Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Tara Fairfield

Makai Queen by Tara Fairfield is a Christian fantasy set in the undersea world. There were times as I read Makai Queen when Fairfield left me shaking my head, because either characters or situations didn’t work. There were also times when Fairfield pulled me so deeply into her imaginary kingdom of Moku-ola that I started wondering if she could become the next C.S. Lewis, whose Chronicles of Narnia found success both within and beyond the Christian market.

Fairfield has created an almost perfect blend of realism and fantasy. On the realism front, Fairfield grew up near the ocean and so could draw on her own basic knowledge to incorporate real aquatic animals into her fantasy world. The kingdom of Moku-ola teams with sea horses, dolphins, sea lions, sharks, and sea turtles. Fairfield especially loves the Hawaiian Islands, and spent time exploring them before she wrote Makai Queen. Her descriptions of tide pools, underground caves with their crevices and nooks, rock walls, and even underground gardens are alluring and succinct. On the fantasy front, Fairfield endows all of her sea creatures with their own quirky personalities. One of my favorites is Rico, a young purple and white sea horse who latches himself to a lock of the heroine Tessa’s hair when he first meets her. The boisterous mother and daughter pair of sea lions, Mimi and Lizzy, enjoy covering Tessa’s face with sloppy kisses and are equally endearing. Fairfield also extends her descriptions of the ocean beyond typical nonfiction fare to create an enticing world full of beauty and magic. The kingdom of Moku-ola contains miniature waterfalls, glowing seashells, plants of different patterns and colors, warm rocks, and even jewels. A particularly striking description is of the bathroom: “Pearls covered the walls and lined a huge clam-shaped tub in the center of the room. The shower was a cavern, tiled in polished abalone shell. A sink made of glass stood against the wall, filled with tiny fish swimming up and down the pedestal.” The undersea inhabitants feast on plates of pineapple, coconut, papaya, and breadfruit, to name just a few delicacies. Last, everyone in Moku-ola has special gifts. Some of Tessa’s new friends are able to shape shift, while Tessa herself discovers she can telepathically communicate with all the ocean creatures.

If Fairfield has created an almost perfect blend of realism and fantasy, why were there times when I found myself shaking my head? First, although we are not told Tessa’s age, she is old enough to own a car and to seriously consider marriage. Perhaps she’s eighteen? Twenty? And yet her manner of speaking is much more suited to a younger teen. Second, I wish that instead of perpetuating the stereotype of sharks as evil, Fairfield would have reworked their image to create a deeper understanding of their complex nature. Third, while I understand that novels these days need need a quick pace to compete with movies and video games for their audience’s attention, Tessa’s descent into the ocean and her discovery that she is the expected new queen is much too abrupt. I suspect readers will struggle initially to suspend their disbelief and accept Fairfield’s undersea world. Fourth, the romance follows the overused cliche of instant infatuation. While Fairfield does avoid making their relationship about physical love, it falsely creates the illusion that lasting emotional love is instant. The first two issues are minor ones, while the last two issues involve pacing. Fortunately, new writers will often relax and adopt a more leisurely pace in subsequent books.

Because of her almost perfect blend of realism and fantasy, Fairfield’s novel is especially strong on the religious front. Fantasy was the right medium for Fairfield, because it allowed her to refer to a Creator without turning off readers who dismiss any book which mentions God. It also allowed her to explore themes of forgiveness and grace in a new and refreshing way, one which doesn’t feel like yet another conversion story, even if that’s exactly what it is. Fairfield even manages to share the message that we were all born for a purpose, and with special gifts, in the fun form of fiction. Granted, very few of us are going to become royalty or develop supernatural powers like Tessa–at least not on this side of heaven. And yet the underlying message remains true. Also, Fairfield doesn’t fall into the trap of giving all of her characters positions and abilities unattainable to the average reader. Many of the secondary characters are recognized and honored for such commonplace gifts as being skilled messengers. Tara Fairfield’s debut novel exited me and leaves me eager to read the sequels.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


After walking into bookstores and seeing so many young adult books focused on messages of violence and death, author Tara Fairfield felt compelled to write a story focused on positive messages. The result is Makai Queen, a Christian fantasy set underwater. The latter is a natural backdrop, given Fairfield’s love of the ocean. Fairfield also told More Than A Review that writing Makai Queen provided a great way to release pent-up creative juices from my parenting years.

Fairfield is a psychologist and a Christian. Both of those attributes are a driving force behind her debut novel. With over twenty years of experience working with youth and families, Dr. Fairfield has dedicated her life to helping struggling teens find their confidence and faith in the Lord. She had found that fictional characters play a huge role in opening up communication with teens and shared with More Than A Review her three messages which she hopes comes across in Makai Queen: First, God has a plan for your life and it’s much better than you could imagine for yourself! Second, forgiveness has the power to heal and transform lives. Third, and less obvious, we are called to be good stewards of this earth and all that dwell here, including caring for our oceans.

Besides working on sequels to Makai Queen, Fairfield writes for magazines, newspapers, and even radio. She also continues to work as a psychologist and, in this capacity, often blogs about issues facing today’s teens. This past week, she took sometime to answer a few questions for me.

ALLISON: Share one memorable moment from childhood.

TARA: One of my favorite childhood memories is straddling a pole off the bow of our family boat, as we plowed through waves with dolphins racing along ahead of us. Pure joy! Growing up in southern California sparked my love of the sea at an early age and I spent a lot of time in and around the water.

ALLISON: What’s your most heartbreaking moment from your adolescence?

TARA: I grew up with a gentle dog as my constant companion, a boxer named Duke. On days when I was sick he would lay his head in my lap and cuddle, always by my side. I loved him like family. When he died it was my first encounter with death and I cried for weeks, and still miss him. No one will ever convince me dogs don’t love, not after having been loved by such a loyal friend.

ALLISON: You’re one busy woman! How do you balance working as a psychologist, raising children, serving in the ministry, and writing a novel?

TARA: All my children are grown, so I have more free time and it helps that writing is relaxing for me. It’s energizing to be doing the things I love, like writing, ministering to others and doing God’s work! I don’t want to waste a moment of the life God has gifted me with!

ALLISON: What’s your best grandchild story?

TARA: This is hard because I’ve had so many memorable moments with my grandchildren, they bring me tons of joy. Recently, my oldest grandson (age five) created his own superhero character with special skills and together we started writing a story where he is directing the action. Last time I visited him he asked, “have you finished my story Oma?” He’s my own personal writing motivator and I have to say, partnering with a five year old keeps you on your toes!

ALLISON: If you could be any sea animal, what would you pick?

TARA: This might sound cliché, but I’d choose to be a dolphin. They are smart, playful, family oriented and social. Humans have only begun to understand the complexity of their social interactions and lives. This is one of the reasons I don’t eat tuna. I refuse to support any activity that needlessly puts this amazing species at risk and hope more people will become educated about the slaughter of dolphins in tuna nets.

ALLISON: How much did writing about life under the sea require you to research? How much were you able to just imagine?

TARA: One of the characters in Makai Queen speaks pidgin, so I did a lot of research about the pidgin language and kept multiple reference books by my side as I wrote. Growing up near the ocean helped me with basic knowledge of many of the mammals and fish I wrote about but there were some I did additional research on to ensure I captured their basic nature correctly.

ALLISON: For aspiring Christian writers, what do you consider the secret between creating a novel which both entertains but also shares a message?

TARA: Write what you’re passionate about, what flows from your heart. Anything less and it’ll be a struggle. Everyone has a unique message and testimony, find yours and stay true to what God has placed in your heart. The process of writing and publishing takes time, sweat and endurance, so embark on it with the confidence that God has a purpose and plan for your work!

ALLISON: What’s next?

TARA: I just finished the next book in the Makai series and am working on getting it published. I am really excited about how the story and characters have evolved and can’t wait to share with readers. Thank you so much for having me on your site!

Off the coast of Lanai, far beyond the sailboats, there is a hidden world beneath the beryl-blue sea, the marvelous kingdom of Moku-ola. Unknown and forbidden to those living above the surface, it has never been discovered….until now.

Tessa, a curious teenager with a taste for adventure, is brought to the frightening and wondrous land of Moku-ola. As the dangers of this world threaten her very survival, Tessa must overcome the barriers of self-doubt to discover the keys to her royal destiny.

Please return tomorrow for my review. Save the date: August 23!

TaraFairfield_GuestAuthor of the Christian fantasy, Makai Queen, Tara Fairfield is a licensed psychologist with her doctorate from Northern Arizona University. For ChooseNow Ministries, she writes a monthly column about identity targeted toward teens. She has also been a featured guest on Teen Talk and Parent Talk radio, speaking on issues that arise in youth as a result of separation, divorce, or other family conflicts. With over twenty years of experience working with youth and families, Dr. Fairfield has dedicated her life to helping struggling teens find their confidence and faith in the Lord. For that reason I invited her to write a guest post for Allison’s Book Bag./em>

Friends are great, but sometimes they aren’t enough. Your best friend might give sound advice on what to wear or how to deal with unwanted homework assignments, but what about when you’re struggling with an issue that your closest friends have never dealt with?

I remember when one of my best friends came to a party crying hysterically because her boyfriend had hit her. We all rallied around her and consoled her, but none of us knew what to do next, or how to help her stay safe. She needed more than we could offer. So how do you know when to take it to your parents? I know what you’re thinking….. You don’t want anyone to get into trouble…But, when it comes to putting your health or safety or that of your friends in danger, a short-term lecture is much easier to handle then losing someone you care about. Adults aren’t the bad guys. Believe it or not, we care about you and want what is best for your life!

Here are some signs it might be time to talk to your parents:

  • Violence against you or your friends: If you’ve been hurt by someone, even a boyfriend, report it now! Don’t believe the lie it’s a one-time event, or he didn’t mean it or, even worse, that it’s your fault. Get help from a trusted adult. You don’t need to face it alone!
  • Depression: If you or a friend have lost interest in your typical fun activities, sleep all the time or have trouble sleeping, lost your appetite or have thoughts of hurting yourself, tell someone now!
  • Someone throws up after meals or counts every calorie: These might be signs your friend needs help. Eating disorders are far too common among teens today and throwing up to keep your weight down is not normal, it’s a sign you might need some help!
  • Urge to cut or harm yourself to deal with strong emotions or stress: If you’re feeling this need, please talk to a trusted adult or family member.
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse: Adults and teens both struggle with substance abuse, no one can deal with this alone. Reach out for help!

There is no shame in reaching out for help, no matter what issue you’re dealing with. Everyone struggles in life and we are all here to love and support one another. Speak out, it could save a life!

Interested in reading more by Fairfield? She’s also written a guest post about Why is forgiveness so important?

Tomorrow I’ll post an interview with her and of course on Saturday a review of her book. Save the dates: August 23-24!

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