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Jeffrey Jones
Keep On Asking

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

He feels like his family is falling apart, their lives wrecked by the car that hit his little brother. His brother in a coma, ten-year-old Josiah Winslow faces the hardest weeks of his life. Little Matty may not survive. If he does, he may have serious brain damage. Praying. That’s what his family is doing, what their church is doing. As Josiah struggles to imagine the power of those prayers, a celestial visitor takes him on a miraculous ride into the realm where petitions rise toward heaven and enemies fight to oppose them. Josiah’s glimpse into the spiritual battle zone inspires his faith. But it also reveals that Matty’s life is in the balance. What if people don’t pray enough? Or don’t have enough faith? What will Josiah do if Matty doesn’t wake up? Keep on Asking is the first book in The Prayer Rider series. What happens when we pray? Why aren’t some prayers answered the way we hope or expect? One family’s experience, one boy’s journey, offers a portal into those mysteries, and hope for those willing to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking.
Prolific Christian novelist Jones, author of the Seeing Jesus series among others, kicks off his Prayer Rider saga with the polished story of a young boy facing a family tragedy but soon learning to soar on the literal power of prayer. With his younger brother in a coma, ten-year-old Josiah experiences a series of fantastic dreams and visions in which beings who seem to be angels teach him about the power of prayer. An inspired early dream likens the act of prayer to knocking on doors that otherwise will never open, but the Josiah also faces moments of terror as angels wielding swords battle the armies of “the enemy.”

That prospect never stops being scary, of course, but Josiah gets a lift when he’s taught, in another of Jones's vivid and appealing visions, that he can “ride” his own prayers, flying with an angel toward heaven. “He wanted to say, ‘The literal heaven,” but that seemed irreverent,’” Jones writes, a line that captures the gently playful child’s perspective that powers Keep on Asking. Grounding the tale of saints and swords is the real-world medical drama of seizures and brain scans, Josiah’s uncertainty that his divine encounters are truly happening, and accounts of Josiah’s family and church community, who prove refreshingly supportive when Josiah reports his experiences.

Readers of Christian fantasy will find much here that’s encouraging and inventive, such as the fundamental link between prayer, faith, and the powers of a Prayer Rider. Especially fruitful is the revelation that different people’s prayers result in different surges of feeling in Josiah as he flies, with his grandfather’s preacher-like prayer for strength in the coming battle seeming almost “predatory” so that riding it he feels “like an eagle surveying its territory.” Unlike too many series openers, Keep on Asking builds to a satisfying conclusion while introducing plenty of possibilities to be explored in later books.

Takeaway: This uplifting kickoff to a Christian adventure series imagines a young Prayer Rider soaring on the power of faith.

Great for fans of: C.S. Johnson, Ian Acheson.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A