The Story King

Reviewed by:

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


The Story King (The Sunlit Lands #3)


Matt Mikalatos



Publication Date:

June 8, 2021




448 pages


Darius has a problem. Some of his friends (and their mother) have disappeared into the Sunlit Lands, another world which he’s not fully certain how to get back to. Meanwhile, in the Sunlit Lands, his friends are faced with the fact that powers are shifting and they may not be as safe as they think. In fact, a new ruler is rising whose plans are quite simple: kill an entire race, and anyone who stands against him. Will the ragtag team find some way to overcome, or will a dark new age envelop the Sunlit Lands?

This reviewer is not familiar with the previous two books, so there won’t be any discussion on how it compares to the rest of the series. The plot certainly builds on past events, so it is necessary to read the previous books to fully understand the continuity. Even without that background though, this book is highly enjoyable. A Kirkus review on the book’s cover describes it as Narnia with more snark, and you can certainly see that comparison. Like Narnia, the plot is about a fantasy world outside our universe, which apparently kids can enter but adults cannot. There are also references to a character who seems to be a Christ figure, someone presenting a radically new message of how to live. However, the author avoids the easy path of making this story a Narnia homage or spoof, which is just as well. So many Narnia-esque fantasy novels have come out over the years, the market has become over-saturated. Anyone writing in that vein has to come up with something truly special to get past the cliché. Gordon Greenhill’s Fight of the Sky Cricket is a rare book that pulls that off, mainly through meta-humor and a playful tone – he knows he’s riffing on Narnia, the audience knows, and he invites them to have fun with that.

Here, we’ve got a story that feels a bit like Narnia at first (one character even references the Narnia books), but it quickly becomes clear that this fantasy world is unique. Instead of dense forests, fantasy creatures from Greco-Roman and Anglo-Saxon lore, this story takes place in what appears to be a desert location, with court intrigues and storytelling sages with names like Mother Crow. These elements suggest a mix of Middle Eastern and indigenous North American cultures. Imagine Frank Herbert’s Dune without the psychedelics, with a little of the courtliness of One Thousand and One Nights. It’s a fascinating world, and with its interesting characters, you get a story that makes its influences clear but is very much its own thing. It’s also a great example of how to cultivate a fantasy world that isn’t just based on Western tradition, but also doesn’t appropriate other traditions for the sake of it. Fantasy based on African folklore (or “Afrofantasy”) has opened up interesting discussions about writing fantasy with a global (or at least not exclusively Western) flavor. This book brings something new to the table and makes the world fully realized, showing the possibilities for new flavors of fantasy.

Overall, this story plays on tropes but transforms them, cultivating a distinct voice and a great story.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Suggested audience

Readers interested in fantasy stories involving alternate worlds and travel, with an emphasis on unique world-building.

Christian impact

The story puts a high emphasis on the allure of evil and the struggle to fight against it, as well as the problem of admitting long-held secrets and exposing truths that will result in losing power.

The Story King (The Sunlit Lands, #3)

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