It is easy to fall into the cliché traps of religious fiction when writing this specific genre, especially when it is a writer’s debut novel. However, in the defense of these writers, one cannot write a good religious fiction without having at least some clichés within. These clichés include, but are not limited to, good triumphing over evil (obviously), having doubts and questioning faith, and having an encounter with Satan that strengthens faith and encourages the protagonist to keep fighting for good and for God. New writer Michael Medico did fall into these traps when writing his debut religious fiction The Sainted; however, the way he writes his story will keep readers wanting to know what lies in store for the story’s protagonist, Christopher Pella.
Christopher Pella is an all-around good man. Raised in a close-knit Italian family and having attended Catholic schools while growing up, Chris understands the true meaning of family and having the faith to serve the Almighty. However, Chris has a gift which he keeps hidden from those around him, a gift that brings him closer than some may think to the Almighty: he can speak to the blessed icons of the Catholic Church themselves, the Saints. The Saints show him visions with which he must learn from, visions that can be uplifting or terrifying, but no matter what they are, they always teach a lesson. Now Chris must use these visions to help good prevail over the evil Satan brings to the world.
All in all, a very intriguing premise and very appealing to someone who picks up the book to read about it. The story itself, upon completion, is very good and does make one feel good with the knowledge that in the end, no matter what, good will always triumph over evil. What The Sainted lacks is a solid structure. For such a strong plotline, it has a weak execution and this, for future books, is an easy fix. This weak execution does not make the story bad, but with a solid foundation, it will make future good stories into great stories.
To start with another appealing part of The Sainted, aside from the plot, is the characters. Chris is an incredibly likeable character and readers will only want good things to come his way and for anything evil to leave him alone. His Uncle Al is a fun and quirky character and unleashes great quips of dialog at his nephew who, in turn, dishes them right back, making the relationship they have strong and enjoyable to read. One character, though, Medico must be applauded for and that is Satan. He gave Satan the perfect personality: just the right amount of attitude and sass to make him how anyone would imagine him if they were to meet him on Earth and one who likes to play games with his victims. Satan is perhaps one of, if not THE, hardest character to write in any genre and Medico nailed it on his first try.
Now, to help build the strong foundation for future books for this is the first in a trilogy Medico has chosen to write. With Chris telling the story in first person, it gives readers a good insight as to how he reacts to the visions he receives from the Saints. This is good; however, the point of view, along with the writing tense, jumps considerably. One chapter, it will be told from Chris’s point of view (first person), while in the next chapter, it will be told from the third person point of view and the story will be talking about Uncle Al. And, on occasion, Chris will break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience (second person). On top of the point of view jumping, the tense changes many times throughout the story. One paragraph, it will be told in the past tense and in the next paragraph, it will be told in the present tense. All of this jumping takes away from the story. A writer must choose which point of view and which tense to write in and stick to that decision.
Another pointer would be to work on detail. Medico has conquered dialog and that really helps to keep the story moving, but the paragraphs containing bits of detail and what the characters are doing at the moment need a bit more development. Mainly, the detail becomes repetitive by constantly saying that this person always did this or Chris couldn’t believe this was happening; very minor things that can easily be tweaked. More details could have also been used to develop the relationship between Chris and Beth. Perhaps Medico was shooting for “love at first sight” for the two, but their relationship moved at a seemingly rapid pace. It is a very cute relationship and fun to read the exchange of dialog between the two, it just needed to slow down a bit.
Aside from strengthen the foundation of his story, Medico did a very good job on his debut. Focusing on lessons such as the difficulty in finding one’s purpose in life and always having faith and never giving up on hope may seem cliché, but they are wonderful lessons that should be remembered. Though the story does seem to come to a close, an excerpt from Medico’s next book helps to remind readers what lies in store for the future and that Chris’s battle against evil is far from over. Future books could include even more saints than the many mentioned in The Sainted and more demons. The possibilities are endless for Medico as he writes the next two books of his trilogy.