Vision (Blaze Series #3)

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Vision (Blaze Series #3)

Author:

Hope Bolinger

Publisher:

Illuminate YA (an Iron Stream Media imprint)

Publication Date:

August 10, 2021

Format:

Paperback

Length:

296 pages

OVERVIEW

Danny Belte was close to finding out who had caused his friends’ deaths and what was behind the sinister events at King’s Academy. Now he’s been placed in a psychiatric hospital, allegedly unstable and suicidal. His attempts to show his own sanity seem to just convince the staff he needs more help. More worrying, despite the fact almost everyone he meets is supposed to be a temporary patient… none of them seem to leave.

This series is modeled off the Book of Daniel, and the conclusion was always going to be the big challenge. Book two ended right before the “Daniel in the lion’s den” episode and the prophetic visions which conclude the Book of Daniel. The lion’s den story is quite popular, but Christians don’t talk much about the visions, and there’s no narrative thru-line connecting those two sections together. The fact both sections consist mainly of Daniel by himself presents another narrative challenge. Perhaps most challenging, because Bolinger took a thriller approach to the story, she had to make this a fitting conclusion to the series. Something pretty spectacular had to cap it all off.

Fortunately, Bolinger finds some ingenious ways to balance these elements. She leans into the idea of Danny being alone, setting most of the book in a psychiatric hospital. Since the previous books were set in a darkly manipulative private school, this takes the series to its logical conclusion. On some level, the story of Danny Belte and his friends was always about heroes in a prison-like environment, monitored and stalked by forces with dark intentions. A psychiatric hospital setting lets Bolinger bring that theme into the open. The sense that Danny Belte is Hitchcock’s kind of hero, an innocent man thrown into a claustrophobic space he can’t escape, has never been clearer.

The setting also creates an interesting reversal from outward to inward. Blaze and Denhave some great set pieces, but Vision explores Danny’s mind more than anything else. Even if he wasn’t having visions of the future, being stuck in a psych ward would raise existential doubt and concerns about reality versus perception. The fact that Bolinger makes the psych ward feel real, with the way it’s being misused sounding plausible, helps to further these themes. A psych ward that sounds under-researched would feel cliché or ridiculous pretty fast, undercutting the tension. The sense that this psych ward could exist somewhere makes Danny’s questions about whether he’s lost his mind feel real. Sometimes it’s what feels real rather than outsized, what takes place inward rather than outward, that’s truly frightening.

In terms of plot, Bollinger does a great job of weaving elements from previous books into the story, and delivers a truly compelling payoff. Things that seemed insignificant in earlier books prove to be shocking and vital. Characters who didn’t seem connected turn out to have something in common… and the price for finding that commonality may be too high. Because Vision puts Danny’s isolation on center stage, Bolinger is able to discuss hope and resiliency in some very compelling ways. It’s one thing to wonder about having hope when one has resources, another when one is really isolated. The sense of despair has never been stronger, which forces Danny to consider what he believes in. Consequently, the eventual discovery of God’s help doesn’t just provide relief, it gives readers something to chew on.

Overall, this was an excellent end to the trilogy. The writing is as good as ever, the suspense is calculated to maximum effect, and the characters are as interesting as ever.

A deeply satisfying conclusion to a standout series.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Suggested Audience

Fans for Christian Young Adult fiction, psychological thrillers, and retellings of the Book of Daniel.

Christian Impact

This book is based on the latter part of the Book of Daniel, including the story of “Daniel in the lion’s den.” The book particularly highlights the theme of isolation, which is important to the lion’s den story but often overlooked. Sunday school depictions of the story usually focus more on Daniel coming out of the den (some illustrations even show him playing with the lions). Often, people miss the fact that Daniel was alone the whole time he was in the lion’s den. By bringing that point home, Bolinger underscores how the last chapters of Daniel are about what we hold on to when all externals are stripped away.

Note: Readers who want to understand the full story will need to read the previous two books in the series first. To read ECLA’s reviews of those books, go to:

Vision: If you want to stay sane, don't remember (The Blaze Trilogy)


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