 

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***A note about reading order. It is our recommendation that the books be read in publication order. Read The Green Ember first. Then follow it with the history of Natalia by reading The Black Star of Kingston. Both books stand solidly on their own and can absolutely be read alone or in the opposite order. But just as the Old Testament can only be rightly understood in light of the New Testament, The Black Star of Kingston is much more rich when you are able to read the future into the past. And, by all means, you absolutely must read both before Ember Falls is officially published this fall. If you haven’t read The Black Star of Kingston, we have AMAZING news: it is FREE on Kindle at the time of publication.

 

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