Thursday, December 13, 2012

Noted Review: Bond's Covenanter Historical Fiction Trilogies



Bond, Douglas. Crown and Covenant Series (Duncan's War, King's Arrow, Rebel's Keep). Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2002, 2003, 2004. Pages. 278, 316, 276 Paper. $29.99. www.prpbooks.com (N)

Bond, Douglas. Faith and Freedom Trilogy (Guns of Thunder, Guns of the Lion, Guns of Providence). Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2007, 2008, 2010. 262, 260, 244 Pages. Paper. $32.99. (also available separately) www.prpbooks.com (N)


We've reviewed most of Douglas Bond's books over the course of LHP Quarterly Book Review. Bond is a Calvinist. In these two trilogies, he shows covenanter history from Scotland to the infant United States of America.
Duncan and Angus, brothers in a Covenanter family in seventeenth-century Scotland, come of age in the midst of physical and spiritual battles. 3 vols.


Young Duncan M'Kethe finds himself caught in the web of Sir James Turner, the former Covenanter turned military leader of the persecutors. Duncan is torn by his hatred of Turner's Dragoons, who have treated his friends cruelly, and his father's instructions to love them. He must be true to Jesus Christ while attempting to rescue his father from enemy hands.


Angus, Duncan's younger brother, comes of age, physically and spiritually, as Scottish Covenanters face Highlanders at Drumclog. Covenanters wrestle with Christ's command to love their enemies.

Rebel’s Keep concludes the Crown & Covenant series with a new, high-intensity adventure. Set in 17th century Scotland, in the midst of the brutal persecutions of King Charles II of England, Rebel’s Keep follows the history after Duncan’s War and King’s Arrow, the first two books in the series, and picks up the historical thread just before the devastating defeat of the Covenanters at Bothwell Brig, 1679. Thereafter the story follows the fortunes of the fictional M’Kethe family, from the point of view of the two younger boys, Angus and Malcolm.

(publisher's website)
This is fun reading for boys of all ages, including Classical Lutheran school Headmasters.


Adult readers will wrestle with the Church/State implications of the series and will gain new insights into the history of Presbyterianism. Lutheran readers will feel at home at times with these brothers and sisters in Christ, yet at other times uneasy when liturgy and the institutional church are criticized.


Personally, I appreciated both the skill at arms of the main characters and how it was integrated into their faith, fed by the Scriptures in their own language and the sung metrical Psalter.

Generations later, the story resumes in America in the second trilogy.

The M’Kethe clan finds itself in pre-Revolutionary War Connecticut weathering a storm of religious and political upheaval. Ian M’Kethe is forced to make a choice against enormous odds in the face of rising conflict between the Colonists and the French with their Indian allies. Ian makes an unlikely friendship with Watookoog, an Indian, and risks everything but gains something he thought he had lost forever. 

 
A knife-edge adventure in the Highlands, in Guns of the Lion Gavin Crookshank finds himself an unwilling conscript of King George II military service. It is the story of a maturing faith emerging out of conflicted loyalties in battles, within and without, wherein the protagonist is forced to kill or be killed in bloody conflict during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 in Scotland. Uncertain who is friend and who is foe, Gavin must learn courage and duty, and how to pitch his hopes on the God alone who makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth.
 
The final installment of the Faith & Freedom trilogy—35 fast-paced chapters on characters embroiled in the developing war of independence with the British.

“She’ll blow any minute! All hands, abandon ship!”

The American Revolution ignites a fire that rallies patriots to fight! Sandy M'Kethe, along with freeman Salem Poor, find themselves enlisted together in George Washington's army. An expert marksman with the longbow, Sandy's skill attracts the attention of the intrepid sea captain John Paul Jones. Sandy and Salem are bound for high-seas adventures. Together, can they navigate the guns of Providence? (publisher's website)

During the Revolutionary War, also sometimes called the Presbyterian Parsons' War in England, most Lutherans remained neutral, notable among them being Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. The 1783 Treaty of Paris seemed to assuage their theological and practical concerns about the rebellion and birth of a new nation.

This second trilogy is fascinating not only because of the same family's involvement as in the first trilogy, but because of the crossovers the characters have with real-life historical figures and events and the "slice of life" moments involving weapons, tactics, the theological implications of "spying", and new technology like eyeglasses. The Psalter has also been supplemented with godly and faithful New Testament hymns of faith in Christ.

Guns of the Lion takes the action back to the Old World, yet Bond ties together all three volumes of this trilogy with purpose.

This is a series a teacher could read to her classroom, especially if she has mostly boys like our two-room school does. Or, a (grand)father and son(s) could bond while reading Douglas Bond together.



I pray that the example of Douglas Bond may be imitated by Lutherans with similar vocations to bring the adventure stories of Lutheranism to print!



The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.