I smuggle my faith into my stories. The Bethloria series have always been about the Christian life retold through epic fantasy rather than contemporary drama or romance, although there is quite a bit of romantic involvement towards the end of the series. It shows readers the words of St Paul: ‘to continue in the faith, reminding them that they must enter the Kingdom of God through many tribulations,’ words we don’t always want to hear. Whereas the Bethloria series are neither theological nor historical parables, I translate them in their purest form as tales set within a secondary world where my faith in Jesus Christ finds expression in a number of key ways.
For instance, the Morning Star represents the Holy Spirit and provides the two main protagonists, brothers Robbie and Dougray, with guidance in their decision-making. The Morning Star in its physical state is a true star but it is also the spiritual essence of Christ in the books, directing and providing comfort to the boys as well as to their Elf companion, Belle Shadow-Chaser, who is a strong believer.
One of the most powerful themes running through the series is how the seductive power of magic corrupts whole kingdoms and brings them to utter ruin. The monarchs are so consumed by magic’s gold-dross influence that they become physically altered, along with their kingdoms. As a result, they must be redeemed, or set free by the brothers, whose priestly roles are to bear the burdensome cross of Rafem, ‘saviours of the age’. It’s a sacrificial role bestowed upon them from birth which Dougray in particular finds difficult to accept.
Morgran, the supreme evil being in the tale, represents Satan. He invades Bethloria with subtlety by sending his minions to the seven kingdoms, offering the allure of magic to each of the monarchs, who become unaware of their enslavement and corruption. Five of them succumb, the Elvish Kingdom fights on and the main kingdom disappears altogether, a remnant kept safe by divine provenance but which is sought keenly by Morgran to entrap.
Belle Shadow-Chaser, the boys’ companion through the seven books, is the closest thing to an angelic character in her guidance and protection of them through her elvish skills and wisdom. She also offers them friendship and devotion to their cause, which coalesces with her own quest.
There are echoes of hell (the Abyss of Amarythe) in the story and what awaits if the boys should fail, with the appearance of monstrous creatures reaping havoc upon the lands. These scenes will increase as the stakes are raised in each book.
Other major themes include hope, and the ultimate victory of good over evil, although what victory is gained is tempered by sacrificial sorrow and loss. As the tale progresses, sacrifices become greater and the knowledge of the Morning Star becomes more innate by the characters, until paradise—redemption—is reached in book 7. The stories resonate with human weakness and failure and the need for salvation. Repentance is also a potent theme, realised with the brothers forgiving each other of past grievances.
For non-Christians, the Bethloria series are epic fantasy stories about good and evil; to Christians, they are an ever-present reminder of the subtlety of temptation with the Holy Spirit supporting us through the darkness of this age.