Currently Reading: The Mirror of N'de
Both Nomish and Alila shook their heads, and at her own mother's probing glance, Hadlay did the same.
"Well, then, you've passed the first test. Since you have been faithful in small matters, you can now be trusted with weightier matters." Mr. Rakam smiled. "We begin this evening as we have ended many evenings before, telling you the story of the Mirror of N'de. You are initiates now, no longer children, so this is the last time you will hear this tale until you tell it to your own children."
"But why is a silly bedtime tale forbidden?" Nomish asked. Hadlay sat straighter. She had wondered this as well.
"It is enough that it is Ramash," Mrs. Rakam said, a note of bitterness in her voice.
Author: L.K. Malone
From Goodreads: In the mythical city of N'de lives thirteen-year-old Hadlay and her people, the Ramash. Scorned and abused by the unloving and absent Emperor, the Ramash are poor people, placed second to the ruling class of the Oresed. Young but bold, Hadlay rages against the injustice in her city. When she is chosen for the honor of serving the Prince in the Tower, she hopes to find a way to right the wrong . . . but soon discovers that things are worse than she believed.
Notes: I don't think of myself as cynical, but am perhaps a little too much so to be reading and reviewing evangelical fiction. Which is a shame, because this is not a bad story, and if you're ten, or if you're completely unfamiliar with Biblical mythology, or if you're very new to and enthusiastic about the concept of symbolic fantasy, this might just be the book for you. It's got magic (though the author pulls a real reader-gypping with that one), some thoughtful worldbuilding, a strong share of page-turning mystery, a bright winged horse-creature, and an adventurous protagonist who is prone to very serious mistakes. All in all, it's quite readable.
As far as I was concerned, however, the symbolism was overpowering. I was frankly amused by the origin narrative featuring Mada and Avakh getting kicked out of the paradise N'de—after looking in a mirror, of all things, which presumably reflected their names as well as their faces. (Or close, anyway; Eve, in Hebrew, is usually transliterated Chava.) At least it warned me to brace myself for the almost word-for-word Sunday School plan of salvation denouement.
Somewhat more unfortunately, and possibly more personally: as a reader I felt backhanded by what seemed like an obvious attempt on the story's part at being both The Second Coming of Narnia and The Christian Child's Safe Alternative to Harry Potter. Either requires the skill of a circus performer, being a stab at doing the impossible. Lewis is a dangerous author to emulate; he got away with bald allegorical elements and weird mythic mashups by having an exceptional knowledge base, a steady artistic hand, and an unsuspecting audience. The same is true, though to a lesser extent, for Rowling, whose tricks, especially gimmicks like the too-apt naming and the Mirror of Erised, have been so widely read and discussed to death that they probably shouldn't be used again in this generation of literature.
For Malone's sake, however: Hadlay and Nomish were interesting and sympathetic, and there were many moments of rewarding detail. Cynicism notwithstanding, I read late into the night, desperate to find out who was bad and who was good. If the reader's dragons are not too watchful around evangelical symbolism, there's a decent fantasy tale in there.