Sacred Touchstones: A Review of ‘Will Rider, The Relic of Perilous Falls’

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:13

Reading Level: 3.7; grade 7 [There are two very different suggestions for the reading level.]
Interest Level: Ages 8-12; Ages 10+

Review and Comments:
The Relic of Perilous Falls is a powerful story of good and evil, truth and deceit, belief and skepticism. The confrontation between these forces centers on the relic of St. Thomas the Apostle. The more recent history of the relic begins during WWII when a brave young man named Jacob Wilder undertakes a daring mission to rescue the bones of St. Thomas. He is not the only one who desires the relic however. It is evident from the very beginning of the story that evil has manifested itself and will do anything to possess the precious bones. Jacob takes intricate measures to protect the relic and its power. He builds Peniel as a sanctuary to safeguard relics in the town of Perilous Falls, “the last stronghold against the dark madness of the world.”

Fast forward and we meet Will Rider, a typical preteen boy in most respects, and the great-grandson of Jacob. Like Jacob, Will is also right in the middle of the clash between worlds. Slowly, he begins to learn about the courageous work and faithful mission of his great-grandfather Jacob and his own purpose in that mission. He learns that he too is a seer and has the “sight of angels and can perceive darkness from light.” This gift allows him to witness unimaginable events and unholy beings. He is deceived but then his eyes are opened to see the absolute face of evil. He finds the courage to face the demon and fight for all that is righteous.

“…..then shall I raise up a young one to lead them. He shall be the firstborn of the root of Wilder. This will be the sign that the battle is near and all must prepare. …For in those days the beasts shall rise from the pit to test my people…..” (Prophesy from story)

Will’s life is pretty much like any other twelve year old until he unknowingly sets in motion the first part of the prophesy. He is oblivious to the absolute danger surrounding him although he discerns an unsettling, ominous presence. Other gifted people are ready to safeguard him through this defining time in his life. They recognize that the “sign of the battle is near” and Will is the one who will lead them. They know ”he’s all that stands between them and the Darkness.” United as guardians, they are a powerful force against demons. Great Aunt (Sarah) Lucille, a gifted repeller of demons, has been “protecting St. Thomas’ relic all her life”, and now she will guide and protect Will as well. Mr. Bartimaeus is a Sensitive who is able to prophecy. He has visions and understands the unholy power they all face. Tobias Shen, a simple gardener, has been fighting demons for many years. He also teaches tough lessons on the value of obedience to Will who continually defies authority. There are times the reader may become frustrated with Will because he repeatedly chooses to disobey. This frailty reflects the struggles of human nature in all of us. Some characters are very involved in the fight against evil, but they do not see the whole picture or understand the events surrounding them. Will’s friends support him when he attempts to take the relic out of Peniel even though their lives are in serious danger. His own brother and sister do not understand the dark events that are surrounding the entire town, but they come to the aid of Will and his friends and learn some intriguing things in the process.

“We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.” – Ephesians 6:12

Not everyone supports Will and his guides however. Will’s own father is able to see evil in its true forms, but he refuses to acknowledge this to anyone. He does not want his son involved in any prophecy or plan the guardians have for Will either. The mayor of the town no longer has any patience for the old-fashioned beliefs of Jacob Wilder. While investigating some of the very serious accidents that happened around Perilous Falls, she eventually believes the Wilder family is behind everything and plans to prosecute them. The mayor is a character who is questionable in my mind. She seems to be concerned about all the strange occurrences and wants to get to the bottom of all the chaos, but I don’t trust her.
There are creatures (demons) that pursue Will in order to use him for their own purpose. They lie and deceive. They use violence, persuasion, and flattery to control and influence Will. He has a power they can use to control the bones of St. Thomas. The enemy is the powerful Sinestri – major demons. There is also the Fomorii, bottom dwellers and stickers, who are vicious killers that threaten and attack not only Will’s guardians, but his closest friends, and innocent people in the town. And then there is a sea captain named Nep Balor who comes to Will as someone who needs his help but ultimately reveals his true identity when he takes the form of Leviathan. At first the captain is portrayed as very patient and persuasive yet the reader is allowed glimpses of the true anger and deceit just below the surface of his presence. He slyly plants doubts in Will’s mind – doubts about his father’s love, his guardians’ motives, and even his great-grandfather’s mission. Will does not recognize the malignant evil at first. He is deceived time and again until it is almost too late to pierce the darkness.

“The demons told Jesus that their name was “Legion”, or many demons.” – Mark 5:9 or Revelation 12:4

Readers who crave action stories will find The Relic of Perilous Falls an exciting story. From the first page of the introduction, there is intrigue, complex puzzles, challenges to the moral character of many, and dangers to life and soul. The story talks about the Brethren and its mission to protect the relic of St. Thomas. The guardians are part of the Brethren, and Will learns he is to be its leader. This makes them a target for the demons. The forces of evil make an appearance early in the story and continue to wreak havoc on the town of Perilous Falls, its citizens, and Will. First, there are malevolent signs and an oppression that foreshadows the violence the characters will face. There are attacks on the innocent and even deaths. The conclusion of the story is satisfying because Will is finally able to repel and force the demon into Hell Mouth, the entrance to the Inferno. That is not the end of the story however. Raymond Arroyo leaves the future open for further adventures – certain encounters with unknown forces. There is hope that the Brethren will better prepare Will for what lies ahead.

“Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm.”

– Ephesians 6:10-13

Several details suggest parallel scenes from popular movies. When Will and his friends try to get the relic, there is a reference to St. Paul’s humility and the threat of imminent death if the clue is not followed correctly. This brought to mind the quote “only the penitent man will pass” from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Those characters also had to follow written clues or die a horrible death. And when the guardians wouldn’t say the name Leviathan aloud, I was reminded of Harry Potter and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” Other than those few instances, The Relic of Perilous Falls is an exciting story and one that is well suited for readers on the higher end of the suggested reading level. The symbols and history add many layers to the enjoyment of the story.

Possible Concerns:
The descriptions of the demons are quite vivid.
• Example: “The raincoat ripped off Captain and great bulges, like snouts of mad animals pushed forth in six places”
• Example: “Captain became reptilian, six writhing necks sprang forward, each bearing a distinct face of hatred.”
• Example: “Coming out of the street, he saw a dozen shadowy arms and hands – claws-reaching, grasping for the injured man.”

Further Discussion/Catholic Resources:
Will Rider, the Lost Staff of Wonders is the second book in the Will Rider series.  You can purchase it by clicking on the picture below:

[The prologue tells the story of Jacob Wilder’s encounter with an evil presence – “…. a liar and the father of lies.” It is reminiscent of The Temptation of Christ. Jacob is tempted, flattered, and promised many things.]
• Matthew 4: 1-11 – The Temptation of Jesus

[Jacob Wilder built a fortress for “the safety of the sacred antiquities and relics” called Peniel.]
• Peniel – [Genesis 32:31 “Jacob named the place Peniel, “because I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has been spared.” ]
[Peniel: a variant of the word Penuel , the name of a town on the north bank of the Jabbok Gilead. The name is explained as meaning “the face of God.”]

  • [A plaque displayed on the cornerstone of the church includes a quote from the Bible – Tobit 4:10]
    • Tobit 4:10 – For charity delivers from death and keeps one from entering into Darkness.
  • [Mr. Bartimaeus works at Peniel with Aunt Lucille and is a guardian of Will. He has trouble with his vision.]
    • Mark 10: 46-51 – “The Blind Bartimaeus.”
  • [Mr. Bartimaeus explains the power of relics when he tells a story from the Old Testament.]
    • 2 Kings 13:21 – Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they saw such a raiding band. So they cast the man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and got to his feet.
  • [Aunt Lucille shows Will the remains of the Prophet Elijah’s mantle and tells him about its history.]
    • 2 Kings 2: 8-14 – Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water: it divided, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

Relic – “The word relic comes from the Latin relinquo, literally meaning I leave, or I abandon. A relic is a piece of the body of a saint, an item owned or used by the saint, or an object which has been touched to the tomb of a saint.”
Reliquary – “any repository in which a relic is sealed and kept. Reliquaries vary in size, according to the relic, from very small ones that can be easily carried to larger caskets for whole parts of a saint’s body. Relics are never exposed for public veneration unless enclosed in a reliquary.”

  • [Will wears a pith helmet with a brass medallion of a pelican feeding its young.] And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6: 20
    • “The early Christians adapted the pelican to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ. The pelican symbols Jesus our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the atonement He made through His passion and death.” This is a very interesting and instructive article about the symbolism of the pelican. 

[Aunt Lucille’s boat is called the Stella Maris, a title sometimes given to the Virgin Mary.] “We find ourselves in this earth in a tempestuous sea, in a desert, in a vale of tears. Now then, Mary is the Star of the Sea, the solace of our desert, the light that guides us towards heaven.” – St. John Bosco
• [“The most common “Star” figure, which all the spiritual writers have used, is “Star of the Sea,” the guide to man who is sailing on the sea of life. St. Bernard, as many others, interpreted Miriam (Hebrew for “Mary”) as meaning Star of the Sea, and thus explains it: “Because without loss of its own integrity, a star sends forth its rays—and so Mary brought forth Jesus. She is, therefore, that noble star risen out of Jacob, whose ray illuminates the whole earth, whose splendor both shines above and pierces the nether darkness, enlightening the earth and giving heat rather to souls than to bodies, nourishing virtues, expelling vices. Mary is the excellent, bright and wonderful Star lifted up necessarily above this great and wide ocean, shining with merits, illuminating with example. Behold the Star!”]

[The guardians fight against the Fomorii, bottom dwellers, while on the Stella Maris.]
• “Fomorians (Old Irish: Fomoire, Modern Irish: Fomhóraigh) are a supernatural race in Irish mythology. They are often portrayed as hostile and monstrous beings who come from the sea or underground. The Fomorians seem to have been gods who represent the harmful or destructive powers of nature; personifications of chaos, darkness, death, blight and drought.”

[Nep Balor , the sea captain, is described as having a large, rather disgusting eye.] “In Irish mythology, Balor (modern spelling: Balar) was king of named Fomorians, a group of supernatural beings. He is often described as a giant with a large eye in his forehead that wreaks destruction when opened. He has been interpreted as a god or personification of drought and blight.”

[I have found several interesting definitions for shen (Tobias Shen) and it fits his personality in this context.] These words describe Tobias well: “spiritual, supernatural; awareness, consciousness, essence-spirit, traditional supernatural protectors responsible for patrolling the neighborhood”

  • [Jacob’s notebook contains riddles that are clues on how to enter the Keep where the relic is kept. The first clue mentions St. Paul.]
    • Acts 9: 1-9 – Conversion of Saul
    [The second clue in the notebook mentions one “must enter by the narrow gate.”]
    • Matthew 7: 13-14 – “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
    • “Enter through the narrow gate” – This opening phrase makes clear that we do have choices in our journey of faith, and our choices have consequences. Choices can take us in many directions: good or bad, life or death, heaven or hell.”
    [The third and final clue is about Didymus’s way.]
    • John 20: 24-29 – Thomas (Didymus)

[In the Book of Prophesy, it says “only one with a pure heart can crush the heads of Leviathan.”]
• Revelation 13: 1-18
Leviathan – a transliterated Hebrew word (livyathan), meaning “twisted,” “coiled.” [“In Job’s terrifying symbolism, Leviathan is far different than any animal at all. The beginning of the chapter is an epic description of Leviathan as a magnificent, but familiar beast. By the end, however, it is a fire-breathing dragon, a powerful symbol of evil, destruction, and chaos broiling in the massive seas of the people.”
1. Psalm 104:25-26 – There is the sea, great and wide! It teems with countless beings, living things both large and small. There ships ply their course and Leviathan, whom you formed to play with.
2. Psalm 74: 14 – You crushed the heads of Leviathan gave him as food to the sharks.
3. Job 3:8 – Let them curse it who curse the Sea, those skilled at disturbing Leviathan.

[Tobias Shen tells Will to plant his “tree” by the river.  Will sees only a stick and doesn’t understand why he has to do this.  Later, it begins to produce fruit. This follows the first Psalm.]
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.
Rather, the law of the LORD is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season;
Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.