Recommendation: ***** (5 stars)
Aidan Thomas is forced to move away from his best friend so that he and his parents can care for his ailing grandfather. Resentful of every aspect of his new living situation, Aidan does not look forward to starting all over at a new high school. Unaware of the adventures that await him in The Realm, he realizes that he is being called to this other world to serve a noble king. Entering The Realm requires him to believe in it and King Eliam, and Aidan discovers that trusting this king brings him an inner strength that is not his own. He forges new friendships with his fellow servants and is changed from within as he becomes a revered knight.
Positives: This other-world adventure (similar in style to the writings of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien), paints a picture of Aidan’s real struggles, the hope he finds with faith, and strength that is provided by this faith. While Aidan’s parents doubt his beliefs in The Realm, he finds an unexpected ally in his grandfather. When he finds himself amongst others who believe in and serve King Eliam, he also discovers a bond that ties this group together no matter what difficulties they face. After having been molded into a hero that Aidan himself could not have imagined he could become, he knows that the strength he needed along the way was not something he possessed apart from his faith.
Negatives: Although there are many aspects of this story that parallel the power of the gospel to change one’s life by faith, there is not a clear, defining moment that describes the need of a believer to repent of one’s sins.
Talking points: Aidan is a real teenager with real struggles that many of us can relate to. I appreciated the honest portrayal of how he responded in frustration to things he could not control. A discussion on how life inevitably contains hardship can include not overlooking the difficulties that come with trials, but rather that we have choices to make in how we respond. Will we trust the sovereign hand of God and allow these trials to shape and strengthen our faith? (Romans 8:28; 1 Peter 1:6-9) In the midst of uncertainty and even times of desperation, in what, or rather, in whom will we place our hope and trust? (Psalm 91:1-2; Hebrews 4:16) Talk about the trust and awe that Aidan and his friends have in and toward King Eliam, and how the king helps them when they desperately need it. (Isaiah 40: 28-31) As he grasps what is happening in The Realm with opposing forces, Aidan gains a sense of urgency for those back home who do not yet believe. He understands that time is limited and that the consequences of unbelief are horrific. (Matthew 25; Matthew 28:19-20)
Ages: 10 years and up