Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘You is aksin’ me to kill Jesus?’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Finally, we’re allowed to spell it out. At just over halfway into this trilogy, we can now toot from the rooftops of the White Castle that the Dawn Prince is Satan, Mooncaster has been colonised for Hell, the Bad Shepherd is Jesus (and, apparently, every other major prophet) and what does that make the Ismus, boys and girls? You guessed it – the antichrist! Well done everybody who cottoned on the minute he started barbequing himself on the iron throne way back at the start of Dancing Jax. It’s been a long haul to get to this revelation, but just what kind of series this is is out in the open at last.
Now the dance can truly begin.
Matt’s Thoughts: While I’m sure the fate of Charm was the shocking moment to many people, for me – as a Christian – this chapter was the one that got under my skin from this book. (And it wasn’t spoiled by my sister, so it was actually a shock!)
There are a number of disturbing concepts piled in here. Where do I start?
First up, the idea of the Good Shepherd being portrayed as the Bad Shepherd makes sense, in a warped way. If Mooncaster is indeed ‘the distorting prism of the Devil’s own playground’ – which pretty much gives away where we’re heading if you hadn’t guessed already – then it makes sense that that’s the kind of portrayal they would want to give of ‘the Nazarene’.
But that leads to the second disturbing thing: with all this evil power taking over the world, and nearly everyone fallen under its power, where is God? If there is a Good Higher Power, why does He/She/They/It seem to be taking a back seat and letting things fall into darkness? Especially since it’s not like a voluntary thing for the inhabitants of Earth. If the story was about a bunch of people who had chosen to follow the Ismus and his dark master, then that might make sense. But they have been brainwashed into the world of Mooncaster, so couldn’t some power have intervened against that?
And then the third disturbing concept is this: if Jesus did get into Mooncaster, why does he have to be bound by the ‘terms and conditions’ of the place? Are we saying that Jesus / the Nazarene / The Prophet / the Good Shepherd has less power than the evil forces in this world? (Contrast this, for instance, with the Narnia books, where it is made very clear that Aslan is always more powerful than the White Witch, even if she’s allowed to get away with her eternal winter scheme for quite a few years.)
There are very few Christians I recommend this trilogy to, for fear of how they will take it. After all, if Harry Potter is questionable in some circles, what are they going to make of a series where a Satanic book takes over the world and a kid is asked to literally kill Jesus to get his girlfriend back? I’d rather not go there!
Having said that, I feel very much that Robin writes the stories that he wants to tell. I doubt that he was too worried about Christian groups and how they might react. (I suspect they would have had problems with The Dark Portal, let alone the whole Longinus’ Spear stuff from The Raven’s Knot. So if he was going to draw heat, he already would have done so.) Also, in the same way that he has drawn on many ancient myths to spin his tales, why not draw on current religions as well?
And so from that perspective, reading this again after a few years, the concept becomes more interesting. First time I read it, as I said, I was horrified at the idea that Jesus could be put under the power of Mooncaster like this. But thinking about it now, it actually makes me realise that that was how the story of Christ was viewed in the early days anyway.
For centuries before Christ, Judaism had foretold of a Messiah, and people expected it to be a conquering king with a mighty display of power. When instead the Messiah turned out to be a guy who wandered around talking to fishermen and arguing with the keepers of his own religion, who then managed to get himself killed in his early 30s, it really didn’t sound like a convincing portrait of a powerful God-man at all.
And if that had been the end of the story, it would probably have been a pretty feeble tale. However, it instead became a story of resurrection that captured the imagination of the world for the next 2,000 years. What looked like weakness at the time was in fact the grand plan all along.
So the idea of the Good Shepherd being bound by certain curses – like the weakness of being able to be killed by the Castle Creeper – in exchange for entering into Mooncaster, now sounds more possibly like he allowed that to happen, rather than something that was done to him. In which case, it’s possible that the Dawn Prince and his crew have underestimated the trouble they are in. Or maybe they do know, and that’s why they need Lee more than he realises.
Either way, can you think of many other YA books that raise questions on this level?