Ever since the kingdom of Arcane lost its king, it has fallen into complete darkness. To make matters worse, the new ruler has imprisoned adults who oppose him and forced their children to work to supply his vast army. The good king of Luminaire is wondering why his knights haven’t returned from Arcane from their mission to invite its citizens to come live in his kingdom. So, he decides to send his last knight, and only son, twelve year old Tyro. Tyro enters Arcane wearing a full suit of armor that glows in light. He immediately runs into some of the new ruler’s soldiers and discovers they were his father’s knights. He travels throughout the kingdom giving the invitation to everyone that he meets. Those who accept immediately have on the same glowing armor as Tyro. Eventually, Tyro bravely faces Anon and proves that he’s his father’s son. (Book cover, Tyro)
This is a really great Christian fantasy book for youths about 8-14 years of age. The main character is a twelve year old boy whom children that age will be able to relate to. He is extremely likable and seems to understand exactly what it is that children desire. For example, the following passage exemplifies the author’s insight into children and their needs as related through young Tyro’s experience:
“The other boy turned to Tyro with big tears in his eyes, “I’m happy too.” He began to sob so hard that he could hardly breathe. “I’m very…very…happy,” he said between deep breaths. Then he grabbed Tyro’s neck and gave him a tight hug. “Thank you,” he took another breath and repeated, “thank you.” Tyro hugged him as long as he wanted, and when the boy let go, Tyro said, “I’m happy too. Now let’s get out of the rain.” (pg. 11, Tyro. Italics mine)
The other characters in the book are also boys and girls whom children will be able to relate to. Each one could easily be someone you know. The dialogue is simple, easy to follow, and typical of childish speech.
The story is full of adventure and interesting people. There are a couple fight scenes that will thrill the young reader. Tyro rides a great stallion named Ivory which will be to the envy of most readers. What child doesn’t dream of riding a great horse without fear or trepidition – one that comes when you call him?
On of the greatest things in this novel is that the children are empowered and must make decisions on their own that will benefit not only themselves, but their parents as well. It is truly wonderful to see children depicted in such a positive and esteeming manner. The Bible does say that you must become like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven and certainly these children are examples of ones who lead.
As an adult reader, I found the allegory almost too obvious in this story. It is very apparent to an adult reader what the allegory is though to a child it might be just right. Children can understand the basic salvation message in this story and it would be spiritually encouraging to them. I would heartily recommend it to young readers.
However, as C. S. Lewis once wrote, in order for a child’s book to be great fiction, it must be able to entertain both a child and an adult. While this book is great for kids, it is a very fast and easy read for adults. In order for an allegorical story to work well, it needs to be complete as a story alone. Tyro has two allegorical problems that I can see may cause problems for the adult reader. The first is that it contains at least one scene that serves an allegorical purpose but does not seem to further the plot at all. I am speaking specifically of the scene where Tyro stumbles upon the group of men following one another in a snakelike line and then discovers that their leader is actually physically blind. (chapter 3, Tyro) It serves the purpose of telling the reader that some people follow others blindly, without thought or reason. This may be a good point to illustrate for children, but as far as I can see, it is extraneous to the main allegory of the story. I actually found the scene quite interesting and thought-provoking although I struggled with the overall integrity of the story with the inclusion of this side allegory.
The second problem is that the allegory appears to contradict itself at one point. Assuming it is an allegory of the Biblical salvation message and that Tyro’s father (king of Luminaire) is God, then why does Tyro find out that the king of Arcane is the king of Luminaire’s brother? (page 70, Tyro) Does God the Father have a brother? Here is where it deviates from the true Christian allegory. I fear that such a diversion here takes away from the truth of the rest of the allegory. I was also left wondering why Anon has the only key back into Luminaire. (Page 86, Tyro) In the Bible, it is Jesus that has the keys to heaven.
One other small problem I had with the story is the fact that those who decide to believe Tyro and go with him to his father’s kingdom immediately begin to glow with the strange light like Tyro. Assuming that the allegorical story is that they’ve accepted salvation and have “become new” (apparently exemplified by the glowing light), I fear that the childish reader will assume that one will be physically different or distinguishable from others when they become a christian. In truth, however, the only “noticeable” difference when one becomes a Christian is in one’s actions. There is no “glowing light” or angelic halo or any fantastic sign like that. Also, where does the armour come from? We are told that Tyro’s father is the King of Luminaire, not some magical wizard who can make armour appear without any cause other than “believing.” Perhaps I am overly critical of the fantastic element in this story as it is such a departure from what I normally read. (grin)
It may seem that I have made several points that argue against the effectiveness of this novel. I wish to emphasize that I had a few questions from an adult reader’s perspective, not a child’s. This novel is intended for the young audience and it succeeds in its goal admirably. Would I encourage one of my own sons to read this book? Yes!! It is edifying, exciting, interesting, and fantastic and relates the basic salvation message in an innovative and original way. Bravo!