If your middle school to high school aged reader likes fantasy adventure books and needs something for the remainder of their Christmas break, here is a great “Orthodox” option: The Nightmare Tree by Father Richard Rene, published by Coteau Books in 2007.
This is the first book in the Mysterion series, which chronicles adventures of children who fight evil djinn and travel to a hidden world–a spiritual world that ordinary people have forgotten, called Mysterion. The book is not objectively Orthodox, but Orthodox themes are infused in the story: a spiritual father, spiritual battles, the hidden spiritual world that need to be illumined, power of faith, etc.
The setting of the book is the Seychelles Islands, and this exotic location draws the reader into the story before the fantasy emerges. The main character is a boy whose father has disappeared and is presumed dead, but the boy believes his father lives. The boy enters the hidden realm of Mysterion and sacrifices much to find and rescue his father while battling evil djinn who enslave people and feast on their nightmares.
I am a big Lord of the Rings fan, I’ve read that series more than once and was prepared to really like this book, but I found it confusing at times. I felt I needed more maps, pictures or visual aids to better understand some of the imaginative things that happened, and would have enjoyed the book if I’d known more about its setting (now I really want to go to the Seychelles- looks like a tropical paradise) Children are not likely to have those problems; their imaginations will fill in what mine didn’t.
I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, The Edge of Mysterion, and am excited that Father Rene has written writing something so creative for us fantasy adventure fans. In addition to his writing, Father Rene is a priest at an Orthodox church in British Columbia and has a podcasts on Ancient Faith.