The Third Heaven: The Rise of Fallen Stars by Donovan M. Neal
Rating: 3/5 Stars.
Story Summary: Calling itself “The Prequel to the Bible,” this story is about Lucifer’s fall from Heaven and becoming Satan. The Bible says that Lucifer was cast out of Heaven after an attempted rebellion, but the details are mum. Donovan M. Neal weaves a guess in a saga of a good angel who is full of adoration and accomplishment like no other, but his heart is full of pride for his race and for himself. As the creation of Earth nears completion, Lucifer’s greatness is being called into question, and jealousy rises in his heart. While God rests on the Seventh Day, Lucifer raises a rebellion to tear Heaven from the sky and take his place on God’s throne.
The Strengths: It’s a gutsy move, this one. Fortunately, the author knows it’s simply a story, not scripture, and he has a lot of fun with it. The world building is sublime, weaving reality, scripture, lore, and speculation into one remarkably coherent whole. Some of the best parts are scripture parallels, using Bible verses to play out actual scenes. While this can very easily become cheesy and tired, Neal actually uses it to tell the story, and it works very well. Rarely have the mysteries of the Bible ever been used so well, much less combined so spectacularly.
The story’s progression is also stellar, and the angels are remarkably human and relatable. Lucifer questions why a good God would create Hell, why his accomplishments ultimately amount to nothing. Others wonder why God doesn’t seem to care about them. Even the good angels are not pure of heart and some of the downfalls are actually quite pitiable. And the war at the end of the story is massive and chaotic, as a Biblical war should be.
The Weaknesses: The technical writing aspects. There are formatting and grammatical issues and some word choices feel overused. Early on this is a bigger problem. The first scene (after the prologue) feels very forced and silly. The scene right after is suddenly in first person for half a chapter. However, these are the only two glaring problem areas.
How much this bugs you will depend on the reader. The story is strong, so it can be easy to see past the flaws. My wife is detail-oriented. She read the book and nearly put it down for the writing flaws. However, even she admitted she was swept away by the story and certain characters.
One more issue is the violence. It’s not horribly graphic, but there’s a war and it’s not pretty at all. This can be a problem for some readers, but it does not appear sacrilegious to me. War is ugly and this book doesn’t try to sugar-coat it.
Final Thoughts: As I said, the story itself is incredible and the entire last half or third is gripping and hard to put down. However, the abundance of technical issues made me pull it down to 3 stars instead of 4. Still, a fine book and a great example of a Christian using the Bible to tell a good story.
Christian Ratings: R
- Language/Profanity: 1/10–Name-calling is the worst you’ll find.
- Violence: 8/10–As I said, it’s a war, so a lot of hacking and slashing, and a lot of blood. It’s not gratuitous, but it’s not pretty, either. There are also some horrendous descriptions of Hell.
- Sexuality: 1/10–Adam and Eve are naked in the Garden of Eden, but that doesn’t count.
- Substances: 0/10–Nothing to write home about.
- Mature Themes: 7/10–It’s a story about angels questioning God’s goodness, which can be a little heady and complex. Plus, the creation and morality of Hell is a major issue.
Now Go Read!
KINDLE VERSION IS ONLY $1 UNTIL FRIDAY 6/20. Then it goes back up to $3. I couldn’t find the book in Nook format, but it’s in Paperback in both stores.
Donovan M. Neal also has a blog right here on WordPress: Click here for the link.
Did you agree with this review? Would you like me to review your book? Hit me up in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org.