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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Arena by Karen Hancock

This is a remarkable allegory of the Christian walk including faith, temptation, surrender, sacrifice, loss or victory.
by Karen Hancock
File Size: 1414 KB
Print Length: 393 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers; 1st edition (July 1, 2012)
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
Genre: Sci Fi, Religious Inspirational
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0

A journey she did not choose will test her courage and change her life forever

When Callie Hayes agreed to participate in a routine psychology research experiment, she had no clue she'd find herself plunged into a terrifying world where a battle rages between good and evil. With limited resources and only a few cryptic words to guide her, she must unravel the mysteries shrouding her only route of escape or risk succumbing to the deadly deception of the Arena.

Multiple-award-winning author Karen Hancock leads readers on a mesmerizing journey as her compelling characters navigate the deadly terrain of a hostile world in this repackage of her acclaimed debut novel.

Callie is living day to day in a quiet life with a dull job, never pushing herself beyond her limited comfort zone. Her family has wealth and tried to get her to attend debutante balls and society parties, but none of that interested her. Callie’s enthusiastic friend, Meg, convinces her to participate in a psychology research experiment for some quick cash. They had no idea how significant the experiment would be and how it would change their lives.

Callie completes the introductory paperwork, changes into the designated clothing and presents herself for testing. The very attractive attendant gives her a back pack which contains a manual and directs her to pay close attention to the briefing and instructions so she can succeed to cross the Arena. Callie has decided she doesn’t want to continue and refuses to attend the briefing. The attendant indicates she has no choice but to go forward and encourages her to attend the briefing. When she continues to refuse, the attendant gives her the merest of instructions, ‘follow the instructions... stay on the white road… avoid the evil creatures… find the gateway out’. Then she finds herself dumped (transported somehow) into a hostile land.

Callie sets out on a white path seeking the gateway to get out. Soon she faces vines that prick her causing welts, mites that bite painfully and other hairy and ugly creatures. Callie moves forward on a pinkish path she thinks is just a dirty continuation of the white path. Just when she thinks she should turn back a ragged, dirty man steps out of the rocks and pulls her away from an attack.

Callie doesn’t want to trust this strange man, Pierce, but she is fearful of the unknown, frightening creatures. She decides that perhaps she will be safer with him until she can get back to the road. Pierce helps battle hairy mutants and foul trogs until they can join up with a small band who has been traveling together. She is dismayed to learn that others, like Pierce, have been in the Arena for years. She intends to read the manual, although others scoff and tell her much of it is illegible, but as she is attempting to stay alive, she allows the manual to be stolen.

From the beginning of the experiment I railed at Callie for failing to attend the briefing and failing to read the manual. Nothing like going into hostile territory totally unprepared and ignoring the instructions that have been provided. And there I began to see the allegory. Men on earth are provided an instruction manual but many choose to ignore it and struggle against one enemy, dangerous setting or deceptive temptation, after another.

I loved the creativity of the story and the clear allegory provided to the parable of the farmer sowing seeds* (Luke 8:5-15) and to the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). And the story goes beyond that to portray a clear picture of the battle of good versus evil, providing insights on self-reliance, faith, taking a rough road or the easier way, falling to or facing down temptations, forgiving oneself and others,overcoming doubt and confusion, unrepentance and surrender, loss and victory. As a Christian this portrayal is apparent. For a non Christian I think they could enjoy the excitement and story even if they didn't get the underlying message.

Three of us in my ladies’ book club read this and we were all impressed. I encouraged one of the ladies who doesn’t usually read science fiction, and she was very glad I got her to read this. There is plenty of action and characters are well developed to show their growth and struggles. The writing is clean and direct and especially impressive for a debut novel. I didn’t find this to read that quickly, most likely because I wanted to enjoy the allegory as it unfolded. I recommend this even if you don’t normally read sci fi or Christian literature. Do not let the genre or the Christian element deter you from trying this engaging read.

I picked this title in print over a year ago for my Ladies Book Club (LBC). It qualifies for TBR and “A” in Alphabet Soup Challenge.

[*There are those who have the manual but never bother to read (hear) its message or choose to walk away without it. They decide early that they can face challenges in their own way and they reject the help provided by the manual. There are others who read the manual eagerly but soon forget to apply it to their situation, trying to face the challenges with their own strength. There are those who receive the manual and understand it is there to help, but the instructions are soon lost while struggling with the trials of life. Finally, there are a few who study the manual, understanding more and more as they study, and learning to rely on the instructions that help them to increase their crop.]

GIVEAWAY: Two Winners:
One (gently read) PRINT COPY
US Only for Print; Worldwide for eBook

(Don't forget to fill in the form for entry!
I have noticed a few commenters who forgot to enter through the Form.)
For 3 Extra Bonus entries
(a) comment on the review, OR
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* This contest is open to US only for Print Copy; worldwide for eBook.
* This contest will close 5 PM (Central) April 19 , 2016.
WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED after April 19, 2016.
Winners will have 72 hours to respond on the winners form linked in the announcement or by email.


  1. This does sound very interesting. A helpful review thank you.

  2. interesting the author visited Chaco Canyon National Historical Park

  3. I've been meaning to read Pilgrim's Progress, and I like the modern Christian allegory premise to this book. The hairy mutants sound scary.

  4. the author has raised chickens, turkeys and goats

    tiramisu392 (at)


Your comments are always appreciated!


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