Saturday, February 10, 2018

Recent Readings: All Hail the Dancing King!

No, I did not get that title wrong and mangle the title of an ABBA song. This post is not only a book review; it is the celebration of the end of a long wait.

In 2011, Glynn Young gave the literary world the unforgettable Olympic cycling hero/assistant rector/hopeful royal Michael Kent in Dancing Priest

In 2012, Young continued the Kent adventure into the priest's early wedded bliss and a close shave with jihadist zeal in A Light Shining. (Blogger's note: I've previously reviewed both books here.)

Now, Young has continued the tale where Michael Kent--thoughtful Christian and determined new monarch--assumes the throne of the United Kingdom with his bride and queen, Sarah, in a fresh story called Dancing King. This tale is the result of Young's determination to see the couple into a new setting, new challenges, and powerful new decisions that demonstrate the opportunity of church and state to shape the world with God's shalom.

If you haven't read Young's first two books, I have two initial comments. First, why aren't you ordering them right now so you can read them ASAP? Secondly, the new structure of Dancing King gives the reader a dynamic new perspective.

Young's first two novels rightly told the storyline primarily through the eyes of Michael and Sarah, as their romance grew through sadness to hope to overflowing love, into a marriage assailed quickly by geopolitical upheaval. In Dancing King, we see the depth of Michael's experience, but Young does so in episodic format, marked off with a high level of first-person accounts primarily alternating amongst Sarah and other advisors in Buckingham Palace. It reminded me of the gradual, yet enticing, back-and-forth build of alternating perspectives in P.D. James' The Children of Men. Dialogue and plot reveal King Michael as a thoughtful, wise, yet determined ruler intent on leading the nation spiritually as well as politically.

The intriguing twist from Michael's leadership comes from blending his priestly training with his royal role. As the "Defender of the Faith" (retained in singular fashion for a reason, by the way), King Michael takes the unprecedented step of preaching in select churches and cathedrals throughout the Greater London area.

Every great story has great conflict, and to have quality conflict, you need a believable and hate-inducing villain. Young's portrayal of the Archbishop of Canterbury (named Sebastian Rowland in the book), together with a ruthless public relations muckraker, does the trick here in spades. [It should be noted that Young in no way intends this character to represent Justin Welby, the present Archbishop of Canterbury] As Michael moves to reform British society through a careful and Biblical reformation of the Church of England, Rowland and his henchman try to match him step for step. Young's portrayal of the insidious cleric demonstrates the poignant truth that those who resist the Gospel the most can comes from within the Church itself.

And in the end, the Gospel prevails through the one God equips for the task and through the people that hero can lean on.

Themes of redemption, restoration, courage, and community run through the lines of Dancing King. Once again, Glynn Young exceeds readers' hopes, showing a main character in Michael Kent who continues to mature in his faith and leadership. He does so remembering with John Donne that no man is an island, and true leadership occurs in community with others, not in isolation. Not a bad picture of what God's family should be like, incidentally.

The only mystery remaining is why you haven't already purchased Dancing King. Not to mention preparing yourself for the next turn in the Dancing Priest series. Young has left enough plot lines to continue this saga for some time. As for me, I certainly hope he does.

1 comment:

  1. Luke, thank you for your insightful review. I think you got it exactly.