The Land of Darkness is the third book in The Gates of Heaven series by C. S. Lakin. Each book in this series centers around different characters, so each book can stand alone as its own story.
The Land of Darkness is a fairy tale/fantasy, which focuses on two main characters: Jadiel and Callen.
Jadiel is a 12 year old girl who is at the mercy of her wicked and vain stepmother, Huldah. Huldah threatens to kill Jadiel's father (whom she has enchanted with her false beauty) unless Jadiel is able to find the leaves of the Terebinth Tree, which are fabled to bring eternal life and beauty to the one who chews them.
Callen is the 31 year old woodcarving apprentice of Jadiel's uncle. Stirred by drawings of a beautiful suspension bridge, Callen embarks on a quest to find this bridge. Along the way, he encounters Jadiel, and they find that their quests are connected. With the help of a strange, scarred man named Ebed, they find the Land of Darkness, through which they must pass before finding what they seek.
While this story was a little difficult for me to "get into," I immensely enjoyed the fairy tale elements found near the beginning. It was hard to mistake the fun traditional fairy tale aspects, such as the talking hoptoad, Jadiel's magical mirror and flute, and of course, the wicked stepmother (and her "Snow White" style magic mirror) and stepsisters. I think these simple touches added to the fairy tale feel, although I'm not sure that all these elements were necessary, and I would have preferred for the main action of the story to begin a little sooner.
Scripture and allegory were woven throughout this story as Jadiel and Callen followed the clues to the end of their quests. While some of the allegory wasn't obvious, most of it was easy to understand. Obvious allegory isn't what I usually prefer, but Lakin balanced it with enough mystery to keep me reading. I especially appreciated the use of parable in the story, and how Lakin connected it to other passages of Scripture in ways that I had never thought of before. I also enjoyed the idea of the healing Terebinth tree, and was pleasantly reminded of the magical healing apple from C. S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew.
The characters, for the most part, were well thought out and believable. Jadiel's character seemed to represent childlike faith, while Callen was more of a "doubting Thomas." I didn't catch on to Callen's doubt until I was well into the middle of the book. I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Jadiel's childlike love and faith were evident from the beginning. I loved the character of Ebed and all that he represented in the story.
As I said, this book was difficult for me to get into, but the plot was well-thought out, the characters believable, and the allegory unmistakable. This is a fanciful story which alludes heavily to the greatest story of all--God's redemption of mankind. I would recommend it to older children, teenagers, and those remarkable adults who, like me, have never outgrown a good fairy tale.
This book was provided by review by AMG Publishers.