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Excerpts from the reviews of
Sylvia Engdahl’s Flame novels

Stewards of the Flame
(Book One of the Hidden Flame duology)


“Grips the attention with the raw immediacy of the problems. . . . An inquiry and commentary on the nature of what it is to be human, and where evolution can take us from here. It asks the sort of questions only SF can pose, and paints a vivid picture of where failing to answer those questions might lead. . . . Stewards is the kind of SF I’ve been craving!”
—Jacqueline Lichtenberg (author of the Sime/Gen SF series), Monthly Aspectarian, June 2008


“A taut, well-paced science fiction work . . . that transcends the genre’s traditional subdivisions and leads us into a world as relevant as today but as enthralling as tomorrow.”
—Paul H. Smith (author of Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Inside Star Gate—America’s
Psychic Espionage Program
), Amazon.com, September 13, 2007


“A suspenseful and thought-provoking novel that seems so plausible that it sends chills up my spine . . . truly a masterpiece of parapsychological science fiction.”
—Robin Witte, Rebecca’s Reads, May 2008


“Expository sections . . . are more than made up for by Engdahl’s unmatched ability to combine intellectual speculation, moral forthrightness, and narrative suspense. . . . The end is both exciting and searingly moving. Readers who enjoy the more adult works of Robert A. Heinlein or C. S. Lewis should enjoy this novel. . . . [It] is eminently readable, indeed hard to put down. . . . It also has the potential to bring this undervalued author the wide reading public her talent merits.”
—Nicholas Birns (author of Understanding Anthony Powell), Amazon.com, November 28, 2007


“Inspires a lot of thought-provoking ‘what-if’ questions. . . . An excellent novel to read just for pure enjoyment, however, I would highly recommend Stewards of the Flame to bioethics classes. It will certainly lead to some stimulating conversations.”
—Paige Lovitt, ReaderViews, October 2007; MBR Bookwatch, December 2007


Stewards of the Flame is a brave book, and the numbers of those holding to the sentiments it conveys are growing. While the novel portrays extreme measures taken to prolong life to reductio ad absurdum lengths, it can’t be faulted for challenging our comfort zone, when after all, that is one sure measure of worthwhile fiction.”
—Carlos Aranaga, ScifiDimensions, February 2008


“A brilliant twist on dystopianism, taking that which most people see as humanitarian and proper—the care and well-being of fellow human beings—and pushing the logic to the extreme. . . . The book builds just the right amount of tension, and shows the stark reality of benevolent tyranny, one that any so-called democracy could creep towards quite easily. . . . Stewards of the Flame manages to speak strongly for our rights to choose our own destinies.”
—Anders Monsen, Prometheus, Winter 2008


“The story is compelling, and drew me in from the first few pages. . . . Stewards of the Flame is a thought provoking novel that may make you question the authority and direction of modern Western medical practices. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it.”
—Anna Creech, Blogcritics, February 29, 2008


“Brims with startlingly intelligent, well-developed ideas about mankind, civilisation, and technology. . . . [Engdahl] is persuasive rather than dogmatic and writes with intelligence and vigour, whether she is exploring the human mind or critiquing Undine’s medical dystopia. . . . This is mind-stretching speculative fiction for the thinking person. . . . The ending of Stewards of the Flame is one of the best endings I’ve ever come across. It is absolutely right for the book.”
—Jennifer Mo, Rambles, April 19, 2008


“Extremely entertaining. . . . A cautionary tale that Big Brother is coming through the government medical complex.”
—Harriet Klausner, Alternative Worlds, November 18, 2007; MBR Bookwatch, January 2008


“The story is original and interesting. . . . A good SF yarn.”
—Rheta Van Winkle, Book Loons, November 2007


Stewards of the Flame combines contemporary concerns about health, social issues, and privacy with science fiction and parapsychology to create a powerful story. Are we really headed towards a world like Undine? Are there better alternatives to medications and suspended animation? Both the questions and the potential answers are fascinating.”
—Tami Brady, TCM Reviews, December 2007; Book Ideas


“Sylvia Engdahl has crafted a chilling look at what extreme socialized medicine could become in the hands of a dictatorial medical regime. . . . Her solution to the dilemma is unique. Her characters are quite likeable and often heroic. . . . Stewards of the Flame would make an excellent discussion topic for a book club or church group.”
—Janie Franz, MyShelf.com, April 2008


“If you were tuned into the recent U.S. debate about mandatory health insurance and universal healthcare (and who wasn’t?), Stewards of the Flame is a particularly scary read. . . . The thought-provoking story has all the elements for a suspenseful and absorbing novel and Engdahl does a good job of bringing all the pieces together for the conclusion, which—though it leaves many open questions—proves to be strangely satisfying.”
—Lynn McFarLane, Indie Reader Staff Review, June 2010


“A smart, intricately-plotted novel that’s extremely realistic and relatable despite being science fiction. . . . The idea of a medical-based world isn’t at all far-fetched, the implications of such a system making this book appealing to a wide scope of readers . . . . Thought-provoking and compelling, Stewards of the Flame is an excellent novel that even non-science fiction fans would enjoy.”
—Heather Holden, Beside the Norm Paranormal Book Reviews, January 14, 2008


“Good sci-fi takes something we know and shows what the logical or sometimes ridiculous eventuality might be if we extend the behaviour, philosophy or technology too far. Engdahl tells a story . . . not too far removed from some rather scary situations happening right now, right here.”
The Book Rack, October 22, 2009


“Engdahl’s writing is simple and engaging. The characters are well developed and the romance between Jesse and Carla feels real and is quite well done. Also, the question of when medical decision-making should belong to the patient or to the state makes for an interesting and timely debate.”
—Chad Sayban, The Book Book, September 23, 2009


“I highly recommend this one to anyone that has any interest in life on other planets, paranormal abilities, or the government’s role in our lives. It can appeal to so many different readers in so many ways that I’m sure this will become an instant favorite.”
—Jenera Healy, Just Me, September 30, 2009


“I’ve honestly never read a scifi book that made me think has much as this one did. . . . My verdict? Definitely a great book for anyone to enjoy, even those who aren’t huge scifi fans.”
—Randi Morse, If You Can’t Say Something Nice..., October 2, 2009


“The premise sounds grim and depressing but the book is not. The story deserves all of the rave reviews it received.”
—J. C. Jones, Mixed Book Bag, January 31, 2009


“Rewarding novel about the power of the human mind and spirit. . . . it’s pretty brilliant once it revs up—an intense journey of impressive proportions. . . . Engdahl weaves a deceptively simple plot into a surprisingly complex storyline. . . . [She] keeps throwing curveballs right to the finale.”
—E. A. Solinas, Amazon.com (top-10 reviewer), November 6, 2007


“Readers who enjoy watching a carefully reasoned philosophy outlined and then put to the test will be fascinated by the dismaying and joyous twists that confront Engdahl’s characters.”
—Tucker Stilley, Amazon.com, September 15, 2007


“Engdahl takes on a very current-events idea and turns it on its head: health care and ‘universal’ health care. Her ideas are fresh, exciting, and had me scratching my head and saying, ‘Of course!’ all at the same time.”
—Andrea Grennan, Amazon.com, November 15, 2007


“It’s an enthralling story, but it also poses a series of provocative ‘What if?’ questions, as great science fiction or futuristic writing always has.”
—Vivienne, a reader from Helsinki, Amazon.com, November 6, 2007


“Yes, it’s set in the future on another planet yet I feel a general audience would appreciate what it has to say. . . . This is a different kind of science fiction novel about a future space colony in which the trend toward medicalization has been carried to its ultimate logical and frightening conclusion.”
—Stephen Pletko, Amazon.com (top-500 reviewer), November 27, 2007


“You could end up joining the ranks of [Engdahl’s] admirers in finding her work an inspiring and stimulating celebration of human good-will, intelligence, courage and love. . . . This is not flavour-of-the-month, style-driven writing. . . . The characters struggle to know themselves and each other. Integrity and honesty are deeply challenged within the gloom of a ‘benign’ dystopian society. The price of daring to hope for ‘something beyond’ is ruthlessly demanded, and paid knowingly.”
—Tom Bolton, Melbourne, Australia, Amazon.com, December 11, 2007


“I thoroughly enjoyed Stewards of the Flame. In addition to medical tyranny, it delves heavily into subjects such as psi powers, civil disobedience, overcoming fear, and even some intergalactic space travel and planet colonization! Without being religious in any way, the novel might make you think about spiritual or religious questions.”
—Robert Haven, Amazon.com, October 23, 2008


“This is one of the most well thought out novels on the future of our actual American medical health situation right now and beyond. And it’s about a lot more than that, telepathy, mind control, pain control etc. Extremely thought provoking.”
—Erin Montague, LibraryThing.com, December 7, 2009


Stewards of the Flame is an incredible mutli-dimensional tale which nothing I read with respect to the book had prepared me for. My expectation for entertainment was so far surpassed that I’m still reeling from the vortex. . . . The spine tingling, hair raising terror of the ideas, especially when some of the concepts are really not that far from reality, leaves me seriously horrified about the implications of what fanatical health consciousness could lead to.”
—“Caillech,” LibraryThing.com, October 2, 2009


“The potential of an Undine-like Earth is quite scary, and I found this aspect of the book to be an eye opener. . . . The book hooked me with its setting and kept my attention with a story that was both addicting and thought provoking. . . . I was very excited to see in the author description that a sequel may be in the works. I will look forward to a continuation of the story.”
—“Ape,” LibraryThing.com, March 26, 2009





Promise of the Flame (Book Two of the Hidden Flame duology)


“I started reading Promise of the Flame as soon as it arrived and I was hooked from the first page. I picked the book up every chance I got and finally the second day finished it by staying up late. Sylvia Engdahl knows how to pace a novel and get her message across while telling an engaging and suspenseful story.”
—J. C. Jones, Mixed Book Bag, October 10, 2009


“I think I actually like Promise of the Flame even more than Stewards of the Flame. In the first book, the idealist philosophy was created in opposition to the bounds of their society. However, in the sequel, the characters have to balance survival (short and long term) with these ideals. Definitely not an easy task.”
—Tami Brady, TCM Reviews, October 30, 2009


“The FLAME novels’ premise is incredibly timely.... Both books introduce new readers who wouldn’t ever want to read science fiction to a way of thinking about the world that challenges the issues that are so big we can’t see them.... Ought to be required reading in university philosophy courses.”
—Jacqueline Lichtenberg, The Book Connection (comment), October 19, 2009


“Outsoars its predecessor. . . . This is a book written by somebody at once holding firm convictions as to the potential human life can have but with enough political intelligence to note that even a society far improved over its predecessor will have its own problems, will be only a half-utopia. But even a half-utopia equipped with freedom and the possibility for optimal human interconnection is better than a society that disciplines and denies these. . . . As with all of Engdahl’s work, science-fiction fans will recognize the tropes she uses, but it is not just ‘for’ them, no more than the work of a great artist who happens to work in, say, ceramics is just for adepts of that medium. Engdahl has produced high-quality work over a forty-year period, but this is one of her finest achievements.”
—Nicholas Birns (author of Understanding Anthony Powell), Amazon.com, May 30, 2010


“Right now all I can feel right now is ‘wow!’ What a great story with thought-provoking themes and heroic characters. The suspense is so much fun, I couldn’t put the book down through the last couple of hundred pages.”
—Robert Haven, Amazon.com, March 9, 2010


“It is not necessary to read the first [book] in order to be enthralled by the second. . . . Engdahl’s gift is to make her characters seem comfortable and familiar to the reader, even though their circumstances are not. Although clearly a work of science fiction, the ideas and futuristic possibilities are disturbingly real and will remain with the reader long after they’ve finished the book.”
—Peggy LaVake, Indie Reader Staff Review, July 2010


“There were . . . parts where I could barely put the book down for wanting to know what would happen next. This is one of the few situations where I reach the end of a book or a series and feel like I’m saying goodbye to friends, and to me, that means it’s a pretty darn good book.”
—"Bunkie68," LibraryThing.com, June 25, 2010





Defender of the Flame (Book One of the Rising Flame duology)


“This book reaches back to the brio and speculation of Engdahl’s classic books of the Seventies. . . . The reader will be taken on an exciting and suspenseful ride. . . . With an admirable protagonist and many interesting and well-drawn characters major and minor, Defender is satisfying on multiple levels. . . . I expected to like this book; I was startled that I loved it. A must read!”
—Nicholas Birns (author of Understanding Anthony Powell), Amazon.com, June 10, 2013


“I was engrossed in it: could not put it down. . . . It raises thoughtful questions of science/logic/reason versus the paranormal and intuition, the state versus individual freedom, and conscience, but is not preachy, and the characters were real people I cared about and liked.”
—Laurie Pollack, Amazon.com, April 25, 2013 (Verified Purchase)


“Another wonderful book written by the remarkable author Sylvia Engdahl. I was hooked from page one and found myself so completely engrossed that I could not put it down until I finished this novel. . . . The only negative critique I have is that I wanted it to go on forever.”
—Don, Amazon.com, May 8, 2013 (Verified Purchase)


“Compelling and a must read for anyone who loves quality SF. . . . Technology is the tool Sylvia uses to put her characters where they need to be. The real story is the choices they make and why. If you love SF for the questions it makes you ask you won’t be able to put this book down.”
—Chris Zenchenko, Amazon.com, May 17, 2013 (Verified Purchase)


“The things that happen to the hero of this book are heart-wrenching. But that’s what the best hero stories are made of . . . . I’ve read a ton of sci-fi and this trilogy is up there among the best -- fun to read, thought-provoking, exciting plot twists, and big in scope.”
—Robert Haven, Amazon.com, May 18, 2013 (Verified Purchase)


“This is fun reading, about a starship captain facing many tough choices. . . . If you choose to think more deeply about the view of humanity's future, that’s icing on the cake. Enjoyable and thought-provoking reading..”
—Sondra Eklund, Sonderbooks, August 5, 2015


“A fabulous twisting outer space thriller that will keep readers wondering what next will happen to the protagonist.”
—Harriet Klausner, Alternative Worlds, May 2013; MBR Bookwatch, July 2013


“The book profits from Engdahl’s long experience as a professional writer, assuring an engaging read. The story is thoughtful and balanced in its treatment of questions pertaining to human nature. It gives material to think about, besides providing some hours of leisure in a convincing sci-fi environment.”
Simon Brenncke's Book Review Blog (Germany), August 23, 2013


“The book had a very elegantly written ending.”
—Jo Jones, Mixed Book Bag, August 22, 2013





Herald of the Flame (Book Two of the Rising Flame duology)


“A futuristic ride that has many parallels in today’s society. This is a ‘thinking man’s’ science fiction book – the type we need more of today!”
The Feathered Quill, November 2014


“A terrific timely futuristic thriller as deniers in charge persecute those with abilities they fear leading to equality and subsequent loss of power.”
— Harriet Klauser, Alternative Worlds II, November 17, 2014


“This book is as interesting and mind bending as the first book that this author wrote. I consider it to be a must read for anyone that likes science fiction that verges on possible science fact.”
— Don, Amazon.com, November 1, 2014 (Verified Purchase)


“Engdahl's books are torches that light a flame of hope that we may have a future beyond the clouded one on Earth.”
— Laurie Pollack, Amazon.com, November 7, 2014


“These novels are not so much genre ‘Romance’ or even just ‘Science Fiction’ as they are Literature.  These are novels about life. ”
—Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Alien Romances: Reviews 14, May 2015


Main Flame Duology Page
The two Flame duologies, The Hidden Flame and The Rising Flame, are separate stories that can be read independently, although the backstory included in the second one may affect some of the suspense of the first.