Who doesn’t read the Chronicles of Narnia series as a kid and wish for the magic and adventure to come to life the next time they open their closet door? Even today, I want to travel to New Zealand to tour the Shire from the Lord of the Ring movies.

Epic tales like these take readers to foreign lands full of adventure and sights beyond anything we’ve seen in our own worlds. And yet, readers often take comfort in these tales. What is it about these stories that draw us in and refuse to let us go?

I find myself asking this question having just finished The Gathering Dark by Brett Armstrong. Though the story starts out with Jason and his own quest of sorts, the reader is drawn deeper into the story world’s past as an old man in an inn weaves a spectacular tale of knights and heroism, monsters and war, good and evil, faith and fear.

In the world of the inn keeper’s tale, there is question over whether the Knights are simply serving a fable and over whether vicious enemies of old ever really existed. It’s a theme that repeats itself in Jason’s time as he is left wondering at the truth of the story he’s hearing.

Maybe that’s where we find the answer to the question of why we’re drawn to these stories. We can see ourselves in the doubting and trying. We can hope for ourselves to become like the knights who grasp the truth and don’t let it go. We believe in the battle of good and evil. We see it in our world too. And we relate to the war between faith and fear because we wage it in ourselves.

We see ourselves in these adventurous, fantasy stories set in foreign lands not because of the settings or the trappings of the story. Though both of those things add to the enjoyment, for sure. We’re drawn in because no matter where the story takes place or what fanciful creatures reside in the land, the struggles and triumphs of life are a thread connecting our world to the story world.

The Gathering Dark weaves this thread of shared life through a beautifully created world and leaves you anxious to return to that world when the second book in the series comes out later this year.