It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and his book: Nightmare’s Edge (Echoes From the Edge #3)
Zondervan (May 1, 2009)
About the Author:
Bryan Davis is the author of the Dragons in Our Midst and Oracles of Fire series, contemporary/fantasy books for young adults. The first book, Raising Dragons, was released in July of 2004, followed by The Candlestone, Circles of Seven, and Tears of a Dragon. Eye of the Oracle launched the Oracles of Fire series and hit number one on the CBA Young Adult best-seller list in January of 2007. Book number two, Enoch’s Ghost, came out in July and will be followed by Last of the Nephilim in the spring of 2008.
Bryan is the author of several other works including The Image of a Father (AMG) and Spit and Polish for Husbands (AMG), and four books in the Arch Books series: The Story of Jesusâ€™ Baptism and Temptation, The Day Jesus Died, The Story of the Empty Tomb (over 100,000 sold), and Jacobâ€™s Dream. Bryan lives in Western Tennessee with his wife, Susie, and their children. Bryan and Susie have homeschooled their four girls and three boys.
Bryan was born in 1958 and grew up in the eastern U.S. From the time he taught himself how to read before school age, through his seminary years and beyond, he has demonstrated a passion for the written word, reading and writing in many disciplines and genres, including theology, fiction, devotionals, poetry, and humor.
(ISBN#9780310715566, 352pp, $12.99)
With just a slender candle in Ceruleanâ€™s grip lighting their way, how could two awake people know how to find another one of their kind in this dark land where images conjured by frightened sleepers seemed as real as their own skin and clothing?
Nathan shivered and hurried to catch up with Cerulean, Earth Blueâ€™s supplicant from the Misty World. Still keeping his eyes focused straight ahead and the white candle out in front, Cerulean stayed quiet. Nothing seemed to phase him. Earlier, he had ignored the twelve talking chipmunks dressed in purple tuxedos. They had been funny at first, chattering about their political ambitions and the proper way to shave an elephant, but when a six-foot-tall electric razor buzzed into the forest, Nathan dove out of the way as it flew past him, chasing a three-headed elephant into the forest. Cerulean merely helped him back to his feet and pressed on.
â€œSo,â€ Nathan said as they marched past an old man wrapped in golden chains floundering in a quicksand bog, â€œthis dream world really isnâ€™t all that dangerous once you get used to it. Why did you insist on just the two of us going? Whatâ€™s the risk?â€
Cerulean didnâ€™t even blink. â€œNot everything is a dream. Jack is here somewhere, is he not?â€
â€œTrue. But what other real things could enter this world? Even you had to get Kelly to go to sleep to create a portal. No one else knows what to do.â€
â€œWhen there are no wounds in the cosmic fabric, the dream world can only be penetrated by a personâ€™s mind or by a supplicant. With interfinity at hand, however, and many holes throughout the cross-dimensional plane, I suspect that passages abound.â€
â€œHow can you tell the difference?â€ Nathan asked. â€œI mean, if that poor guy in the quicksand was real, shouldnâ€™t we try to rescue him?â€
Cerulean smiled, finally breaking his stoic countenance. â€œAs the elephant has taught you, dreams are as real as you allow them to be. Once you train your mind, you will see through them. Whatever is left is reality.â€
As he passed by a leafy vine that hung from a branch, he gave it a shove, making it swing. â€œThis jungle is a dream setting for all souls who feel lost. They struggle through vines, snakes, quicksand, and many other obstacles of their own making, thus illustrating their lives of desperation. Since Jack was no longer in the Earth Blue bedroom, I thought perhaps, even though he is blind, he might have found his way here.â€
â€œSounds reasonable,â€ Nathan said, â€œat least as dreams go.â€
While following a meandering path for several minutes, they entered a suburban neighborhood, shaded by thundering storm clouds overhead. Now walking on rubberized streets, they passed a headless woman on a bicycle who was trying to find a place to insert her iPod earbuds. In front of a mansion-like house on a perfectly manicured lawn, a man in a clown costume juggled a woman, three children, and a briefcase. As if on a treadmill, he ran in place, huffing and puffing, but getting nowhere.
Nathan stared at them, knowing they couldnâ€™t possibly be real. When they faded into ghostlike images, he shuddered. This was just too weird.
Soon, they entered the darkest place yet, a cemetery with old tombstones rising at odd angles from grave plots. Bones littered the weed-infested grounds. A large raven perched atop one of the burial markers, staring at Nathan as he passed by.
â€œInscription,â€ it croaked. â€œRead. Read.â€
Nathan paused and leaned closer. â€œYou mean on the tombstone?â€
â€œYes! Read! Read!â€
Cerulean grabbed his arm. â€œNo. It is not wise to heed the words of the dream creatures.â€
â€œBut if theyâ€™re not real, what could it hurt?â€
His bright blues eyes sparkling in the candleâ€™s glow, Cerulean inhaled deeply. â€œA vision stalker is close. I fear that he has manipulated the environment, and our safety is compromised.â€
â€œJust reading the tombstone wonâ€™t hurt.â€ Nathan took the candle and shuffled to the side of the grave. With the raven still leering at him, he held the flame close to the stone. The inscription, spelled out in deeply etched block letters, read, â€œHere lies Kelly Clark, murdered in her sleep by Nathan Shepherd. Even now she is unable to rest in peace as her killer shines a light over her bed.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Nathan slid back. â€œHow could it know?â€
Cerulean stared at the raven. â€œThree possibilities. Kelly sees us in her dream, so she created the inscription even as you drew close. Yet, I think that is unlikely since she doesnâ€™t see you as a threat to her life. Still, stranger things do happen in dreams. Second, a stalker could have manipulated this place, and he is trying to intimidate you to keep you from proceeding. Third, and perhaps the most dangerous of all, is the possibility that you are becoming part of the dreamscape. Amber spoke of this when she heard about Jackâ€™s entry. If Patar sent Jack here to keep him alive, then he likely expected the poor man to become part of the dream world, a living phantom who wanders in peopleâ€™s nightmares. He would be alive, yes, but only Patar would know how to extract him without killing him.â€
Nathan pointed at himself. â€œThen can I leave safely? I mean, Iâ€™m not becoming part of this place yet, am I?â€
Fixing his gaze on Nathan, Cerulean shook his head. â€œYou appear solid, so one of the other two options is more likely. I suspect that a vision stalker is present.â€
Nathan peered behind the tombstone, but nothing was there. â€œWho? Mictar?â€
â€œHe would be powerful enough.â€ Cerulean took a quick step and grabbed the raven by the throat. It choked out a squawk and flailed its wings under the supplicantâ€™s grip, vainly trying to claw his arm. â€œWhere is your master?â€
â€œNew inscription,â€ it croaked again. â€œRead!â€
Cerulean shook its body. â€œYou have a voice. Tell me who sent you.â€
â€œRead! Read!â€ The raven broke free, and in a scattering of feathers, it flew into the darkness above.
As a black pinion floated to the ground, Cerulean took the candle back from Nathan. â€œCome. We must hurry. The longer we stay here, the greater the danger.â€
â€œShouldnâ€™t we read the inscription again?â€
Cerulean held the flame high and wrapped a hand around Nathanâ€™s arm. â€œIt is of no consequence. If the message has been written by the stalker, it is likely to be a lie. If it is a product of Kellyâ€™s nightmarish fears, it will only work to heighten your own. And if you are becoming part of this world, deep emotions will only hasten the process.â€
â€œNot knowing will drive me crazy.â€ Pulling against Ceruleanâ€™s grip, Nathan squinted at the tombstone, but it was too dark to read. â€œTaking a second wonâ€™t hurt.â€
Cerulean held fast. â€œThe risk is too high. Your uncharacteristic insistence demonstrates that the effect this place is having on you is escalating rapidly.â€
â€œBut I have to know.â€ As Nathan pulled against the strong grip, the supplicantâ€™s blue hair grew fuzzy, looking like reeds waving under restless waters. â€œLet me go.â€
The shout sounded like a thunderclap. Nathan spun toward it. Ahead on the path, a man stood with his fists set against his hips. Tall and lean, he appeared to be dangling a plastic bag from his fingers.
Nathan blinked. â€œIs it Mictar?â€
â€œNo,â€ Cerulean said, loosening his grip. â€œIt is Patar.â€
Patar walked three steps closer and halted. Now about five paces away, his face bent into a deep scowl. â€œYou should not have come here. It is far too dangerous.â€
Nathan glanced between Patar and the tombstone. He pointed at the inscription. â€œI need to know what is says. Kelly might be communicating with me.â€
â€œAs you can see, Cerulean â€¦â€ Patarâ€™s voice grew distant, warped, like he spoke from the midst of a cave. â€œHe is already being absorbed.â€ The stalkerâ€™s slender form now seemed foggy, distorted, more like a dream than reality.
Cerulean nodded. â€œI can see that now. He is showing signs of fading.â€
â€œIâ€™m fading?â€ Nathan pointed at Cerulean, then at Patar. â€œYou two are the ghostly looking ones.â€
â€œItâ€™s only going to get worse,â€ Patar said. â€œHis mental defenses are withering, and Kellyâ€™s nightmare is reaching a climax.â€
A sudden gust of wind blew back a blanket of clouds. A full moon, at least five times its usual size, hovered in a purple sky. Its glow illuminated the cemetery, allowing a clearer view of the dozens of gravesites.
â€œShall I take him out immediately,â€ Cerulean asked, â€œor should I find Jack first?â€
A low rumble sounded at Nathanâ€™s side. At the gravesite where the raven once perched, a hand pushed out of the earth, then a second hand and a head. Finally, an entire body, short and feminine, climbed up and shook dirt from her shoulder-length hair. She looked straight ahead and called, â€œNathan? Are you here?â€
â€œKelly?â€ Nathan stared at her. â€œIt really is you!â€
Wearing a knee-length nightshirt, she brushed off the soil, revealing letters on the front, â€œSanity is Overrated.â€ Then, extending her arms, she staggered toward him, feeling for obstacles in her way. â€œNathan? Where are you? I hear your voice.â€
As she drew closer, he stiffened. Kelly had no eyes, only vacant sockets. Could she be the Earth Blue Kelly, somehow resurrected? Or was she Kelly Red, a recent victim of Mictarâ€™s cruel electrified hand? Yet, wasnâ€™t she just part of a dream? She looked real enough.
Kelly stopped and touched Nathanâ€™s cheeks with her cold fingers. â€œThere you are. Why didnâ€™t you answer me?â€ She shivered and rubbed her arms. â€œIâ€™m cold and scared. Will you get me out of this dark place? I canâ€™t see a thing.â€
Nathan reached for her hand but then jerked back. â€œYouâ€™re just a mirage. I canâ€™t take you anywhere.â€
â€œYou are correct.â€ Cerulean lifted his candle higher. â€œStay in the light, Nathan. Do not be deceived.â€
â€œThis is no time for joking around,â€ Kelly said. Bouncing on the toes of her sock-covered feet, she shook harder. â€œYou canâ€™t leave me in this horrible place. Itâ€™s so cold, so terribly cold. Please take me home.â€ She reached out and groped for him. With missing eyes and dirty face, she seemed like a pitiful waif as her voice broke into a lament. â€œNathan â€¦ please â€¦ Iâ€™m scared.â€
â€œIâ€™ll get you out. Just hang on.â€
Her chilled fingers wrapped around his bandaged hand. She was solid, real, not a hint of fading.
â€œOh, thank you.â€ She leaned her head against his shoulder. â€œI told you never to leave me, not even for a minute. I felt so alone. So scared. I have no idea how all that dirt got on me. It was like I was buried in a grave.â€
For a moment, dizziness flooded Nathanâ€™s mind, but he shook it off. â€œJust stay with me. Cerulean will get us out of here.â€
â€œNathan!â€ Cerulean warned again. â€œIf you continueâ€”â€
â€œLet him go for a moment.â€ His voice fading even further, Patar poured out the contents of his bag into Ceruleanâ€™s hand. â€œWhen I wrestled with my brother, I recovered Jackâ€™s eyes from his energy reserves. You will find him approximately one hundred paces ahead. Restore these and get him and Nathan out of here with all speed.â€
Nathan squinted at Ceruleanâ€™s transparent palm. Two eyeballs, perfectly formed, with nerves and moist tissue attached, lay there. Nathan nearly gagged, but he stayed quiet.
â€œBecause Nathan broke the portal mirror,â€ Patar continued, â€œyou will not be able to travel to my world to play the violin at Sarahâ€™s Womb, at least not right now. You can, however, travel to Earth Yellow to gather other options.â€
â€œYes,â€ Cerulean replied. â€œNathanâ€™s mother is playing â€˜Foundationâ€™s Keyâ€™ as we speak to see which mirror is the correct portal. While we were waiting, we decided to try to find Jack, since he entered the dream world from Earth Blue. I was unsure of how the dreamscape would affect Nathan, so this was a test.â€
â€œAnd he failed, as usual. His desire for revenge against my brother outweighed his wisdom. He had the power to escape with the mirror intact.â€
â€œNathan,â€ Kelly said, her fingers growing warmer within his hand. â€œDonâ€™t let him talk about you like that. You did the best you could. You were under a lot of pressure.â€
â€œYouâ€™re right. I donâ€™t know why theyâ€™re saying those things.â€
â€œThen donâ€™t listen. Weâ€™ll find our own way out.â€
â€œGo now,â€ Patar said, â€œbefore that rotting cadaver becomes more real to him than life itself. He will soon bond with it beyond all hope of reason.â€ With that, Patar faded out of sight.
Cerulean put the eyeballs back into the bag and stuffed the open edges into his waistband. Then, lifting the candle, he pulled Nathanâ€™s arm. â€œJackâ€™s up ahead. Letâ€™s get him and flee this place.â€
Leading Kelly by the hand, Nathan went along with the pull, following Cerulean, now a blue ghost in his sight. â€œDid you hear that, Kelly? We can follow him. Weâ€™ll be out of here soon.â€
â€œThank you, Nathan.â€ She staggered along, her empty sockets still wide. â€œI knew you wouldnâ€™t leave me here.â€
With the moon shining brightly, the going was easier. It took only a few seconds to find Jack sitting on the ground, leaning against a tombstone. Although Cerulean was now as transparent as thinning fog, Jack seemed solid enough.
Running his fingers through his thick beard, Jack looked around with his empty eyes. â€œWho is here?â€ he asked.
â€œHe is losing his grip on reality as well,â€ Cerulean said as he crouched next to the tombstone. â€œI will have to work quickly.â€
â€œHe looks fine. Heâ€™s not fading at all.â€ Nathan turned to Kelly. He almost said, â€œRight, Kelly?â€ forgetting for a moment that she couldnâ€™t see anything. Still, even without her lovely brown eyes, she lookedâ€”
â€œTake this.â€ Cerulean handed Nathan the candle. â€œWatch me through the flame.â€
â€œOh. Okay.â€ Feeling dizzy again, Nathan held the flame close to his nose and peered around both sides. Cerulean pulled the eyeballs from the bag. Then, singing unintelligible words at a high pitch, he laid his palm over Jackâ€™s empty sockets and pushed the eyeballs into place. Keeping his hand there for a moment, he continued singing while blue light seeped around the edges.
With every second, Cerulean grew more solid while Jack stayed the same. Nathan looked back at Kelly. Her face seemed fuzzier, distant. Still holding his bandaged hand, she angled her head as if listening.
â€œWhatâ€™s happening?â€ she asked.
â€œEverythingâ€™s okay.â€ As he spoke, her features clarified again. â€œCerulean is repairing Jackâ€™s eyes. Weâ€™ll leave in a minute.â€
Nathan turned back to Cerulean, lowering the candle to see him better. Now ghostly blue again, he helped Jack to his feet.
â€œCan you see?â€ Cerulean asked.
â€œVery well, thank you.â€ Jack pulled a rumpled fedora from beneath his jacket and straightened it out. â€œI can see everything well, except for you.â€ He put on his hat and turned toward Nathan, his restored eyes glistening. â€œNathan! Iâ€™m so glad to see you.â€
â€œSame here.â€ Nathan gave the candle back to Cerulean and shook Jackâ€™s hand with his relatively uninjured left. â€œNow letâ€™s all get out of this place. I have to figure out what happened to Kelly and get some eyes for her, too.â€
â€œNathan.â€ Cerulean pushed the candle closer. â€œYou and Jack will come with me. You must leave Kelly behind.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Nathan shook his head hard. â€œI canâ€™t leave her here.â€
Kellyâ€™s arm locked around his. â€œNo, Nathan! No!â€
Cerulean pulled Jack and Nathan together and held the candleâ€™s flame near their eyes. His voice mellowed to a soothing chant. â€œStare at the flame. It is the light of reality. The images around you are mere phantoms. Bring what is real back into focus, or you will not return to the ones you love. Nathan, think of your mother. She waits for you in the Earth Blue bedroom. You must go back and search for your father. The real Kelly is there as well. We must awaken her from this nightmare, so the two of you can go to Earth Yellow and save two world populations from annihilation.â€
The flameâ€™s glow spread over Ceruleanâ€™s face, making his features clearer by the second. He compressed Nathanâ€™s chin with his hand, forcing him to keep his stare locked on the flame. â€œYou must let her go, Nathan. She is not real. Night is over, and dawn is breaking.â€
â€œNo, Nathan!â€ Her voice spiked into a wail. â€œYou promised to stay with me. This place is cold and dark, and Iâ€™m scared.â€
Ever so gently, Cerulean pulled on Nathanâ€™s chin, drawing him forward, his voice now hypnotizing. â€œRelease her, son of Solomon. All will be well. You will see the real Kelly in mere moments. We will awaken her, and she will escape this torture.â€
Heaving and exhaling shallow breaths, Nathan pried Kellyâ€™s fingers loose and pulled away.
â€œNathan!â€ she cried. â€œWhat are you doing?â€
He turned. Kelly, now ghostly and floating backwards, pressed her hands against her cheeks. â€œIâ€™ll be alone again. All alone in this cold, dark place.â€
â€œI â€¦ I canâ€™t leave her. Sheâ€™sâ€”â€
Cerulean twisted him back. His voice sharpened again. â€œSheâ€™s â€¦ not â€¦ real!â€
His mind now swimming, he repeated the words in a breathy whisper. â€œSheâ€™s not real.â€
Cerulean blew out the candle. As the light faded, Kellyâ€™s voice faded with it. â€œIâ€™m so cold â€¦ so cold.â€
Seconds later, light flooded Nathanâ€™s vision. He blinked, trying to focus. Cerulean stood in front of him, Jack at his side and the Earth Blue bedroom all around. His mother stood behind them, her violin in playing position, while Amber, the Earth Yellow supplicant, held a square mirror in front of her. On the floor, Kelly lay on a mattress, shivering.
â€œSo cold,â€ she cried out. â€œSo cold.â€
Nathan dropped to his knees. He grabbed her arm and gave her a hefty shake. â€œKelly! Wake up! Itâ€™s just a bad dream.â€
Her eyes shot wide open, glassy and wild. â€œNathan! Donâ€™t leave me!â€
â€œIâ€™m here!â€ He scooped her up and cradled her. â€œI wonâ€™t leave you. I promise.â€
She wrapped both arms around his. â€œBut you did leave me! I begged you not to, but you left anyway!â€
Cerulean crouched on Kellyâ€™s opposite side. â€œInvaded nightmares are the most vivid of all, and now you understand the danger. When we go to Earth Yellow, it will likely be worse. The veil between nightmares and reality is thinner there, and Mictar will be watching for you.â€
Click the bookcover or title for more info or to purchase a copy. Look for other FIRST Wildcard member posts and opinions also. Don’t forget to click the author’s name or photo to visit his website. Need to read book 2 before I try to read book 3 so no review yet.