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Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow
by The Miller Brothers

Reviewed by Jennifer Bogart

"Drawing from modern sci-fi symbolism the authors integrate devices reminiscent of The Matrix and Star Wars, while mining the deep allegorical thread that The Pilgrim’s Progress is based upon."

Hunter Brown is an average grade nine student. He plays practical tricks, evades bullies, makes amateur videos and chums around with the geeky Stretch and affluent Stubbs. When he encounters a mysterious book, his life changes irrevocably. Suddenly he is acutely aware of the forces of darkness surrounding him. Not only can he see these beings, they’re after him. Plunging through the pages of the book into an alternate dimension he enters the world of Solandria where the Shadow holds the land captive under the leadership of the boy-sorcerer Venator.

Recruited by the Codebearers – the forces of light who stand for the Author, creator of all worlds – Hunter begins his study of the Code of Life only to be swept into the fray far too early in his training. Called apart by the Author’s son, Aviad, Hunter soon learns that his destiny is deeply entwined with the fate of this world.

Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow is the first installment of The Codebearer Series published by Warner Press. This inventive new series for tweens is co-written by a pair of brothers – Christopher and Allan Miller – who combine their writing talents and considerable illustrative skills. Raised in a home where their parents operated a CBA bookstore while homeschooling them, they now put their passion for inspiring faith-based books and products into their company Lumination Studios.

Drawing from modern sci-fi symbolism the authors integrate devices reminiscent of The Matrix and Star Wars, while mining the deep allegorical thread that The Pilgrim’s Progress is based upon. While the imagery is sci-fi in flavour, the story itself plants itself firmly within the realm of fantasy. While seemingly cobbled together from disparate elements – some fairly common, others unique – this presentation of scriptural truth in a vibrant adventure is surprisingly captivating. The quest that Hunter finds himself on is parallel to the story of mankind’s fall into sin and redemption through sacrifice.

The Millers offer a straightforward writing style that never plunges deeply into descriptive prose, akin to the majority of widely read, modern novels for young adults. Modern vernacular and tween-speak are heavily utilized, resulting in a culturally accessible work. The brisk pace and ground covered wouldn’t lend itself to deep literary prose in any case; measuring in at 366 pages, Hunter Brown remains a manageable read for its audience. The quick-moving plot captures the attention with twists, turns, and surprising outcomes. While the writing itself is somewhat superficial, the message is thought-provoking.

Having two talented CGI men as co-authors and illustrators certainly comes in handy. From book trailers to the official Codebearers website, and the book itself, all of the images relating to the novel are drawn from the minds of the Miller Brothers themselves. Codebearers.com keeps young readers engaged in the adventure by providing mind-tingling challenges, forums, videos, and more. You can read the entire book for free online, or pick up an autographed hardcopy. The Millers even offer a unique “Good Read” guarantee – if you (or your child) don’t love the book they’ll buy it back.

While I read one part of me remained skeptical, the other was absorbed. The unusual blend of faith-powered light sabers, a chivalrous knight-like resistance, menacing forces of evil unique to the series and biblical truth work together to draw eager young minds into the tale. While the scriptural nods are strikingly clear to Christian readers, connections to the faith are not as blatantly drawn as to frighten away other readers. The series has great potential as a crossover novel, and a good clean read across markets. In all honesty, I’m looking forward to future installments.

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Jennifer Bogart is a child of God, wife and homeschooling mother of three young children (so far). She writes homeschooling resources with her husband at Bogart Family Resources, and reviews as a creative outlet. Passionately dedicated to promoting the work of Christian authors and artists, her blog Quiverfull Family features reviews, contests, family updates, homeschooling tidbits and well - a bit of everything.