Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: Crescent Tides by J. Aaron Gruben

How far would you go to defend the life you knew in the past?

The year is 1562, and Europe is at war with the Ottoman Turks. The climax of this war is the famous naval battle of Lepanto, where the Holy League decisively defeated the Ottoman navy. But what if Lepanto had turned out differently? What if the Turks had defeated the Holy League’s fleet? What impact would this have on Europe? Enter Crescent Tides, a historical novel dealing with these very questions. 

Dr. Calvin “Cal” Schmitt is an ordinary, overworked, veterinarian living in the heart of New Mexico. His life is one unending treadmill of sick animals, irate owners, and overwork in massive quantities. At last he gets a welcome “break” out of the office to visit a sick horse on a man’s property. While setting up, his overcurious technician Fred Kawalkowitz pulls on a bridle in the tack room, opening a door and revealing another room. Dr. Schmitt’s passenger, an ultra-liberal doctor named Sara Perez moves to investigate the room, and sets her feet on a strange device. As Schmitt grabs for her, they are both shot back into time to 1562 and the battle of Lepanto.

The two time travellers are quickly followed by Fred, and discover that they are aboard the La Real, the flagship of the Holy League in a naval battle against the Ottoman Turks. Before they have time to take it all in, a group of armed time travellers appears aboard La Real. With machine guns, they massacre the crew and turn La Real into a Turkish ship. The Holy League, distracted by the takeover of their flagship, is obliterated by the Ottoman fleet. Now nothing stands in the way of a Turkish conquest of Europe. Nothing, that is, except for Dr. Calvin Schmitt.

Knights and Janissaries of the 16th century will forge strange alliances with 21st Century men and their “magic arquebuses.” But whether wielding swords or automatic rifles, each warrior fights for a certain way of life—and these two philosophies will clash on the battlefield.

This book explores several interesting themes: the difference between the 16th and 21st centuries, nobility and knightly conduct, the Crusades, how our decisions affect the future, and the differences between Christianity and Islam. But one of the book’s most powerful themes revolves around trusting a personal God vs. resigning oneself to an inevitable—and impersonal—fate. This was definitely the high point of the book for me.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. 4/5 stars

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: Lessons of Sacrifice

The theme of sacrifice is woven into C. S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the filmmakers who adapted it for a 2005 movie kept this important element. In fact, they amplified it by including more examples than were given in the book. In the movie, we first see sacrifice during the air-raid. Edmund returns to the house to get his dad’s picture, and Peter accompanies him back to the safety of the Pevensies’ bomb shelter.

In Narnia, Mr. Tumnus sacrifices his security to guide Lucy back to the lamp-post after he attempted to kidnap her. When all four of the Pevensie children--Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy--arrive in Narnia, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver then put themselves at risk to help these four.  They are betrayed by Edmund, who joins the evil White Witch, and a fox sacrifices himself to draw the Witch’s Secret Police off on a false scent.

But the most important example of sacrifice in this movie comes when Aslan the royal lion chooses to die so that Edmund, the traitor who joined the Witch, can go free. This is a parallel to what Jesus Christ has done for sinners, including me. Once I was a sinner who looked down on and snubbed almost all of the people in the world. They lived in the wrong countries, read the wrong books, knew the wrong friends.  This is obviously opposed to Jesus’ command to “love thy neighbor as thyself." (see Mark 12:31)  But Jesus Christ set me free from those chains just like Aslan saved Edmund from the White Witch’s vengeance.

Near the end of the movie, the Pevensie siblings and Aslan's army engage the Witch's cohorts in a climactic battle, which shows several instances of duty and sacrifice. When Peter’s white unicorn is shot with an arrow, it bucks, sending him flying directly into the path of the Witch’s hordes. To give Peter time to regain his army, the valiant centaur Oreius and a rhinoceros charge headlong at the enemy, ultimately sacrificing themselves (the rhinoceros is wounded and Oreius turned to stone) to help Peter.

As the battle rages, Edmund sees the Witch sneaking toward Peter, who is heavily engaged in the fighting.  She wants to turn him to stone with her magic wand. Edmund ambushes her and breaks her wand into splinters. The White Witch stabs Edmund, badly wounding him, but Peter charges to his brother's assistance.  He then duels the Witch in an epic swordfight.

All of these lessons should be exhibited in our own lives.  We do not have to duel the White Witch with swords, but oftentimes we need to sacrifice in other ways.  Washing dishes, volunteering in thankless positions, being patient with those who are impatient--all of these are a sacrifice just as much as Oreius's charge or the Beavers' hospitality.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jacobite Flag--Edinburgh Volunteers

Photo by Kim Traynor, licensed under a
Creative Commons 3.0 License
This post continues on the theme of flags used during the Jacobite Rising of 1745.  This flag is recorded as being used by the Edinburgh Regiment when it attempted to defend the Scottish capital.  The regiment as a whole never saw any fighting service, though some volunteers from Edinburgh did fight in Cope's army at Prestonpans.

This is my recreation of the flag.  It is an old Covenanter flag (likely from the English Civil War), as its inscription "Covenants for Religion, King, and Kingdomes" testifies.  If it originally dates from the English Civil War, that would mean that this flag had not been flown for almost 100 years.  If you would like a wargame unit of Edinburgh Volunteers to fly this flag, feel free; however, I would appreciate credit as artist of this flag's recreation :).  There are still more Jacobite flags to recreate...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Flag of the Yorkshire Hunters Regiment in 1745

During the Jacobite invasion of England in 1745, many loyal Whigs (supporters of George II) raised regiments of troops to aid their king against his competitor, Bonnie Prince Charlie. On 24 September 1745, several Whig gentlemen of Yorkshire decided to raise a unit to aid George II. Their contribution included both a regiment of foot called the Yorkshire Blues, and a regiment of cavalry called the Yorkshire Hunters. I detailed the flag of the Yorkshire Blues in a previous post (see http://defendingthelegacy.blogspot.com/2017/01/flag-of-yorkshire-blues-regiment-in-1745.html) and am now recreating the flag of the Yorkshire Hunters.
Detail of the Yorkshire Hunters Flag

A unique eyewitness engraving shows the Yorkshire Blues and Hunters on parade, with glorious detail of their colours. I am focusing here on the Hunters' colours. In the engraving, they are carried by the squadron (see the detail picture at right). While this view is leaves most of the details unknown. the artist included a "close-up" of the flag's details in a cartouche near the bottom of the picture.

The center of the flag is occupied by a burst of flames with thunderbolts emanating from it. This device was also used in the flag of the French Compagnies Franches de la Marine. (1) I do not know what connection, if any, this device has to Yorkshire or its nobility. Nevertheless, this is certainly what is depicted in the engraving.

Since the engraving is in black and white, some artistic license had to be used to render the flag into color. The flames and thunderbolts are depicted in their natural colors, following the Compagnies Franches de la Marine flag. However, the ground and border of the flag was more difficult. I chose green for the ground and red for the border, with golden fringes. Why?
The flag carried by the regiment

Green appears to be a distinguishing color for the Yorkshire Hunters. While their coats were blue with red cuffs, they wore green cockades. (2) Green cockades are highly unusual, particularly in the midst of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, where white cockades and black cockades marked Jacobites and Hanoverians, respectively. Stuart Reid (3) suggests that these were adopted as a compliment to General Oglethorpe. However, the color green was also associated with hunters in military service. Examples from 1745 include the Prussian Feldjager corps, the infantry of the Chausseurs de Fischer, and, in Great Britain, the mounted Georgia Rangers, who were brigaded with the Yorkshire Hunters. Perhaps this color was intended to mark their “hunter” status, for many of the troopers were fox-hunting gentlemen. (4)

My reconstruction of the Yorkshire Hunters flag

Regardless of why green cockades were chosen, they did distinguish the Yorkshire Hunters and therefore I have colored the flag’s field green. The original illustration shows a definite border around the flag, and this I have colored red, just like the Hunters’ facing color. The fringe is gold, based on a slightly later (1751 Warrant) convention that the metallic fringe follow the unit’s button color: gold buttons, gold fringe on the flag. (5)

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who commented on my previous Yorkshire Blues flag. All your comments encouraged me and I fully intend to continue creating Jacobite flags from contemporary illustrations or existent relics. Stay tuned!

If you are a wargamer and would like to deploy a Yorkshire Hunters flag in your armies, go ahead; however, an attribution to the artist would be appreciated :).

(1) http://kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=Colonial_Compagnies_Franches_de_la_Marine
(2) Reid, Stuart, Cumberland's Culloden Army 1745-46.  Oxford: Osprey, 2012. pg. 46.
(3) ibid., pg. 46
(4)Duffy, Christopher, Fight for a Throne: the Jacobite '45 Reconsidered. West Midlands: Helion and Co, 2015, pg. 346
(5) British Regimental Drums and Colors has reproduced the 1751 Clothing Warrant at http://www.fifedrum.org/crfd/BD_1.htm

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Calormene Armed Forces

Map of Narnia drawn by Pauline Baynes
Calormen appears in the far south
Founded by a band of outlaws from Archenland, the Calormene Empire grew to encompass most of the land south of Narnia and Archenland, making it the largest power in the Narnian world. Under the leadership of their ruler, the Tisroc (may-he-live-forever), Calormen waged wars against Narnia and Archenland at various times, along with battling rebels in its Western provinces. 

The Calormene army was made up of two types of soldier: infantry and cavalry. I will be covering the organization of the infantry in this post. The basic Calormene infantry organization was a company, which mustered 30 men. Each company was subdivided into two sections of 14 men each under a junior officer, making 15 fighting men in each section. In the Battle of Stable Hill, Rishda Tarkaan sends forward one section against Tirian while keeping his second section in reserve. This plan fails, as the first section is thrashed by Tirian’s Narnians and forced to retreat to the protection of the second section. At a critical point in the battle, another company of 30 men arrives to Rishda’s assistance.

While the Calormene infantry doubtless has other unit sizes, the only other one we know is the division of 1,000 men. Prince Rabadash refers to this size as being the only force required to conquer Narnia in six weeks. From the way in which Rabadash talks, doubtless senior Calormene commanders are used to commanding forces much larger than this.

Each Calormene soldier is generally equipped with a scimitar, small round shield, and spear. In battle, a Calormene typically relies on his spear, using his sword as back-up. However, many Calormene infantrymen are skilled with fighting with the sword only. Rishda Tarkaan’s force was made up of these men. Officers carry only a sword and shield. All ranks wear mail and helmets.

Another important part of the Calormene army is the signaler. He is armed with a big bull-hide drum and is responsible for communicating between companies. It seems probable that he is not a part of the company itself, but is attached when a company (or larger force) may be operating on its own (such as Rishda Tarkaan’s force at Stable Hill). These drums can convey important signals: the only two which are mentioned are “Assistance is required” and “Relief is on its way.”

The Calormene army also musters some archers, but these appear to serve a function more like mounted infantry. They ride to battle, then dismount to use their bows. The Calormenes do not use their archers as skirmishers who ride, fire at the enemy, and then retreat to do it again.

Calormene cavalry serves in units of 50 men and carry spears or battle-axes. Swords and round shields are a necessity, whether the trooper wields a spear or battle-axe. The Calormene cavalry also includes chariots, but whether they are carriers for infantry or mobile platforms for archers is unknown. These are never used in battle against Narnia or Archenland, because of the difficulty of crossing the great desert and after that, the mountains of Archenland.

The Tisroc (may-he-live-forever) also possesses a navy, made up of swift galleys and great ships.  Neither of these are based at the capital, Tashbaan, much to the annoyance of Prince Rabadash. The Calormenes likely possess royal dockyards and harbors in which their fleet is based. Their fleet contains at least twenty great (as distinguished from small) ships of war, which are used to capture Cair Paravel in The Last Battle.

Many of these Calormene soldiers (in fact, everything but the chariots and archers) have been drawn by Pauline Baynes in her delightful Narnian illustrations.

Sources: The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Friday, February 10, 2017

Narnia: Battle of Anvard Maps

Click on image to enlarge and read the fine print.  This
order of battle serves as a legend for the maps.
The siege and relief of Anvard is one of the best-described battles in C. S. Lewis' series The Chronicles of Narnia.  Anvard, the capital city of Archenland, occupies a strategic location and is targeted by a detachment of the Calormene army under Prince Rabadash.  The Calormenes lay siege to Anvard, but King Edmund and Queen Lucy lead a relief force to raise the siege.  This battle is found in the book The Horse and His Boy.

The table above shows the order of battle at the Siege of Anvard.

The first map shows the position of the relative armies when King Edmund's Narnian army arrives to relieve the siege.  Rabadash has sighted the Narnians and remounted 100 of his men to contest the Narnian advance.  A division of dismounted cavalry and archers guards his left flank, while the fourth division continues the siege with a battering ram.

The second map shows King Edmund's battle plan as it develops.  His main force collides head-on with Prince Rabadash's mounted troops, occupying their attention.  Six giants attempt to force back the Calormene left, and it is here that Rabadash's mail shirt is broken by a giant's spiked boot.  However, Edmund's main thrust is on his left, where a division of Great Cats swiftly circles the Calormene positions, avoiding their main body of cavalry. The Cats then rout the Calormene reserve horses.

The third map shows the heat of battle.  The Great Cats are driving away the Calormene horses, and the two battle lines have now met.  Prince Rabadash has moved to command the main body of his men, and he and Edmund nearly fight hand-to-hand, but the ebb and flow of battle separates them.

In the fourth map, the tide of battle has turned in favor of the Narnians.  The reserve horses have routed and the Great Cats are now attacking the division of Calormenes that was still prosecuting the siege of Anvard.  With these Calormenes distracted, the defenders of Anvard (under King Lune) sally out.  The giants are forcing back the Calormene left wing and Narnian archers are moving up in support.  In the main battle line, most of Rabadash's main force is routing for the relative safety of the woods.  This is now forcing the Calormenes to contract their forces for a last stand.

The fifth map shows the hopeless position when Chlamash, the last effective leader of the Calormenes, surrenders to Edmund.  Encircled with the Great Cats on his right, Giants on his left, the Narnians to his front and King Lune behind, there is no escape for the remaining Calormene troops.  I have diverted one division of Edmund's army to watch the routed Calormenes in the woods and prevent them from rallying.  While this is not mentioned in the book, it seemed like a wise tactical decision in the situation.  Rabadash's banner is not portrayed as Rabadash is no longer commanding the Calormenes.  Instead the hole in his mail shirt caught on a hook in the castle wall when he jumped off a mounting block.  He is thus left in the humiliating position of being stuck to the castle wall by his shirt.  What happens to Rabadash later?  To find out, you will have to read The Horse and His Boy.

As I was creating these maps, I was struck with the level of detail which C. S. Lewis included in The Horse and His Boy.  These maps merely illustrate, not create, the deployments and clashes which are described in the text.  In addition, these maps demonstrate that both King Edmund and Prince Rabadash used tactically sound battle plans.  Perhaps this is no surprise since C. S. Lewis served as a 2nd Lieutenant during World War I and could write from experience.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Narnia: Order of Battle at the Siege of Anvard

For many years, I have been a Narnian buff, reading and rereading these wonderful medieval tales.  Recently I attempted to schematize and diagram some of the military information found in the seven Chronicles of Narnia.  This entry shows the order-of-battle for both sides at the Battle of Anvard, the main battle in The Horse and His Boy.

The siege of Anvard was conceived by the Calormene Prince Rabadash, who planned to capture this strategically important city to facilitate an invasion of the northern countries of Narnia and Archenland.  Rabadash and his two hundred cavalry ride across the desert, but the surprise they planned is thwarted by a young boy named Shasta.  Shasta alerts King Lune of Archenland, who has time to barricade himself in Anvard and withstand a siege.  Shasta and Chervy the stag then call upon King Edmund the Just of Narnia for a relief army to rescue the besieged King Lune.  In a series of maps, I will chronicle the progress of the Siege of Anvard, but for now, here is the order of battle.

Click on image to enlarge and read the fine print

Most of the details are taken from the book The Horse and His Boy, though necessarily there is some guesswork.  I have broken down the Rabadash's force into four divisions (I have called them divisions even though they could be known by another name), as the text indicated that this is the way in which the Calormene army is arranged.  Each division of 50 cavalrymen is commanded by a Tarkaan (a great lord), with the fifth Tarkaan serving as Rabadash's 2nd-in-command.  These Tarkaans are distributed in the order in which the Hermit of the Southern Marches names them.  It seems to be a logical assumption that the Hermit would refer to them by decreasing seniority, i.e. 2nd-in-command first, commander of 1st Division, commander of 2nd Division, etc.

The Narnian force likely outnumbers the Calormenes, though probably not by much.  They are aided by a sortie from the castle of Anvard as soon as the Narnian Division of Great Cats neutralized the 1st Division of Calormenes.  Stay tuned for a map of the battle of Anvard, with troop movements plotted and identified.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Flag of the Yorkshire "Blues" Regiment in 1745

During the Jacobite invasion of England in 1745, many loyal Whigs (supporters of George II) raised regiments of troops to aid their king against his competitor, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  On 24 September 1745, several Whig gentlemen of Yorkshire decided to raise a unit to aid George II.  Their contribution included both a regiment of foot called the Yorkshire Blues, and a regiment of cavalry called the Yorkshire Hunters.  The book Cumberland's Culloden Army 1745-46 by Stuart Reid (1) details the uniform of the Yorkshire Blues: a blue coat with red cuffs and no lapels. 
Click on picture to enlarge it

This is important information; however, the Yorkshire Blues also carried flags, or, in the terminology of that era, colours.  A unique eyewitness engraving shows the Yorkshire Blues and Hunters in parade, with glorious detail of their colours.  I am focusing here on the Blues' colours.  In the engraving, they are carried by each company (see the detail picture at right).  The numbers merely serve as a legend and are not part of the original flag.  It can be seen that each flag carries a shield.  Thankfully, the artist included a "close-up" of the flag's details in a cartouche near the bottom of the picture.
It can now be seen that the shield has a cross running through the center with five animals on it.  These animals reminded me of heraldic lions and further research revealed that this unique distribution of lions on a cross is the coat-of-arms for the city of York.  What would be more appropriate than to put the city's coat of arms on its regiment's flags? 

But there is another detail visible in the print under consideration: script both above and below the York coat-of-arms.  Above it reads "Religion", while below the shield, "and Liberty."  Below is my reconstruction of the Yorkshire "Blues" regimental flag.

The city of York's coat of arms is a white shield with a red cross of Saint George and five golden lions.  This is fact, but the colors of rest of the flag is an educated guess.  The ground of the flag I have colored blue, with golden script. 

Why blue?  While regimental flags were typically in a regiment's facing (cuffs and lapels) colors (2), red flags were reserved for the three elite Regiments of Foot Guards.  Not even regiments with red facings (e.g. the 33rd Regiment) were allowed red flags; instead, they carried white flags with a Cross of Saint George (3).  To have a provincial regiment carry flags with a red ground would be highly unusual.  I have therefore chosen to color the flag's ground blue, based on the unit's nickname.
My reconstruction of the Yorkshire Blues flag
While nicknames generally attached to the unit's facing colors, such as the 3rd "Buffs" or 71st "Scottish Whites", there are instances where a nickname referred to the unit's coat.  The King's Royal Regiment of New York was known as "Johnson's Greens", not because of its facing color, but instead because of its coat color.  In the same way, the Yorkshire "Blues" were nicknamed because of their coat color.  Since this is the case, I believe that blue is the most reasonable choice for their flag.  The motto "Religion and Liberty" appears in gold, in much the same way as the flag of the 60th Royal Americans. (4)  While I freely admit that my recreation is tentative, I believe that every artistic choice can be defended historically.

But another flag also appears in the original: a standard carried by the Blues' sister regiment, the mounted Yorkshire Hunters.  Stay tuned for an analysis and reconstruction of their flag!


(1)  Reid, Stuart, Cumberland's Culloden Army 1745-46.  Oxford: Osprey, 2012. pg. 45.  For more about the Yorkshire Blues, see also Duffy, Christopher, Fight for a Throne: the Jacobite '45 Reconsidered. West Midlands: Helion and Co, 2015. pgs. 184-185, also pgs. 345-346.
(2) http://www.fifedrum.org/crfd/BD_1.htm.  This link reproduces the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751, which regulated the uniforms, flags, and drums of King George II's British army.  Regimental flags in the facing color was a tradition which existed before the Clothing Warrant of 1751.
(3) http://kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=33rd_Foot.  A depiction of the 33rd Regiment's flags during the Seven Years War appears on this page.  Since the Foot Guards carried red regimental flags since the 1600s, this prohibition against red flags for anyone else had existed long before the Clothing Warrant of 1751.
(4) http://kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=60th_Foot.  In addition to the 60th Royal Americans, most of the regiments of foot without a distinctive badge embroidered their regimental numbers on their flags in gold.

If you are a wargamer and would like to deploy this flag in your own unit of Yorkshire Blues, feel free; however, I would appreciate a credit as the artist of this flag's reconstruction :).

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review of Grace Triumphant by Alicia Willis

While most of my reading focuses on historical nonfiction, I do enjoy a good work of historical fiction—if I can find it. At a recent convention, Schuyler M. of Lady Bibliophile (www.ladybibliophile.blogspot.com) recommended Alicia Willis as an author of historical fiction whom I might enjoy. After looking over all titles written by Alicia Willis, I picked out her novel Grace Triumphant to begin with. Why did I choose this one over any of her others? This was set in my favorite time: the 18th century. When I had finished, I had thoroughly enjoyed the story. It follows three characters and their travels: the squalid slums of London, the high seas (and their scurvy pirates), upper-class English society, and even the English-held island of Jamaica.

The story is written as a parallel narrative between three main characters: Russell Lawrence, a captain of a merchant ship involved in the slave trade, his cabin boy Jack Dunbar, and English high-society lady Elizabeth Grey. The narrative cuts back and forth between these three and their own personal struggles, often allowing the reader to see their personalities, motivations, and thoughts in a way that the other characters cannot. To keep interest (it certainly worked for me!) the narrative will leave one character in deep trouble when it turns to another character. I enjoyed this method of storytelling, and it was accomplished extremely effectively.

Each character faces his own struggles, both internally and externally. Captain Lawrence squares off against pirates, storms, and the myriad dangers of Africa. Jack Dunbar tries desperately to survive as a cabin boy on a tightly-run slave ship. Elizabeth Grey is an English aristocrat with a kindly heart and a treacherous circle of friends.

While the external dangers are myriad, each character’s internal struggles are even harder to conquer. This book allows us to see how their struggles sometimes take place in our own lives. Captain Lawrence tries to make his living in the world and run his ship with justice. Dunbar worries about how he can be a Christian witness among the darkness of slave traders. Miss Grey must choose between standing firm on her principles or receiving love and adoration.

Historical details are generally accurate, with only two minor anachronisms I have found. 
1) The crew of the Barbados, a British merchantman, is equipped with poniards, a thin dagger developed during the Renaissance and generally used as backup in a rapier duel. These are too early (and delicate) for general shipboard use in the 1780s. 

A private of Ferguson's Corps with breechloading rifle
2) Upon seeing a breech-loading firearm in Africa, Jack Dunbar recognizes its mechanism and recalls a tavern patron who bragged about shooting American rebels at Saratoga with one. No British soldier at Saratoga (1777) carried a breechloader; however there were breechloaders at the battle of Brandywine, (also in 1777) carried by Ferguson’s corps of marksmen.  See Don Troiani's painting at https://www.facebook.com/104952196246190/photos/a.104962546245155.8895.104952196246190/884035795004489/?type=3&theater.  Furthermore, Ferguson’s corps was made up of detachments from the regular British army, as is inferred in the book. Rather than labelling this an anachronism, I am inclined to blame Dunbar’s faulty memory, or the length of time this veteran spent at the tavern before telling his story.

However, as stated above, these do not detract from the story—or its historical setting—at all. This book is filled with the 18th century, whether a mutineer dances the hempen jig or a highwayman stalks London’s high society. In addition, I must compliment the author for including yet another historical accuracy. While it would have been easy to blame the slave trade on English traders or New World planters, the role of African (or sometimes Arab) chieftains in kidnapping and selling slaves to the Europeans is laid out here as well. All three were equally guilty of furthering this abominable trade.

As Christians, we often feel that our impact on the world is negligible, if not nonexistent. I struggle with this often. But Grace Triumphant faces this problem squarely, and offers ways to overcome this feeling. Dramatizing the struggle against the English slave trade, the author demonstrates how even one ordinary person’s labors can change others. The two characters who attempt to reform their world are overtaken by events and dominated by the other characters. Yet we see how their efforts are used to help others. I won’t spoil exactly how this happens; you will have to read the book for yourself.

In conclusion: Grace Triumphant is an exciting yarn with important lessons for 21st Century Christians, particularly Christian young people. 4.5/5 stars.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie Review: Defense of New Haven

Most of my reviews begin with a summary of the movie’s storyline, a critique of historical details, and then end with my final thoughts. For the recent movie The Defense of New Haven, I will invert this order and give my final thoughts first: see this movie. This is easily one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. A good storyline, good acting, interesting special effects, and hilarious humor are all present. 5/5 stars.

Alec is a young fellow who aids an agent of the City Defense Force (CDF) to escape from the evil Raiders. The agent is captured, but passes his message (and a training manual) on to Alec, with the task of getting it to the local CDF headquarters. Alec hitches a ride on a patrol boat and arrives with the message. While at the headquarters, he receives news that the Raiders have hit another building and all its occupants have mysteriously disappeared. When he learns that the building was the orphanage where he and his little sister used to live, the war becomes personal to Alec.

He succeeds in joining the CDF and soon becomes a model student. His days are spent in target practice with powerful crossbows, boat maintenance, and reading the textbooks assigned by Winston, the local CDF chief. But the manual that Alec received from the agent is dismissed with the comment “It was alright for its time.” That manual begins to baffle Alec, as a bookmark appears in a new section of it every day.

Throughout the ongoing operations between the CDF and the Raiders, Alec plays a conspicuous and important part. His gallantry prevents a box of explosives from being detonated, which leads to an important discovery of Raider tunnels. In quest of further information, he and his friend Pete travel upriver to a shady area, where they survive a brawl at Pelican Cove.

After this, Alec concocts a plan to find out who keeps putting bookmarks in his old manual and returns to CDF barracks after stating he would like a few days of leave. Before he can observe anything, he is caught red-handed by Louise, a CDF supervisor. All appearances tend to confirm one fact: Alec is a spy. He vehemently denies it to his friend Pete, but is permanently fired from the CDF.

What next? How will Alec continue the fight? Will the Raiders succeed? Which character is the Raiders’ spy in CDF headquarters anyway? I won’t spoil any more of the story for you; instead, you will have to watch it for yourself.

The acting is done by a group of children, many of whom are double or triple-cast. Mustaches or beards keep them separate (as well as add to the humor). For example,Winston the chief and Eddie the mechanic are both played by the same actor; however, Eddie sports a short one, and Winston a full gray beard.

It would have been easy to float this movie on cute kids, but the producers put time into creating an engaging storyline, interesting visuals, and even some action sequences. When all four elements (story, visuals, action, and cute kids) come together, the result is a magnificent movie. I would highly recommend that you acquire a copy and watch it—as soon as possible! 5/5 stars.