David C. Cook
The Stone of Destiny by Jim Ware is intended for young Christians who enjoy reading fantasy. This book follows young Morgan Issak, an inconsequential middle schooler, save for his fascination with alchemy. Upon learning about his mother's cancer, he decides that alchemy can save her. He becomes enchanted by mystical tales, especially that of Lia Fail—the Stone of Destiny. As finding the stone becomes an obsession, Morgan stumbles in and out of trouble aided heavily by his closet friend Eny. Together they struggle with many problems, balancing constant concerns with Morgan's mother's failing health with other problems, such as dealing with his cruel enemy Baxter. Slowly but surely, Morgan realizes many lessons about his strengths and weaknesses, about trusting his friends, and most importantly, about trusting God. He learns the frailty of attempting to control his own fate and experiences amazement at the depth of the grace of God.
Overall, the book stayed engaging. Ware has an excellent grasp of imaginative description: “Between the slender black-and-white stems of the trees, she sometimes caught glimpses of lush green hillsides, lavishly starred with tiny white flowers, steadily rising toward a yoke or saddle between two sharp peaks at the top of a rocky ridge” (p. 133). It's as if the different settings become their own characters with different moods. This and a few other factors create an essence of mystery, which is maintained fairly well throughout the entire book.
Ware sprinkles life into his book with a variety of characters. Eny is well voiced. At times, her character's development seems much stronger than Morgan's. Generally, Ware spikes interest into his plethora of characters from their very introductions. The mysterious stranger Simon Brach is evidence of this.
Though pleasant, the book is not without flaws. At times, Morgan is harder to relate to than Ware's other characters. The pacing is hindered by moments of preaching. There are scenes in which the author seems more intent on teaching biblical lessons than telling the story. Using subtlety to incorporate religious aspects would have eased less-fluid moments. The deep effect Harry Potter had on this book is also evident. Though not a blatant copy, Ware should have deviated more from the patterns set down by the Harry Potter series and borrowed more from his own vivid imagination.
Even with its flaws, it’s still worth reading for young men and women who can relate to the characters, and anyone from an older generation who still values imagination. A childish sense of curiosity is a necessity to appreciate this work fully. Though not entirely original, it's still engaging, creative, and well above par for the genre. – Melissa Kerkhoff, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Morgan Izaak is obsessed with his father’s ancient books about the magical Philosopher’s Stone. And since his mother has cancer, a little magic could be really useful—although she would prefer to trust her doctors and pray. When Morgan’s best friend, Eny, tells him about another magic stone that may be hidden in their own town—the Irish Stone of Destiny—he’s determined to find it. But Morgan’s not the only one looking for the Stone, and by the time the two middle schoolers realize there’s evil afoot, Morgan has betrayed his friendship, bad-tempered giants are loose in the land, and the Stone is lost…perhaps forever. This charming, fantastical tale about faith is the first of two volumes about the Stone of Destiny.