Sharon Hinck writes fantasy and sci-fi all in one with her Restorer series, which was previously published by NavPress. It has now been re-released in an expanded edition by Marcher Lord Press!
Today, I’d like to share my thoughts on the series. Don’t stop reading after that, though–immediately following my review is an interview with Sharon Hinck!
I picked up The Restorer out of sheer curiosity. It’s a soccer-mom-meets-fantasy story, and that, my friends, seemed like an odd combination.
Susan is a wife and mother of four, who finds herself lacking time and space for herself. It’s pushing her into depression. Her husband, Mark, being the fix-it type, builds her a writing room in the attic. Susan goes up to her new private space expecting a little peace and quiet in which to write in her journal. What she gets is a portal to another world–one where she becomes “The Restorer.”
The Verses of this land say that a Restorer will come at times of need, to lead the people back to the Verses, which are analogous to our Christian Bible.
As unexpected as Susan’s adventures were to her, my love for this series was unexpected to me. I assumed it was going to read like chick lit, or be a failed attempt at “real” fantasy. I was so wrong. Actually, there are science fiction elements woven into the fantasy–all braided together seamlessly. There are even touches of romance.
The story is deep and gritty. Yet the writing is graceful. Scripture is integral to the plot, and while the Christian message is overt, I not once felt preached at. Sharon Hinck’s characterization skills are strong. The plot is well-laid out, and the world-building vivid. The ending of the first book is a bit of a cliff-hanger, but the first story does come to a satisfying close–Sharon merely opens the door for the next adventure. She does the same thing between The Restorer’s Son (book two) and The Restorer’s Journey (the third and final book).
I highly recommend this series for fantasy lovers, sci-fi lovers, and those that tend to read mainstream. You just can’t go wrong with this one.
Sharon Hinck writes “stories for the hero in all of us,” about ordinary people experiencing God’s grace in unexpected ways. Known for their authenticity, emotional range, and spiritual depth, her novels include contemporary fiction such as The Secret Life of Becky Miller or Stepping into Sunlight and the groundbreaking Sword of Lyric fantasy series which includes The Restorer–Expanded Edition. She’s been a Christy finalist and won three Carol awards.
Sharon’s undergrad degree is in education, and she earned an M.A. in Communication. When she isn’t wrestling with words, Sharon enjoys speaking to conferences, retreats, and church groups. She loves interacting with visitors at her website and blog: sharonhinck.com
Yes, I’ve always been a fan of both fantasy and sci-fi. My bookshelves are full of both. But I also love the more lean and natural voice of contemporary fiction. So I began to explore if I could create a fantastical story but use a modern voice. I also found that many classic fantasies created a pseudo-Middle-Ages type world. I wondered what new twist I could bring to the genre, and whether I could create a story world where the technology wasn’t like our world from centuries past, but very different – where science and inventions developed in different directions, in part based on the geography, climate, etc. Creating the world, extrapolating the sorts of transportation, communication, and tools the Restorer world had and didn’t have was a fun challenge. However, a more difficult challenge was keeping track of the figures of speech that wouldn’t occur for the characters. Since they never saw sunlight and shifting shadows, they didn’t measure time in the same way…so a character from Restorer world wouldn’t use a phrase like, “in a minute,” or “my heart stopped for a second.” It’s also amazing how much of our imagery and metaphors revolve around sun, moon, stars, or climate changes, storms, ice, and snow, or flame and fire. The consistent weather in the world on the other side of the portal ruled out a lot of the first metaphors that popped into my mind as I was writing. I also ran into plot challenges since the lack of written language made sharing information between characters more difficult.
Beyond the unusual worlds and epic battles, I’ve begun to realize that my favorite part of reading a fantasy or sci-fi novel is the characters. Even in alternate worlds, characters grapple with doubts and fears, yearn for love and meaning, and seek to make sense of their journey. I tried to focus on developing characters that readers could relate to, no matter how odd some of the external surroundings, geo-politics, or culture might be.
What was it like developing new material for this new edition?
I loved these stories and characters so much that it was a treat to revisit the world beyond the attic. It was fun playing with scenes from new angles and exploring other character voices. The interactive devotion guide was rewarding to write, because it helped me dig deeply into the Biblical themes that inspired elements of the books.
How did you decide what bonus elements to add?
It was important to me that people would feel that it was worth the investment to own The Restorer-Expanded Edition, even if they had a copy of the original edition. I drew from all the mail I’ve gotten from readers about these books and created the things that I felt would do the most to enhance their experience of The Restorer.
Since many readers share that the spiritual themes had a big impact on them, I created the devotion guide to show the foundation of those themes – and also to give more glimpses into the way that Susan Mitchell is loosely inspired by Deborah in the book of Judges. The Bible study and journaling and prayers allow readers to go on their own spiritual adventure as they are reading the novel.
I also had fun creating new scenes from the perspective of minor characters. Since the book is in Susan’s first person point of view, it was fun giving other characters like Wade, Tara, Kieran, Nolan, and Tristan a voice. My publisher had suggested including “deleted scenes,” but anything that had been deleted from the original manuscript when the book was first published needed to be deleted. So writing fresh material from a new slant seemed like the way to go. I hope it’s as fun for readers as bonus material on a DVD is for me.
We also tried something innovative in using QR codes so that people with smart phones can hover over the symbol and go to a page to heart the music of a song in the story, or read a recipe for a meal that is described in the book.
Besides an entertaining read, what do you hope people experience in The Restorer-Expanded Edition?
God can use ordinary people in unexpected ways. I truly believe that many women live lives of quiet heroism – whether their battleground is caring for aging parents, raising a child with a disability, fighting a long-term illness, volunteering at their church, or supporting a friend through difficulty. My hope is that Susan’s adventure in an alternate world breathes inspiration into anyone feeling that the road has been difficult in his or her world.
Thanks, Sharon! Where can people find the book?
To order The Restorer-Expanded Edition:
I remember getting The Restorer on a recommendation from a friend. Both of us were teenagers who really couldn’t relate to Susan real well, but we LOVED the series. Sharon Hinck is the author responsible for introducing me to the first-person pov and teaching me to love it. 🙂
Well, I read the series as a mom, so I could totally relate. But that was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why I loved the books. And she does do the first person pov rather well, doesn’t she? 🙂
This sounds like a really clever read! I’m glad that it’s available for Nooks as well. Thanks Kat for posting the interview.
Thanks for stopping by, Sharon! Loved the interview.
The bonus elements sound great. I love the idea of a Bible study component to a novel. Oh, man…I may just give myself a really big assignment now. 😉