The heart of man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
man, sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
For many people, the word “fantasy” conjures up visions of crystal-gazing New Age pagans, while “science fiction” brings to mind hard-boiled atheists. Why, then, should Christians be interested in it at all?
Firstly, because the misuse of a thing does not rule out its proper use. Pagans, atheists, and semi-gnostic Monophysites can be found writing in all areas of literature. If there is a dearth of Christian fantasy writers, it only means that more Christians need to write fantasy.
Secondly, because fantasy and science fiction are the genres of ideas. A fantasy writer can explore ideas in ways not possible in mainstream fiction. Instead of writing about a marriage in New York, he can write about marriage in a radically different society, or a society with no marriage at all. By making the familiar strange, it is possible to bring out little-noticed aspects of ideas. Fantasy is a genre for thoughtful readers; Christians interested in ideas should welcome it.
Finally — as Tolkien argued in his essay “On Fairy Stories” –fantasy is a basic human need. We feel the desire to make because we are made in the image of God, who is Himself a maker. And since we make in our own image, our works reflect (however dimly) our Maker. Fantasy is therefore not merely recreation, but a way to praise God.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sow the seeds of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.
— J. R. R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia”
So there we were sitting around our dorm room one lazy spring afternoon, discussing one of our favorite topics — Fantasy Novels: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — and once again bemoaning our pitiable state upon entering an otherwise joy-inspiring bookstore. The fantasy/sci-fi section stretches before us, shelves upon shelves of volumes; we know that somewhere in there are treasures just waiting to be found and read. But the precious metal is mixed with unspeakably large amounts of dross. How to know which books are acceptable and which are not for us as Christians? If only there were a website with Christian reviews of fantasy novels, from which we could take suggestions and warnings about the books we see!
Then, inspiration struck. We ourselves could make the website! Thus, after a frenzied evening of planning, Refracted Light was born. Because moral problems and low-quality writing both frustrate us exceedingly, we decided to rate the books based on each separately. (See our ratings system for details.) Our hope is that our website will help someone out there with the same problem we have. If this site helps you to find even one gem among the rough stones, or to avoid one dangerous book, we will be happy.
We realize that we have not by a long shot read all the fantasy books out there, and we are still hoping to discover more treasures on those fantasy shelves. If you have a favorite which is not listed here, or want us to review another book, please e-mail us about it. Also, if you have found this site helpful — or if you take issue with one of our reviews — please sign the contact us. We want to make the site as helpful as possible, and we value your opinion!