In Book 3 of The Knights of Arrethtrae series, Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart, Chuck Black explores the realms of doubt in the mind of a follower of Christ. The book's protagonist, Sir Dalton, struggles against the forces of evil and doubt in his quest to serve as a knight. The reader is drawn into his journey of learning the way of the Prince and ultimately conquering the shadow of doubt in his own heart, at one point referencing James 1:6, "For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind" (ESV).
Chuck Black writes in an action-filled, kinetically energetic style that fits well with the content of a book full of knights, evil dark lords, sword play, and fair maidens. Sir Dalton interacts with many other characters throughout, and Black runs the risk of leaving them underdeveloped, so that it is hard to become attached before a different, new character will appear on the scene. However, Sir Dalton does develop a strong relationship with Master Sejus, a mentor/teacher figure who brings him back to his feet after a near-fatal injury and teaches him the nuances of sword fighting and being a true knight of the Prince. One especially vivid mountaintop scene appears when the young knight admits his lack of faith and realizes the truth of the cause he is fighting for.
The story opens with a particularly graphic chapter, and then reverts to tell Dalton's history as a younger man in training to become a knight. Once knighted, he experiences his first battle against dark forces and is eventually captured by the dark Lord Drox and thrown into his prison. Dalton barely manages to escape with his life, but is nursed back to health by the mysterious hermit called Master Sejus. It is here that he encounters true training and learns the folly of his own past experiences that diminished the genuine value of the Prince and the Code by which all knights are called to live—an obvious reference to the Bible. Revived, Sir Dalton returns to the prison lair of Lord Drox to confront the forces of evil that used to be his greatest fear, having conquered the doubt in his own heart.
Trying to follow Sir Dalton throughout the tale of his journey is fast-paced but bumpy. The plot meanders through many settings and characters so that the reader is left with a sense that Black hurriedly laid a shaky foundation to pave the way for the rest of the story. Sir Dalton's relationships with other characters are also hurried and unrealistic at times, perhaps with the exception of Mister Sejus, with whom Sir Dalton spends a considerable amount of time. However, Black's attempt to incorporate biblical values into a fictional tale in a medieval setting is admirable, and readers will not be able to avoid the strong Christian overtones that play throughout. In one scene, Sir Dalton wonders, "What should direct the thoughts and actions of a Knight of the Prince?" His answer is, "The Code and the life of the Prince."
Chuck Black's style is well-suited to young and early teen boys who appreciate action and suspense in a book's plot. It is a smart choice for parents who want to instill Christian values in their children and still provide exciting reading material without tapping into the potentially dangerous non-Christian market. However, I had some difficulty following the story and would not go so far as to praise it as complex literature for the more serious-minded reader. – Adam C. Golder, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Sir Dalton, a knight in training, seems to have everything going for him. Young, well-liked, and a natural leader, he has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow knights, and especially the beautiful Lady Brynn.
But something is amiss at the training camp. Their new trainer is popular but lacks the passion to inspire them to true service to the King and the Prince. Besides this, the knights are too busy enjoying a season of good times to be concerned with a disturbing report that many of their fellow Knights have mysteriously vanished.
When Sir Dalton is sent on a mission, he encounters strange attacks, especially when he is alone. As his commitment wanes, the attacks grow in intensity until he is captured by Lord Drox, a massive Shadow Warrior. Bruised and beaten, Dalton refuses to submit to evil and initiates a daring escape with only one of two outcomes–life or death. But what will become of the hundreds of knights he’ll leave behind? In a kingdom of peril, Dalton thinks he is on his own, but two faithful friends have not abandoned him, and neither has a strange old hermit who seems to know much about the Prince. But can Dalton face the evil Shadow Warrior again and survive?