Matthew Christian Harding is a man who’s boldly treading into new territory in the young adult fiction marketplace. His debut novel is nearly impossible to pigeon-hold into conventionally established genres. As a result he’s been looking for a descriptive term for his work. Leviathan literature, behemoth books, young earth dragon fiction, creation literature, and speculative historical fiction are some of the labels you’ll find tentatively attached to Foundlings, the first installment in The Peleg Chronicles.
Set at an unspecified date during the biblical days of Peleg — sometime after Noah’s flood, the tower of Babel and the dispersion — Foundlings has little in common with the small selection of historical fiction written that focuses on this time period from a young earth, Bible-believing perspective. Harding blends a thriving feudal society complete with knights, counts, and princesses with the dragons (think dinosaurs), giants, and a cave-dwelling group of men called dwarves with the ongoing attempts of darkness to smother the light. Perhaps the fastest way I can describe it is to say that Foundlings is something akin go Lord of the Rings meets biblical fiction, with no magic, evolution, or humanism thrown into the mix.
If that idea excites you – you’re not alone. As a devoted Christian father, his four young children no doubt inspire Harding; wanting them to have access to noble, God-honoring literature that supports a biblical worldview, he put his own pen to the task. As I share his goals I was almost jumping up and down with excitement when I learned of this new series. Unfortunately, it was some time until I could read it – my husband made off with my copy and wouldn’t relinquish it until he was finished. Then it was passed on to me to read with my little ones at bedtimes.
Lord McDougall is certainly the centerpiece of the series. He’s such a curious character, rather eccentric really, and his shenanigans have left my six-year-old laughing on many occasions. Honorable, God-loving, and noble of character, McDougall is always eager to share his faith with seekers, and lives out a walk with God that will be familiar to many New Testament believers despite its Old Testament setting.
Accompanied by his faithful shield-bearer Fergus Leatherhead, McDougall — a cursed Lord — is swept into one adventure after another. Unable to resist the call to aid those who are in distress, he plunges willy-nilly into the fray, collecting a rag-tag band of followers who have thrown their stakes in with his. Together they rescue maidens, defeat giants, and more – all with McDougall’s seemingly contrary blend of savvy and naiveté.
Much like McDougall’s ambling, awkward frame, Harding’s prose may require some adjustments on the reader’s part. At times it seems almost disjointed or oddly composed, though I can’t quite put my finger on what makes it read differently. Still, we found it to be an enjoyable pleasure read. My husband read it in record time, my six-year-old daughter finding it to be “very, very interesting.”
I, on the other hand, was somewhat puzzled by the lack of a concrete chronology – perhaps I’m simply too analytical. While taking place in the days of Peleg scripture from the Psalms and other books of the Bible which were written at later dates is included in the dialogue of various characters. Job is referred to as a contemporary, and while I'm no expert on Bible chronology, this surprised me. On my personal, internal timeline I have Job slated in at a later date. To be honest, I still haven't shaken a vague feeling of unease that this somewhat mixed-up setting that comes to mind when I think of the story. I simply can't set aside my desire for a concrete date and setting to enjoy the story without such details being firmly in place.
Still, I must applaud Harding's work. It's rare to find an author so dedicated to folding biblical truth within the pages of a good, clean story that honors God and promotes Godly character. Harding left us with a dramatic cliffhanger at Foundling’s end, and our entire family is now eagerly awaiting a new set of adventures for Lord McDougal and his band of motley, faithful comrades. As soon as we turned the last page my daughter asked me when we can find out what happens next. Good question!
Read the first two chapters online for free at Matthew Christian Harding’s website.