Josiah Lewis’ The Sketchbook of Scarlet focuses on brothers Michael and Patrick Kenwood. When a new antique store opens in Peachtree City, Georgia the boys can’t wait to explore inside the shop. On their first visit, Patrick finds a red, leather bound sketchbook which he gives to his older brother, Michael, as a gift. The boys soon discover that the sketchbook is more than what it seems on the outside. Whatever Michael draws in the sketchbook becomes real. Their experiments with the book soon lead them into the land of Scarlet where the boys’ faith, love, honesty, and imagination are tested. The people of Scarlet are under a terrible threat. The old sketchbook, in the right hands, might be the answer to peace. When Michael falls to temptation and uses the sketchbook for his own glory, the balance is offset, and it will take an extreme sacrifice to set the world right again.
The Sketchbook of Scarlet is the first book in a trilogy by Christian author, Josiah Lewis. Lewis is an emerging writer who decided to self-publish this novel through the Kindle store and see if it could find an audience. Lewis, a college friend of mine, asked me to critique the first three chapters of his novel several years ago. Once he finished the story, he sent me an advanced copy and I couldn’t wait to dive into the pages. What I read there was a story rich with the Truth of Christ. Lewis, through his work, shows a clear picture of the beauty of the Gospel and the balm of forgiveness.
Main Character: Michael Kenwood is a bright, intelligent boy with a love for art. He enjoys having adventures with his brother, and even though the boys do not always get along, the reader is sure of their love for one another. Michael endures a coming of age journey in this book. He is lured into believing that he should use the power of the sketchbook for his own good, which leads him to a dark place. He is eventually brought back to the light to become the hero Scarlet needs. His character grows from a place of selfishness to a place of sacrifice over the course of the story.
Good and Evil: There is a clear distinction between good and evil in this story. The book is grounded in the Truth of the Gospel and shows how our actions either bring glory to God or try to bring false glory to ourselves. The author presents a story in which evil tries to masquerade as good but is exposed and defeated by Truth.
Relationships: Romance does not play a role in this story. The book focuses on the relationships between family, friends, and a Christian’s relationship with the Lord. Michael and Patrick grow together as siblings and as friends. When Michael is lost in his own selfishness, it is an act of pure sacrifice that shows him what it truly means to be a friend. The parents in the story are wise and caring. They do their best to teach God’s word and set a good example for their boys.
Magic: The magic of the sketchbook is explored in depth. In the land of Scarlet, there are various magical creatures such as fairies, trolls, dwarves, dragons, and talking animals. There are several conversations about magic in the story, where the author is bringing in his own Christian worldview. The idea is that everything, even the “magic” of the sketchbook is under God’s authority and cannot be independent from Him. At the end of the story, it is the name of Jesus, not faith in magic, which saves the day. The author himself states on his website: “As it has turned out, writing this fantasy hasn’t been escapism. It has helped me encounter what we like to call “real life” in ways I hadn’t before I wrote.” He views fantasy as a way to connect with God and the world around him in a deeper way.
Writing Style: The style of the story is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The descriptions are vivid, and the style is easy to follow. I will say that, at times, the descriptions become a bit muddied, but overall, the style makes the story engaging and enjoyable to read.
Overall Impression: I was impressed by what I found between the pages of Lewis’ debut novel. The story is rich with Christian influence, is fresh, exciting, and has aspects that both children and adults can enjoy. I highly recommend this as a book the whole family can read together. It would make a fantastic “read aloud” story and would be a gateway to uplifting conversations about Christ, family, friendship, and forgiveness.
If you’d like to learn more about the author, and his purpose for writing the story please visit:
A companion article, written by Josiah Lewis, will appear on my Faith and Fantasy blog in the near future.
Alysha V. Mitchell
Alysha is a wife, teacher, and creative writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Covenant College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University. Her love of Story fuels her desire to learn more about her Savior through the medium of the written word. It is her hope to ignite the same passion in others. She believes literature is an incredible medium in which one may explore the underlying current of man’s rebellion and the Creator’s fierce love for his wayward children. Alysha writes atFaith and Fantasy.