Book Review: The Sword

The Sword, by Bryan M. Litfin is a creative work of fiction. The story is post-apocalyptic picking up 400 years or so after the X-Virus turns humanity against itself. The story takes place somewhere in what we would know as the French Alps, as far as I can tell (Litfin employs such vocabulary as chough, chalet, alpenglow, ibex, and foehn). Up in the mountains we meet the main characters, Teo and Ana. Teo is what we would expect from a man of chivalry. He is a valiant fighter, ruggedly handsome, and incredibly smart. Ana is also the heroine we would expect, unsurpassed in beauty, a farm girl, she can handle her own in a fight, and is rather introspective and eloquent for being raised in the country. These two, through a course of unexpected events, find a Bible in a land void of Christianity (it was purged 400 years prior in a nuclear winter).

Litfin attempts, and succeeds in my opinion, at showing us what the depravity of man would look like in an earth of idolatry. We have many historical examples, of course, to gaze upon, and what Litfin has depicted in his story accords with the natural tendencies of sinful hearts (Romans 1-3). On occasion the imagery and language was striking and a little off-putting, and this may turn some Christians away from reading this book, however we must remember that this world is not sanitized. Sin is here and people do some horrid things. Litfin is rather reserved in his portrayal of certain sinful acts and he allows us to fill in the gaps from what we know of sinful men and women. He never endorses or condones the acts of wicked people in this book, but shows the deep need for salvation in God alone.

When I got this book I was excited to have some Christian fantasy fiction. I enjoy the works of Tolkien and Lewis and so I was surprised when this book, in the same literary vein, takes a different approach. Litfin does not incorporate magic of any sort, but shows us that the illusions of the wicked are simply mechanistic fanfare. There are no orcs to be found except the hideous hearts of sinful men. Not a single dragon took flight in this novel, but Teo and Ana are equipped with The Sword that depicts the crushing of the Serpent.

This work is Calvinistic in that the hand of God is the only means by which our heroes will succeed. The sovereignty of God is seen changing hearts by the power of His Word. Stones hearts are turned to flesh by His will alone and this always happens with the Word of God present. We also see that the agents employed in God’s sovereign will are His rather imperfect people. Taking a step back and looking at this from a strict theological view of redemption, I was pleasantly surprised. On the ground level, Litfin shows us reconciliation and forgiveness on a personal level. Having the Word of God show up in your life does certain things. It causes divisions, strife, tension, and dramatic changes. This is incorporated well throughout the book, and the power of grace is evident in the relationships of the faithful.

Scripture is prominent when it shows up. The trouble in the story is that the Bible is written in the language of the Ancients (you and me) and Teo is one of the only ones in Chiveis that can translate, so we get snippets of the Scriptures here and there, mostly the Psalms. I am looking forward to more Scripture in the next book.

I was caught up in this story and I am looking forward to reading the sequel and the final volume.


Note: I received a copy of this book from Crossway for review purposes.

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