Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow
A book review for parents
This fantasy is first in the "Codebearers Series" by the Miller Brothers and is published by Warner Press.
Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Hunter Brown, a ninth-grade boy at Destiny Hills High School, is unsure of who he is. His sister is smart and popular; Hunter is not. Hunter physically resembles his dad, who left the family three years earlier and has not been heard from since. He knows that he does not fit in and accepts this as his lot in life. Hunter finishes his school year by pulling a prank on the school's bully. To avoid getting caught in the consequences of the prank, Hunter and his friends go on an errand for a new janitor and retrieve a book. Because of this Book, Hunter is able to watch stories unfold, see spiritual creatures, travel to another land and learn about the Author. In the new land, Solandria, Hunter's friends are the Codebearers for the Author, and they teach Hunter how to prepare for the battle that is to come between the Author and Sceleris. Venator is a follower of Sceleris and seems to have a special connection to Hunter. When Hunter is sent on a secret mission to take the half bloodstone from Venator, he soon realizes that he and Venator are the same person and that he needs to choose whom he will follow, the Author or Sceleris. Hunter chooses the Author and dies to himself. He wakes up to find the Author writing a new story for him and begins to live the adventure in his own city of Destiny.
In the world of Solandria, there is a group called the Resistance that is fighting the Shadow. A person fighting for the Resistance is called a Codebearer. The Shadow blinds men to the truth of the Code; it is the job of the Codebearer to make sure the Code is not forgotten. The Codebearers know that they can only do the will of the Author and the Author will never give them anything they cannot handle. Hunter is encouraged to join the Resistance and learn more about the Author through the Author's Writ (the Book). Aviad is the Author's Son, and Hunter needs to meet Him. Hunter must make the trip to Aviad alone. The Veritas sword, used by the Codebearers, is the only weapon that can defeat the Shadow. The Author made it, and the blade carries the Code of Life. The Author created everything, is always in control and knows what is best no matter the circumstances. He shows people how to find Him.
Sceleris was once a friend of the Author, but decided that he wanted to become the Author. The Author sent him away, and Sceleris no longer has access to the Author. Instead, his hatred for the Author increases as he continues to convince others that the Author does not exist.
There is a spiritual battle going on over Hunter's life. Hunter is encouraged to memorize Book passages. Evil spirits speak doubt and fear to Hunter and do not want him to read the Author's Writ; they want him to destroy it. Hunter learns that he can only succeed in his tasks when he asks the Author for help. He can't succeed in his own strength. Aviad tells Hunter that he is never alone and that for the Shadow to not have power, Hunter must die by giving Aviad his heart, that is, his bloodstone. The Author can then write him a new story in which the Shadow and his curse are not a part.
Eventually, Aviad takes both halves of the bloodstone and puts them together in His own chest, finishing the curse forever.
The city of Destiny, where Hunter lives with his family, is an illusion that the Shadow keeps up. Real life is in Solandria, where good and evil spirits can be seen.
The principal at Hunter's school does not believe Hunter's story about the new janitor who told him to retrieve a special book. But, just in case there is an imposter janitor at her school, she takes what he said seriously, and she does everything she can to find this "janitor" in order to keep the students safe.
Hunter's mom is a single parent. Hunter feels that he is an inconvenience to her. She grounds him for the weekend for skipping classes the last day of school. Hunter disobeys and leaves the house. Hunter's father had abandoned the family three years earlier, and Hunter has not had contact with him since.
Sam is Hunter's teacher in Solandria and stays true to the Word of the Author. Hunter highly respects him. Petrov is the commander of the Resistance. He leads according to the Author's plans.
Hunter first sees Aviad as a bumbling, old man, and Hunter cannot see how this old man can help him in any way. Hunter chooses to trust Him, though, and Aviad leads him in the way Hunter must go. Aviad does not give Hunter the answers but assists Hunter as he figures out what the Book says.
Venator is a commander for Shadow and has a special connection to Hunter. He is powerful, ruthless, angry and deceptive.
Belac is a troll who captures Hunter and forces him to become his prisoner and slave. His only thought is for himself and his own comfort, and he does not give a thought to Hunter's well-being.
After the battle of Sanctuary, Ephriam is in charge. Regardless of how things look, he does not want to deviate from Aviad's orders. When Hunter disagrees and gets angry, Ephriam lets him walk away and gives him time to think things through.
Faldyn is a captain in the Resistance. He tries to help Hunter, but Hunter does not trust him. Faldyn gets irritated easily and does not trust Hunter, but ends up saving his life several times.
The Author is in control of all things. He knows what is best in all situations. He is pleased with Hunter and his journey thus far. The Author encourages him and gives him peace.
Other Belief Systems
In Destiny, Hunter is taught the theory of evolution in school. In Solandria, the evil spirits believe that they are in charge of their own destinies. If they follow their own beliefs then they are truly free. Belac wants nothing to do with the Author or Sceleris. He only does what he wants. He believes that as long as he accepts no higher power into his life he is truly free.
2009 Moonbeam Children's Book Bronze Medal Award; Pre-teen Fiction-Fantasy
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Hunter believes that his family does not think highly of him. Why is that?
How do you think others view you?
What do you like about their opinions of you?
What would you like to change?
- At the beginning of the story, Hunter is confused about all the talk about Aviad and the Author. It does not make sense to him because he does not understand the whole concept.
In your own faith, what do you have a hard time understanding?
What can you do to help someone else understand your faith?
- Venator believes that because he is not following the Author's rules, he is free.
But, who is he actually a slave to?
When you choose to disobey, whom are you serving?
Do you feel a freedom or do you feel a heavier burden? Why do you think that is?
- Belac believes that no one has the right to tell him what to do.
Have you ever felt this way?
How can this attitude be harmful to others?
Why would it be hard to be a friend to this type of person?
- Hunter is accepted by the Codebearers even before he fully understands who they are and to whom they belong.
How does this help him in his quest for answers?
Is acceptance by the Codebearers a key part to Hunter's final decision to give the Author his heart? Why or why not?
How can you use this method to help others learn about God?
- A key theme in the novel is that, regardless of the circumstances, the Author is in control, and He knows what is best.
Is this hard for you to accept in your own life? How so?
How can God be good in the midst of difficult times?
How can you explain this to someone else?
- Hunter knows that he has to give Venator's bloodstone to the Author. He wants to do the right thing, yet at the last moment he rebels and decides that his own way is the best way.
Why do you think he does that?
Do you ever try to do things your own way instead of following what you know or are told is the best?
Can you give an example?
Why do you think this happens?
- Hunter is encouraged to memorize passages from the Author's Book, so that in the midst of battle he can use the truths against the enemy.
How do you view the Bible?
Do you see it as a weapon to be used in the midst of a spiritual attack?
How can memorizing and reciting God's Word be helpful in all circumstances?
What Bible verse has the most meaning to you right now?
- Hunter is reminded several times that he is not alone.
Do you feel like you are alone? Why or why not?
Can you feel alone sometimes even when people surround you?
Why is Hunter told that he is not alone?
How does that help him?
How does that help you?
- Hunter is taught that he can do nothing in his own strength. He needs to ask the Author for help.
How does this differ from the world's view?
How easy is it for you to admit that you need help?
Why do you think it is easier for people to do everything themselves than it is to ask God for help?
What do you need to do in your own life to make the right choice?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.