Happy Monday, Reader Friends!
I hope you kept toasty warm over the cold weekend. We dropped below 0 in real feel temps here in northern Virginia. Is it too early to ask for spring to come? Anywho, I’ve joined Singing Librarian Books tour to bring you my review for The Uncloaked Trilogy. It’s a MUST. READ!! Let’s get started!
About the Books
From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.
About the Author
J. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.
SLB: What intrigues you to write science fiction dystopian YA fiction?
J. Rodes: Funny that. I never dreamed that I would write dystopian. Ever. I like the genre—The Giver is one of my favorites—but I couldn’t see myself writing it, until one day I did.
I like dystopian because it opens up new possibilities in writing. You can play out a “what if” storyline that goes to an extreme and do it in a way that captures a whole different kind of reality. For example, in The Giver, we discover through an extreme society that we think is impossible, but that Lois Lowry paints in crisp (black and white) life, that life is too multifaceted to invoke sameness. We’re too unique. Emotions are too precious. Experiences are too vivid and valuable to override for the sake of unity. In other words, we discover equality and fairness aren’t the same, and we can’t contrive forced unity. The human experience is simply too complex, and what is required to forsake in the name of sameness isn’t worth the cost. I can’t imagine delivering this concept in a better way than in through Lowry’s dystopian world.
Perhaps it’s that unique story power that is possible through a dystopian that intrigues me the most. Teach a lesson with facts, and I’m likely to forget. Show me with a compelling story, and I’m gonna remember it for the rest of my life. Somehow dystopian accomplishes that goal in a way that other genres seem to fall short. Not always, but often. Especially with a young adult audience.
SLB: What is your current WIP? What can you tell us about it?
J. Rodes: Haha! Well, right now I’m working on a fun chicklit romance. 😊 Quite a diversion from a dark dystopian trilogy, isn’t it?
I’ve finished the rough draft for Evergreen—the final book in the Grace Revealed series (Blue Columbine, Red Rose Bouquet), which is Women’s Fiction. Now I’m working on a light, fun novella set to hit the world on Valentine’s day. I can tell you that The Cupcake Dilemma is quirky, fun, and about a kitchen fail girl finding her place in the small town of Rock Creek (the setting of Reclaimed and Ordinary Snowflakes). It is a total departure from my more serious books, but hopefully you’ll still find my touch of emotion and genuine characters—this time through humor rather than tears.
I have an idea rolling around in the back of my head for another young adult novel—though not dystopian. I’d like to flesh out So-J, one of the secondary characters in Evergreen (she was also in Red Rose Bouquet), and give her her own story. It’ll be at least a year though, because I have other projects scheduled. 😉
SLB: If you were to go on a vacation to visit one of the characters from this series, what character would you visit and why?
J. Rodes: Hmmm… not sure going to see any of these characters in their world would be a “vacation.” But I would so very much like to see the world as it shifts into Eliza’s vision post-Progressive Party’s rule. She sees, in the place of her worst nightmares, a place of healing and forgiveness, a work that is beyond immediate comprehension, but she believes is possible because she experiences it in her own heart. Eliza’s vision is profound—and something that I borrowed from Betsy ten Boom as she envisioned her place of imprisonment during World War II transformed into a place of hope and healing. What a sight that would be. Someday…
SLB: What inspired the idea for the Uncloaked Trilogy?
J. Rodes: A dream. Not kidding. I dreamt it one night—book one, that is, and started writing it the next day. The other two books weren’t as easy to visualize—I had to work a lot harder for those stories. Much of my inspiration came from researching how Christians survived during the times of Roman persecution, and then from digging into details from World War II, which I’m sure is evident throughout the books. I read and then listened to Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place—which still makes me weep—and then sat back in awe at the ten Boom’s solid faith and surrender to Christ. Talk about courage. And love. And forgiveness.
I wanted those characteristics manifested in the story line, and they came mostly through Eliza. But also, I wanted a hero that wasn’t always heroic, who was ordinary—and actually, even a failure at some points. That came through Braxton. I’ve found that some of my readers really couldn’t stand Braxton—they were so mad at him for his decisions and failures. But I keep thinking back to the disciple Peter…
Can God still use a sellout? Yeah. Peter will tell you, God totally can, and He does. That’s the heart of the story there—not that my heroes have anything super “special” about them. No extraordinary gifts. They can’t walk through walls, fire a bow and arrow like no one else ever has, or fight off the enemy with their brute strength and cunning metal powers. They’re everyday people. Kids. Making choices—sometimes good, sometimes bad. But when the darkness falls, and no one knows what to do, there is God. That’s where they find their footing, where their courage is drawn, and where the story begins to turn. Where we find hope, and we dare to dream of things that are otherwise impossible. Because there is God.
SLB: What do you want readers to take away from reading the Uncloaked Trilogy?
J. Rodes: Um, see above. 😉
SLB: When you are not writing, what other “hats” do you wear?
J. Rodes: Taxi cab driver, mostly. Oh, wife. Mom to four awesome kids (thus the taxi cab driver). Teacher (Sunday school, AWANA, and subbing in our public schools). Friend.
Book 1: Oh. My. Wow!
One of the things I love about the dystopian genre is the strength of faith. This genre causes you to self-examine yourself and your beliefs. In The Uncloaked, author J. Rodes hits that out the park.
Y’all, I highlighted so many lines in the story (yay for eBooks), that I’m sure it looks like I just highlighted the entire book. Seriously, there are that many lines that make you think. Make you grapple for reality, because it’s fiction, but it’s so much more.
I cannot toot Ms. Rodes’ horn or laud the awesomeness of this book enough. It’s targeted for YA group and dystopian lovers. In my opinion, this is a book for the generations. A book that will have you questioning your loyalty to the great I Am and searching for your resolve if ever faced with persecution.
This book is The Left Behind Series and a twist of today’s climate (in my opinion). I will be shocked and amazed if people do NOT like this book.
Book 2: J. Rodes’ writing is so phenomenal! It goes deep into the soul, searching for weeds and replacing it with the seeds of God’s truth. In Tearing the Veil, Ms. Rodes explores a very difficult topic: apathy. As one portion in the novel puts it, “Doing nothing is still a decision.”
Tearing the Veil picks up from The Uncloaked, following Braxton and Hannah. Braxton shows us what happens when you face the consequences of your decision. Do you continue the path because you believe you’re too far gone or do you make the right decision?
And Hannah. Hannah has no desire to listen to those who are wiser around her. Frankly, I wanted to shake Hannah a time or two…or three…okay a lot. However, by the time the ending rolled around, I sympathized with her and was sad this book had come to a close.
Book 3: Sigh, it’s over and I don’t know what to do now. The Uncloaked series started so fiercely and entrenched my heart so quickly that now I’m wondering what I should do. Not with my reading time, because there are always books to read, but with the questions this book raises.
“What will you do with what you believe?”
It’s a powerful question. One I’m not yet sure I have a complete answer to. This whole series has tugged at my belief system and caused me to think. But Charging the Darkness is different than the others. We get to see life through Eliza’s eyes (aka her pov). Y’all, it’s heart wrenching and powerful all at once.
Her fight to get back to the light is tough and one that kept me turning the pages. Plus, there were some shockers in here. Like put the book down shockers. Thankfully, I recovered enough to continue to the end. And I’m so glad I did.
Charging the Darkness is real. It’s raw. It’s faith.
*These reviews were originally written in 2017.
**I received a free copy from the publisher. These reviews are my own, honest opinion. A review was not required.
Print copies of the books (US only)
E-copies of the books (International)
Audio copies of the books (International)
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