Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TOS Review: The Magic Runes

Any day I can sit and read something is pretty much a good day. So imagine how I felt when my Schoolhouse Crew peeps sent me a whole list of books to choose one from and then read and review. Are you kidding me? I have the best job in the whole wide world.

I was unfamiliar with Salem Ridge Press. My book finds generally are what I can score at the Thrift Store or free book downloads on the Kindle.  The folks Salem Ridge Press are dedicated to republish books of the 19th and early 20th century. I personally love literature of that era and was excited to find a company that desires to share such treasures with us.

The book I chose to review is The Magic Runes: A Tale of the Times of Charlemagne written by Emma Leslie. This is just one book in a series called The Emma Leslie Junior History Series.

The story opens in the year 782 AD. Charlemagne was the king of northern France. During his lifetime he conquered most of Western Europe. While there were many reforms he brought to this part of the world, Charlemagne made it his life’s mission to convert all of his subjects to Christianity. Unfortunately, as we see in this story, he used many tactics that most of us will find disturbing.

Ironically, however, a good portion of my ancestry can be traced to France. I have to wonder about my own French ancestors and their personal conversion experiences. As a child of Missionaries and pastors, (not to mention that I’m a pastor’s wife) I can’t even imagine trying to spread the love of Christ by the end of the sword. It reaffirms to me that we as humans are all fallible and flawed. Despite the fact that we often take God’s matters into our own hands, He still eventually uses our messes for His good. Did those tactics contribute to my ancestors coming to Christianity?  Don’t you love it when a book makes you think about something beyond the story it is trying to tell?

As we begin to read, a tribe of Saxon prisoners have been captured by Charlemagne’s soldiers and brought to France. During the long and arduous journey a family is forced to stay behind along the trail in the dark woods. Obviously, their feelings towards Christians weren’t particularly happy and fluffy. So imagine how suspicious they might have felt when a little girl (who happens to be a Christian) finds them and subsequently take them home to care for them along with her father.

Drama and Intrigue eventually follow and everyone’s mettle is put to the test. We are introduced to some of the practices and superstitions of the times.  What struck me was that popular culture has romanticized some of these superstitions…neglecting to dwell on any dark and truly disturbing practices involved. The Magic Runes took time portray this time in history in real pictures. The truth of medieval war. The separations of families. How truly fragile life was during this time.

I also appreciated that all conflicts weren't resolved in a matter of days. That’s the way real life works. The author showed us a real portrayal of a man grappling between what he had been born to and the truth unfolding before his eyes. And remember my earlier comment about Charlemagne’s tactics? Adalinda, the little girl in the story, initially struggles with feelings of jealously and some resentment. But those feelings give way to true kindness and gentleness. Showing the love of Christ isn’t always easy for us, is it?

The language of the book is not simple. It is beautiful and challenging. My dyslexic 11-year-old would struggle to read it on his own. However, I look forward to reading it to him. I am not afraid of beautiful or challenging. I think that children need to be exposed to well-written works. Reading it together will allow for much discussion and will allow him to truly appreciate the book without worrying about the mechanics of reading.


Salem Ridge Press has taken great care with The Magic Runes and they have added helps for us modern day learners. I loved the vocabulary words at the bottom of the page. No vocabulary index! I think that will be handy for many families. There were a few words or terms I didn’t know. Shocking, I realize. My favorite was palisading. It means fencing. It just sounds so pretty. Another favorite was harry, which means attack. I’m planning on using it at random. “Josiah, you better harry that mess in your room!” 

The publishers also included a map, a list of historical references used to write the book and a very helpful index of Historical notes. I was fascinated. It inspired me to do some more research.

I plan to purchase more of these great books. The Magic Runes is intended for ages 10-adult. The softcover is available for $10.95 at Salem Ridge Press. You can take a peek at the first chapter here.

Click below to read the reviews of other books by Salem Ridge Press.

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