Considering Noblebright

I’ve been considering the books I like to read and write lately, and how to connect with authors who also read and write the same things I do. As I’ve been sniffing around the internet, I happened across this Noblebright term. This is the official definition:

Noblebright fantasy is about how hope, courage, integrity, generosity, and kindness are not silly, pointless, and naive, but rather courageous choices that make the world a better place. Actions have consequences, and even good characters can make terrible mistakes, but in a noblebright story, even villains are not without hope. Redemption is possible, and justice is expected. Noblebright stories remind us that good is worth fighting for.

-C.J. Brightley

Apparently, it was started to help readers to find hopeful, moral epic fantasy just when the market was being flood with grimdark Game of Thrones copycats.


a type of fantasy fiction with characters who behave in ways that are morally bad and a subject matter that is sad, hopeless, or violent.


Incidentally, Christian fanfiction writers on is doing the same thing with the Salt and Light tag. I was happy to see this and immediately added it to my own work. has a list of authors whose books fit this profile. They don’t necessarily have to be Christians, but their books tend to embrace a Judeo-Christian worldview: namely that good is rewarded, evil is punished, and virtue, nobility, peace, and justice are real things and they are worth fighting for.

I’ve been hanging around other authors whose books fit this profile, namely Shari Branning, JC Joiner, H.L. Burke, Marc Secchia, and others. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying Clean Fiction Magazine, an indie magazine that reviews clean books in the general market to new adult age bracket. At last, an escape from the all-encompassing Young Adult scourge! I’m currently making my way through a nice little book called Grimkeeper that I found in the magazine, and I’ll be buying back issues to get more recommendations.

As I’ve gotten older, I find that I’ve aged out a lot of popular tropes in the fantasy market, and Christian fantasy in particular. For instance, I am 40 years old and I don’t want to read about high school anymore. I don’t mind reading about teens, just … don’t make me go back to cliques and mean girls and jocks, as well as all the other tired old stereotypes (“They call me a freak because I’m different from them”). I don’t want to read about people who doubt their faith. (“OMG God must not exist because he allowed that fairy to take away my magic!”) (Bonus points if this person is a burned-out pastor, which for some reason is a staple of contemporary Christian fiction.)

I want to read people who are grounded in their faith and stick to their principles no matter what. This means they don’t sleep around, they fight for what’s right and just and true. They get smacked down a lot, but they triumph in the end, because Good is ultimately rewarded and Evil is ultimately punished. (Especially the not sleeping around. I can’t tell you how many otherwise moral characters I’ve read who are so promiscuous you have to wonder if the author realizes how broken their worldview is.)

This isn’t really that difficult of a list of requirements. Heroism and virtue used to be a staple of adventure fiction, whether the heroes traveled via dragon or spaceship (or both!). But it’s surprisingly hard to find, even among nominally Christian authors. I’ve been trying to get back into reading more fiction, since I kind of fell off the bandwagon in the past few years. Seems like everything I tried to read was something I’d read a thousand times before. And not like … just a well-done trope. If you give me a good rendition of the Chosen One or the Prophecy or Arranged Marriage or the Super Secret Magic Power, I’ll read it all day. But most of them aren’t executed very well.

So I started trying to find specific authors who shared similar views as I did, and tried to work them into their fiction. Patrick Carr is one such author who succeeds in permeating his books with not only a Christian worldview (good is rewarded, evil is punished), but takes time to chew on philosophical arguments like “if God is good, why does evil exist?”

I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of what’s out there, so I’ve been very thankful for Clean Fiction Magazine for lending a hand. They’re a new magazine with only four issues out on Amazon, but each issue is nice and thick with reviews in lots of genres. It kind of reminds me of what Reader’s Digest used to be, back when it featured, you know, stuff from books, and not women’s magazine slop. They got onto my radar when they reviewed Song of the Rose, and the next issue will also feature a review of Sanctuary. Fingers crossed that Blade and Staff for Hire makes it into the summer issue!

With a bunch of authors going back to blogging and beginning to drift away from social media, I’d like to join arms with them and help them out. Looking at you, JJ Johnson! I’m still thinking about how to do that, but maybe together we can start carving out a community of ex-social media people who just want to read a good book.

Blade and Staff for Hire – a throwback to adventure fantasy

My latest book Blade and Staff for Hire launches this week, and I’m so excited to share it with you all!

Bayan Avanar is a warrior of whom the bards sing. He travels the lands, seeking his promised bride and slaying monsters with a fiery spellblade.

After two years of searching, Bayan arrives in sunny Leon and at last finds clues pointing to the girl he has only seen in visions. Accompanied by a young half-elf healer Charles Whitmore, who joins him in his quest for a wife, Bayan must confront the monsters in his path if he is to rescue the girl of his dreams. 

Kesara Francesa has dreamed of her dark warrior for months and is terrified that he brings her death. But this dark warrior is her only hope, for her time is running out: on Midsummer’s Night she is to be sacrificed to raise an ancient god. Only Bayan Avanar, legendary warrior, can save her now.

Contains: No smut, soulmates, best friends, bros on a road trip, damsel in distress, ghouls, wyverns, evil sorceress, evil werewolves, friendly centaurs, setting is Fantasy Spain.

Available in most online bookstores!

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but most fantasy has gone from being action adventure with guys and strong friendships to being:

  • Girrrl power
  • Too heavy on romance
  • Grimdark
  • Hopeless
  • Not funny
  • Like seriously, let these characters crack a joke

So I set out to write the kind of fantasy I wanted to read. I wanted to read about a warrior and his healer sidekick on a quest … but not to save the world. They’re on a quest for wives. Bayan has visions of the girl the gods intend for him, while Charles is just out to marry the most beautiful girl in Leon. Along the way, they fight monsters and an evil sorceress, and bring along another mage who is a total magic nerd. There are wisecracks. There is peril and more wisecracks. My beta readers asked for a sequel at once. My editor said “it’s like a more wholesome Witcher”.

So if you’d like to read something light, instead of the grimdark that plagues the genre, this might be the book for you. Available on most stores!

Book review: The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

You ever read a book that sticks in your mind as being full of shining things? I know this is an older book, but … gosh, this book did things to my mind.

First off, it’s the sequel to the Eagle of the Ninth. Eagle is a story about a young Roman centurion whose father was part of the Ninth Legion, which marched away into the north of Britain and never returned. He sets out on a quest to find the eagle of the Ninth, which was the legion’s standard, and in the hands of the Britons, could be turned into a dangerous magic talisman against Rome. He’s accompanied by his slave turned best friend, Esca, a Briton who knows the tribes and languages. It’s a total bromance book and was great fun.

A friend told me that the Silver Branch’s main character is basically my character Jayesh from my After Atlantis books. Curious, I picked it up and started reading.

The Roman province of Britannia, 292 AD

Justin is an introverted, awkward young military surgeon. His family line, Aquila, has been connected to Britannia for two hundred years, but he has never set foot there till now. A Celtic leader named Curoi, called Carausius in Latin, has declared himself emperor of Britannia and the northern part of Gaul; he has gained temporary recognition from actual Emperor Maximian in honor of Carausius’ sea victories. (By now, the Roman Empire has become a Tetrarchy).

Justin is immediately befriended by a red-headed soldier named Flavius—who turns out to be his cousin, Marcellus Flavius Aquila, direct descendant of Marcus from The Eagle of the Ninth. Flavius is thrilled to meet a kinsman from the Continental branch of the family, and both lads live at the ancestral homestead Marcus and Cottia built when they’re not in the barracks.

One of those whom Justin heals in the infirmary is Evicatos, an exiled Hibernian (Irish) warrior. Cases like his demonstrate Justin’s skills as a doctor and bring him, and his inseparable cousin, to the notice of Carausius himself.

But when Justin and Flavius witness an apparent act of treachery by Carausius’ minister of finance, Allectus, the world as they know it is upended. It’s up to these two, their dignified great-aunt Honoria, Evicatos, a Hibernian jester, an idealistic Centurion, a fussy little man and the boy he rescued from slavery, a washed-up former gladiator, and a small group of elderly farmhands to restore order in Britannia… (Summary from a Goodreads review because the official summary on Amazon is trash)

Anyway, the book is more or less a cloak and dagger spy novel from about chapter 5 onward, with nailbiting tension as Justin and Flavius constantly watch for spies and shadows … And maybe it’s the writing that got to me. The way it’s written paints vivid pictures in your mind.

Everyone’s attention was turned toward the Emperor, who was at that moment preparing to pour the second Libation to the gods. Everyone, that is, save Justin and Allectus. For some unknown reason, Justin had glanced again at Allectus; and Allectus was watching the moth. The moth was circling wildly nearer and nearer to one of the lamps which stood directly before the Finance Minister, its blurred shadow flashing about the table as it swooped and spun in dizzy spirals about the bright and beckoning flame, closer and closer, until the wild, ecstatic dance ended in a burst of shadows, and the moth spun away on singed wings, to fall with a pitiful, maimed fluttering close beside Allectus’s wine-cup. And Allectus, smiling faintly, crushed out its life under one deliberate finger. That was all. Anybody would crush a singed moth—it was the obvious, the only thing to do. But Justin had seen the pale man’s face as he watched the dancing moth, waiting for it to dance too near, seen it in the unguarded instant as he stretched out the precise forefinger to kill.

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

So yeah, I was expecting the cloak and dagger stuff. I wasn’t expecting it to tie into Eagle of the Ninth so beautifully.

Justin had complete faith from the first that the Eagle was what Flavius had guessed it to be, but if he had doubts, they would have left him that night as he worked in the sinking firelight with the soft sou’wester filling the night outside. The thing was strangely potent under his hands. What things it must have seen–bitter and dark and glorious things–this maimed bird of gilded bronze that was the life and honour of a lost Legion. And now, he thought, it must feel that the old days were back. Again there came to him as he worked that sense of kinship with the young soldier who had made a home in this downland valley, the young soldier who surely had brought the lost Eagle of a lost Legion home to its own people, so that Eagle and farm were linked, and it was fitting that the ancient Standard should go out from here to its last fight. The feeling of kinship was so strong that when, just as they had finished their task, someone loomed into the open doorway, he looked up almost expecting to see the other Marcus standing there with the windy dark behind him.

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff

There were so many moments like this that just kind of get into your head. But what I was not expecting was that finale, as the heroes fight to save their town from rampaging Saxons. Justin goes from bandaging wounds to fighting with sword and shield and back to tending the wounded. There’s a part where he’s sitting with a dying man as the building is burning down around them, telling him that the roar of the flame is really the crowd cheering for him … and I’m getting choked up just remembering it.

Anyway, yeah, this is a good book. And all the book covers try to make out that the Silver Branch is a sword. That’s because apparently nobody who ordered the covers had read the book. The Silver Branch is this odd little instrument like a harp, except it has bells instead of strings. It becomes this running symbol throughout the book, the silver branch with its bells, vs the night moth …

Go grab it on Amazon! It’s also on if you don’t mind reading crummy scanned versions.