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Path of Angels (Underground) (Volume 1) Paperback – June 3, 2017
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I have long been watching the disrespect for Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular here in the United States. During the past few years there has been outright hostility toward the Church from certain groups. If you haven't read about the Little Sisters of the Poor being sued by the government for following the tenets of their faith, please look it up.
The above is why Dawn Witzke's debut novel is an important contribution to the culture. The premise is certainly sound. Religion being outlawed is nothing new. Being a child of the Cold War taught me that it's not impossible for religion to be suppressed when the wrong people come to power.
And it takes only two or three generations for a former culture to fade from memory once it is gone.
But Path of Angels deals with the Church. Any Catholic with a strong faith and rudimentary knowledge of history knows that the Church is here to stay until Christ decides to come back to this world and settle up. No man or secular power on earth can hope to stamp it out. There will always be dissidents in any totalitarian regime, and those of the Catholic Faith will find a way to keep Christ's commandment celebrate the Mass.
Witzke's world in Path of Angels describes these rebels in vivid detail. The characters are interesting, and their adventures will keep readers turning pages, all while making them consider the possibility of another Great Persecution of the Church.
We have freedom of religion here in America. Let's keep it that way.
All in all, a fun read, good characters, and the action both physical and spiritual never stops. It reminds me a little of two very different authors' works - Jagi Lamplighter and Robert Hugh Benson. Both these authors are very successful in very different ways at portraying the inner workings of their characters' minds and souls. Witzke is likewise able to describe how things look to a 17 year old girl trying hard to be good in a world set up as an attractive slip-n-slide to evil. Everywhere, her world is ready with both pleasures and pains to push you down the wrong path. Benson derives his force by austere and deep insights into three different souls. Lamplighter puts her lead characters in fantasy world's emotional and spiritual blender where decisions good and bad have to be made with never enough time or calm. Witzke put her heroine on a journey paced more like real life, with decisions big and small coming at the most awkward and dangerous times. All three capture an essential truth: we can only find our true selves in this world when we are not of this world.
If you had to categorize it - and you don't - this would be a distopian YA story with a twist: it's full of virtue, hope and heroism by characters who - gasp! - are Christians. This short (199 pp - in the range of all those 1950's Heinlein books!) stands all those Post Apocalyptic Preludes I was on about on their heads: After the end of the world as we know it, religion is outlawed because nobody would ever fight and steal and murder and bully if it weren't for religion. Religion here meaning, of course, not atheistic communism (100 M murders and counting) nor Islam (14 centuries of uninterrupted bloody conquest, slaughter and slavery) but Christianity, specifically Catholicism, which, while hardly violence free, pales in comparison to those last two. Hey, it's just history.
Back to the book. The characters are hardly goodie-two-shoes. The book opens with some rather shocking violence in the name of Christ - understandable as you read the story, but hardly cricket. As the book progresses, Aadi and Mischa, two young people living under an atheist regime in a partly ruined world, are given a task: bring a relic of Mother Theresa to a priest in a distant town. After many adventures and narrow escapes, and seeing both friends and foes suffer horrible fates, they reach their destination, only to run into their greatest spiritual threat so far. They suffer temptations like those suffered by our teenage children (of all ages) and even fail - but that doesn't destroy their faith or make them surrender to evil.
The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, because you strongly suspect that they're not getting away *that* easy! But the story stands.
If you decide to give it to your kids to read, be advised: there are some scenes that will make anybody under, say, 15 or 16 blush. They're done tastefully enough, but I'm just thinking how *I* would have blushed reading these scenes to my kids, and - no.
So, good book. Yard Sale of the Mind says: check it out.
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