Updated: Oct 31, 2019
I thoroughly enjoy fantasy novels, and I have ever since I was a young reader pouring over The Wizard of Oz series. I fell in love with C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series because of the story so cleverly combined with a Christian message. Aslan is such a potent character to represent the joy we have because of Jesus in our lives. The creative story became a tool to draw me closer to the heart of God.
As an adult, I still enjoy fantasy, though most of it is not Christian. So I was pretty excited to read Etania's Worth: Daughters of Tamnarae by M.H. Elrich, an author I had met through Instagram. Etania's Worth is a fantasy novel that does not add faith as a layer on top, but weaves it into the very essence of the story. I loved how the Christian faith was represented creatively, and yet in a way that encourages the reader to deepen their own relationship with Jesus.
Here is the description for Etania's Worth from Amazon:
Etania’s new apprenticeship as a librarian is shattered when she fends off an attacker with a power, or Neuma, she didn’t know she had—the ability to disable evil beings. When her father discovers Etania’s gift, he wants to use her as a weapon to stop a new threat rising over Tamnarae. Etania doesn’t want to be her father’s new weapon and wonders if that really is the purpose of her Neuma. Yet, the death of a loved one forces Etania on a journey to embrace her newfound power and save her country before it's too late.
What is the recommended reading age?
The main character has just reached adulthood in the story, and there are battle scenes, but I would recommend this as a Young Adult book. (YA Fiction is one of my favorite genres, so that is not to say adults wouldn't enjoy it too!)
Here is my review of Etania's Worth:
Etania's Worth is an immersive journey into a fantasy world where Jesus is represented by their leader Melchizedek and the Holy Spirit by a mysterious force called Neuma. This imaginative exploration of gifts left by Melchizedek to aid his people in their battle with evil is an exciting way for Christians to remember the amazing gift we have in the Holy Spirit.
As a lover of YA Fiction, there are many elements in this story I enjoyed: a race against time through dangerous and varied lands and peoples, a slow build of confidence in their abilities, a healing of past hurts, a struggle against change, and a search to discover their purpose. There is a romantic element to the story, and it follows a natural progression that unfolds beautifully. The Christian aspects of the story blend seamlessly with the fantasy world and fuels the story rather than simply adding on to it.
Etania is an excellent female lead character. She grows and changes and is instrumental in the key scenes in the story. Her relationship with her parents and her romantic interest are multi-layered and realistic.
I loved the presentation of the Neuma and various races so much that I felt that their descriptions and action scenes were a little rushed—I wanted to see more!
I am looking forward to the rest of the series!
I was lucky to be able to ask the author some questions and have her answer them for me! Here is my Q and A with M. H. Elrich:
What inspired you to write Etania's Worth?
Elrich: "I wrote Etania’s Worth because I wanted to encourage other Christians to embrace their true identity in Christ. However, the inspiration behind my book came from several sources. First, I read The Chronicles of Narnia as a child and my father read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me as well. Both books inspired me to write Christian Fantasy specifically.
" Second, my writing journey started when I was a child, making stories with another author, C.M. Fritzen. After 40 Days of Purpose was done through my church, I really felt God calling me to write books, fantasy specifically. Then, I started writing, creating the beginnings of Etania’s World from the time I was thirteen, using my vacations to places like Lake Tahoe, CA, Mt. Hermon, CA, and Lake Lopez, CA to inspire the settings and peoples."
Have you written anything else, or do you have a blog?
Elrich: "I haven’t written any other novels (yet), but I do maintain a blog at Elrich's Expressions. I post weekly on that blog every Monday at 8 A.M. PST. with book and movie reviews, devotionals, and story stuff. I also have written a short story called “One Day.” “One Day” is a bit of background for Etania’s mother, Tala. I also plan on releasing that story, along with several others about characters from Etania’s Worth, in July.
Your novel has several strong elements of Christianity. What is one faith lesson you hope your readers will take away?
Elrich: "I hope readers will take away the message that they are loved and valued by God. Specifically, I want them to realize that their worth is found in Christ alone. I love the verse: "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies."- Proverbs 31:10 (NIV) Obviously, Etania and my readers are not all married, but I think the principle behind the verse is what I want to convey in my book. The principle that God alone created and formed them, and wants them to become His children."
Though this story is obviously fantasy, are the clothes, armor, and government based on a real culture or time period?
Elrich: "I feel like I smashed together two time periods for this story. The first time period is the Roman Empire, where there were public baths, well-paved roads, and city-states (At the beginning). The second time period is the Middle Ages, where there was crossbows, steel armor, lords and ladies, castles and more. The clothes and armor are more Medieval, but the government is a mixture between a Republic and Medieval system. The territories each have their own system of government, like the city-states of the Roman era, but they report to the King, as in the Middle Ages. Fantasy enables me to pick and choose what I want to use, which is part of the reason I like it :D"
Some of your characters ride horses or do archery. Have you had the chance to do either?
Elrich: "I have done both. In fact, I own a horse named Desi, who is a beautiful chestnut that inspired the horses in my books. She is such a gentle, affectionate horse, that does anything I ask of her. As for archery, I have shot arrows during summer camp from a compound bow. However, for my book, I had to watch YouTube videos to figure out how to use a crossbow. I also took my experience shooting a pellet shotgun for describing how it would feel to use a crossbow.
Who are some of your favorite authors, or ones that inspire your writing style?
Elrich: "C.S. Lewis was the first author to inspire me to write Christian Fantasy directly. I found that I couldn’t do the more symbolic Christian Fantasy, like JRR Tolkein. My friends, C.E. Stone (Starganauts.net) and C.M. Fritzen (Cmfritzenbooks.com), also write Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction that inspired my own. More recently, I was introduced to awesome authors like Tricia Mingerink, Serena Chase, Melanie Dickerson, Jaye L. Knight, Hannah Heath, Patrick W. Carr, Jill Williamson, C.S. Wachter, Steve Pillinger, Lauren Salisbury and so many others! This is why I have a Goodreads account, haha."
When can we look forward to the next book in the series?
Elrich: "Well, I was hoping to release the next book, Etania’s Calling, in December, but life has gotten in the way. So, I hope the next book will be released in April/May of next year. The good news is that I have finished the First Draft of Etania’s Calling, so I am making progress. If any of your readers want to be the first to know about it, they can become an Elrich E-Reader. Elrich E-Readers get bonus materials, like character interviews, story spotlights, and short stories bi-weekly from email. They also may be able to receive an ARC copy of the next book for review.
Can you tell us about the next book?
Elrich: "Yes! Here’s my blurb about Etania’s Calling:
Leader to the Changed, Heroine of Tamnarae, the Vexli Etania has no idea that Deo’s plans are much bigger than titles…
Etania Selali enjoys being the Leader of the Changed. But when another leader arises and Deo points her in a different direction, her whole life is turned upside down. Her father returns with news of another danger far greater than any she has faced. As the Vexli, she is eager to the new threat, but Deo’s ominous words discourage her. All she knows is that she is heading North, and the people she meets there are far different than those in Southern Tamnarae.
Can you share something that is fun or interesting about yourself?
Elrich: "I am a plant collector! Seriously, I have like ten plants, mostly succulents, sitting on my porch. They grow like weeds and people keep giving me them as gifts! It’s alright though because I love seeing my plants grow and thrive. I just wish I had enough pots to put them in..."