Steven James’ “Quest for Celestia” is a wonderfully imaginative re-imagined version of John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”
The hero, Kadin, aka the new Christian, sets out on a quest for the salvation and new life that can be found in the kingdom of Celeste, aka Heaven. It is an allegorical story of the journey or struggle that Christians take throughout their lives.
The great thing about James’ book is that it comes across as a fantasy story. I would not have made the connection with “The Pilgrim’s Progress” on my own. Knowing that allegorical meaning behind the story adds another layer on top, but the story stands by itself.
It was hard for me to get through the first few chapters before Kadin set out on his quest. It might have been the stiff, formal POV or the pacing. However, I knew that everything would probably pick up once the Hero accepted the Call to Adventure.
And boy was I right! I couldn’t seem to put this book down. Every turn was filled with a new adventure: from a swamp that tried to swallow Kadin whole, to huntsmen that tried to trap the new believer and a dragon that stood in his path. Despite everything that was happening externally, I knew that the most change was happening internally. The doubts, sins, and hangups that the main characters had to deal with were so real.
If I had to stop to think about it, I could see allegorical cliches start to pop up. That was what the original Pilgrim’s Progess was all about, after all. Just because I felt an emotional connection to Kadin’s journey doesn’t mean I believe everyone will. When taken as a whole though, the protagonist’s adventures blends together into one nice, neat quest for freedom that can be interpreted on several different levels. With this understanding in mind, James didn’t have to work hard to keep me interested. The characters took on a life of their own and I found myself fighting for freedom alongside them.
I would be remiss to not mention that my need for romance did not go unfulfilled. I assume that James added Kadin’s female traveling companion and counterpart, as a way to modernize the tale and reach our to female readers. I don’t care. It was a good move. When the two finally reach the City of Celeste and the King smiles as they dance together in his presence…*FEELS.* I’m not talking romantic comedy butterflies. I’m talking tingles in the heart that almost hurt and make me stop to contemplate the covenant, aka marriage, that I recently entered into in a new light.
Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was deeply meaningful, but definitely higher-end. I didn’t read it for fun, but for perspective. I would venture to say that “Quest for Celestia” is also meaningful and a good substitute for young readers who can’t quite follow the original tale…or those who are truly young at heart. Take this book with a grain of salt, knowing that you will have to view it on different levels to truly find value in it. If you’re not willing to do the work, then you probably won’t enjoy either work of allegory.
“Quest for Celestia” isn’t for everyone. However, if I had young readers in my family, this would be on the list of books that I share with them and then discuss. I think of this as a Ted Dekker novel for young children. In that respect, it’s top notch.
I give this book 7 stars!