Bridge Worlds: Keep Solstice
After being exiled from his homeland, Leevant seeks refuge in Philos, where he is drafted into the military and sent to Keep Solstice with a platoon of men. With only a slim chance of survival, Leevant must face off with the Dragon's minions--evil shape-shifters who have made Leevant their target--and survive the horrors of war if he is ever to return home to the one he loves.
Author: George Clark
Publisher: Lamplight Media
Editor(s): Marshall Jonathon and Rollins Joel
Genre: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Page #: 268 pages
Price: $7.00 (Kindle), $13.00 (paperback)
Released: June 3, 2013
Beginning with Rise of the Magi, the Bridge Worlds saga has branched off into roleplaying games, sequels, and guides, with plans in the works for graphic novel adaptations, among other things. Keep Solstice, a sequel of sorts to the novel that started it all, continues the legacy set out by the original Rise of the Magi.
Let’s take a look at the work of supporting author George Clark as we dive into the latest installment in the Bridge Worlds franchise.
Leevant is an exile, though that’s not entirely his fault.
After being accused of assaulting a woman, Leevant is forced to flee his home in Suchikos. Returning means certain execution at the hands of the law. With no way to atone for his sins at the temple, Leevant takes refuge in Philos and surrenders to a listless, meaningless existence, spurred on by the numbing effects of alcohol.
But the ruler of Philos, King Erestar, isn’t content to let Leevant waste away, and drafts him into the city’s army. Facing opposition as a renowned exile, Leevant none-the-less finds himself pushed forward by his partner-in-arms, Zoaz, and his close friend, Alice—a powerful warrioress from the accursed Kalat race—who has become much more than a friend of late…
Haunted by his past, but gifted with a promising future as a military leader, Leevant finds himself targeted by the malicious, shape-shifting servants of the Dragon. Now a liability—and danger—to the heart of Philos, Leevant is sent away to station at the legendary Keep Solstice, along with a platoon of his men. In doing so, he leaves behind not only his newfound homeland, but also an emotionally hurt Alice.
It’s far more than Leevant bargained for, this leadership—this role—and his odds of making things up to Alice are out-matched only by his odds of surviving the battle that is to come.
Leevant’s story is one of salvation. He begins as an accursed sinner, hopelessly trying to fill the void in his heart with self-abuse, alcohol, and women. Even with the prospect of offering a sacrifice at the temple and being forgiven, Leevant has doubts that he’ll ever be legally allowed to cross holy ground again. But, in a direct parallel of the Bible, he eventually realizes that Adonai has already made the sacrifice for him–that he himself is an offering and his body a temple. He finds newfound peace in the love that Adonai brings, baffling those around him with his joy and serenity.
Characters like Areece act as mature, “Christian” characters throughout the novel, offering insightful lessons about the love of Adonai, salvation, being “unequally yoked,” the true measure of sacrifice, finding purpose and meaning, seeking wisdom, holding onto faith and courage, redemption and forgiveness, and what it means to make the ultimate sacrifice (to name just a few). Characters often reference, or indirectly paraphrase, Scripture.
The primary cause for caution in Keep Solstice is its violence. Battles and clashes are common, and blood flows more often than not. That being said, the graphic content is a peg or two below that found in the writings of Scott Appleton, and it’s much less frequent. Occasionally, scenes are given a bit of a bloody tang. One chapter details the execution of a woman, describing how she was scourged with a hooked whip and that “Clumps of flesh would fly in the air and land on onlookers.” The execution is climaxed with an off-page beheading. Elsewhere, skulls are cloven in two, characters are impaled, and others fall to their deaths.
Before his redemption, Leevant drinks heavily and keeps questionable company with women (the details are left to the reader’s imagination). The only other cause for concern is some brief language—one use of the word d*** and the phrase “There’ll be hell to pay!”
With Keep Solstice, George Clark sharpens a new edge on the Bridge Worlds blade. Characters face debilitating, true-to-life issues, depicted with the most unflinching candor, making this latest installment one for the more mature fans. Evil is a very present threat, and the cost of war is emphasized with a high body count. Physical and—even more wrenching—spiritual losses lay a certain weight of accountability on the plot, giving Keep Solstice an edgier tone than its more fantastical predecessor, Rise of the Magi. For the tempered reader, this same edginess offers moments of deep insight, marked with wisdom. The novel makes some bold moves, but handles dark issues with both thoughtfulness and resolve.
After an adrenaline-laced opening, the plot falls prey to some pitfalls of lengthy exposition—detailing Leevant’s entire backstory in a multi-page info dump, rather than gradually working this information into the story itself. The advent of new, fantasy creatures is marked by similar, lengthy discourses. The information is useful, and helps to paint a colorful picture of the world, but these large info-blocks and paragraphs of description break the story’s flow more often than not.
Careless editing detracts from an otherwise creative and exciting read. Misused homonyms, mid-word capitalization, frequent changes between limited and omniscient POV, directly addressing the reader, grammatical errors, misplaced punctuation, awkward wording, and unnecessary telling are all editing issues for Keep Solstice.
Despite its frequent predictability, the story itself is filled with intrigue and driven by a goad of urgency. Leevant’s initial peril carries through the remainder of the novel, culminating in a cinematic climax that’s certain to leave readers breathless. The journey to that memorable climax is marked by interesting characters, gorgeous locations, and colorful cultures, each with their own customs. It’s clear that the author put much loving care into crafting this beautiful world and populating it with charming creatures.
Christian readers looking for a read of similar maturity and semblance to the works of Scott Appleton will undoubtedly want to give Keep Solstice a peruse. With unflinching candor, this edgy installment in the Bridge Worlds series dares to take readers beyond the boundaries set in Rise of the Magi.
Is it effective? This reviewer says, “Yes.” There’s a lot of wisdom packed in-between all that high-flying action and world-building, and more often than not it’s this same wisdom that’s going to give readers reason to pause and reflect. The biblical illustrations are powerful and usually don’t feel forced. While non-Christian readers may be slightly lost with the sudden slew of (otherwise vague) biblical references, Christian readers will tap into them and reap their benefits.
Content-wise there are a few concerns to take note of, particularly for parents with young readers. Bloody confrontations frequent the pages, as do passing references to immoral lifestyles and drinking. Less subtle are the one or two instances of profanity, which may give Christian readers pause, notwithstanding the fact that these are to emphasize the spiritual state of the character at the time.
I’ll say it again: Keep Solstice packs a mature punch for a mature reader. While it’s likely that deeper references will go over younger heads, these same references will be insightful to an older audience. For its younger readership, I’d more readily recommend the franchise’s debut novel, Rise of the Magi.
Keep Solstice, like its carefully-crafted protagonist, is flawed. That being said, there’s a lot of power in this novel, too, as it dares to go where speculative fiction often fears to tread—into the darkness of the heart, the emptiness of the unsaved soul, and the unconditional grace of Adonai who seeks and saves those who are lost.
+ Thrilling climax
+ Real threats
+ Deeper, more mature discussions
+ Rich cultures and creative creatures
+ Character cameos
+ Strong biblical truths
- Frequent editing mistakes
- Some predictable plotting
- Info dumping and lengthy descriptions
- Some mild language