Peril in the Palace — “The Imagination Station” Series


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Book Review

Peril in the Palace by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in “The Imagination Station” series.

Plot Summary

Mr. Whittaker traveled back in time to meet one of his ancestors, a man named Albert. After he returned to the present, he began finding mysterious letters in the Imagination Station. The letters ask for items to save Albert from being locked in a tower. Unfortunately, however, the Imagination Station has stopped working for Mr. Whittaker, so he asks two cousins, Patrick and Beth, to help him find the items. They have already retrieved a Viking sunstone and a Roman monk’s silver chalice, and now they must travel to ancient China to find the tablet of Kublai Khan.

Patrick and Beth notice that the silver chalice they brought back from Rome is missing. Mr. Whittaker explains that he thinks someone from Albert’s time came to get it, but he is puzzled by the person’s ability to make the Imagination Station work. Mr. Whittaker gives Patrick and Beth Mongol clothing and a hammer and nails, explaining that items the khan has never seen before fascinate him. Mr. Whittaker also gives them a bag of wrapped gifts for the people they will meet on their trip.

Patrick and Beth climb into the Imagination Station and appear in a field surrounded by horses. They see a group of Mongol warriors nearby. Patrick begins to wave and shout to attract their attention. The warriors begin galloping toward them on horseback. Without stopping, the riders grab Patrick and Beth and lift them onto their horses. After a lengthy ride, they bring Patrick and Beth to the Mongol camp.

Tired and sore from the ride, Patrick loses his balance and has to jump over a cooking fire to avoid being burned. The Mongols are horrified, as this is supposedly a sign of evil and against Mongol law. Before Patrick can be punished, however, a tall stranger intervenes. He shows the Mongols that he has a tablet of Kublai Khan, which gives him the authority to pardon Patrick. The stranger brings Patrick and Beth into his tent and introduces himself as Marco Polo.

Patrick and Beth ask Marco Polo about the tablet of Kublai Khan, and Marco explains that the tablets have to be given as a gift by someone in the khan’s family. Marco is planning to visit the khan, so he offers to bring Patrick and Beth with him. The cousins look into the bag of gifts from Mr. Whittaker and find one labeled “Marco Polo.” The gift is a journal for Marco to record his travels. Marco’s father and uncle enter the tent, and they all prepare to leave for the khan’s palace.

The five travelers are immediately escorted into the khan’s court when they arrive. Kublai Khan is excited to see Marco’s father and uncle because they are old friends of his but is cross because they did not bring the 100 Christian teachers he requested. The Polos explain that many Christians are fighting in the Crusades, and the remnant is needed in Europe. The khan asks why God doesn’t destroy the Christians’ enemies. Patrick explains that Jesus already destroyed death, which is the greatest enemy, but the khan is unsatisfied with this answer and calls for his shamans. He states that they have more power than any Christian.

The shamans make a metal pitcher float and pour its contents into a cup. Everyone is amazed, but Beth believes the shamans have magnets hidden in their sleeves, which allow them to move the pitcher. She tosses some of the nails from Mr. Whittaker toward the shamans’ sleeves. When the nails stick, she explains the secret of the shamans’ “magic.”

The khan asks Beth if she is a Christian shaman, which she denies. Beth and Patrick then find a package in the bag from Mr. Whittaker with a note instructing them to show it to the shaman. They unwrap the package to find a wind-up toy chicken. When the khan sees it, he is convinced that they are shamans because they have power over an “evil bird spirit.”

A wounded Mongol warrior then enters the throne room. He explains that an army of Arab soldiers, led by a group of Mongol rebels, is coming to attack the khan. Beth tries to help the wounded man, but he thinks she and Patrick are evil because he saw them appear in the middle of the desert when they first arrived in the Imagination Station.

The khan instructs his guards to lock up the “Christian shamans” so that they can’t use their powers against him. He asks the Polos to act as his messengers and warn the surrounding cities. Patrick and Beth are placed in a locked and guarded room for the night.

The next morning the cousins are allowed out of the room to say goodbye to the Polos. When they return, the khan’s granddaughter, Beki, is waiting in their room. She thanks them for sharing the Gospel with her grandfather and offers them the tablet of Genghis and Kublai Khan. She says that it will protect them in case they encounter any Mongolian rebels, because all Mongols still fear the name of Genghis Khan. The last gift in Mr. Whittaker’s bag is a Chinese Bible for Beki. She is overjoyed that she can now learn more about being a Christian.

Patrick and Beth drive the large nails from Mr. Whittaker into the wall, creating hand and foot holds so that they can escape out of the room’s small window. Patrick and Beth make it onto the roof of the palace, but then giant eagles called rocs pick them up.

The rocs carry the children to their nest to feed them to the fledglings. Suddenly an English knight, who looks like a young Mr. Whittaker, appears in the Imagination Station. He fights off the rocs with his sword, telling the children to get into the Imagination Station and leave without him. They reluctantly obey, but instead of returning to Whit’s End, the Imagination Station takes them to a dark cave. They don’t know where or when they are.

Christian Beliefs

The khan asks why the Christian God doesn’t destroy the Christians’ enemies. Patrick explains that Jesus defeated death and that those who believe in Him will live forever. The khan retorts that his mother and uncle were both Christians but still died. When Patrick says that they are alive in heaven, the khan states that he is only interested in what God can do for him in this world, such as giving him immortality and an unstoppable army.

Kublai Khan believes that Patrick and Beth are Christian shamans. Beki thanks Patrick and Beth for telling the khan about Jesus, saying that he is stubborn and won’t listen to the truth. Mr. Whittaker addresses the Bible to a daughter of the true Khan, Jesus Christ. Beki says that now she can learn more about being a Christian. Patrick prays for help when he and Beth are caught by the rocs.

Other Belief Systems

The khan believes he will still be a warrior in the afterlife. The shamans are described as Mongol religious men and are believed to have magic powers. The khan warns Beth that if she angers the shamans, they will cast an evil spell on her.

The shamans’ magic is revealed to be a trick. The Mongols think the wind-up toy chicken is an evil spirit. One Mongol warrior believes Patrick is a devil, because he appeared in the desert without leaving any tracks and also jumped over the cooking fire.

Authority Roles

Mr. Whittaker gives Patrick and Beth everything they need to be successful on their adventure, demonstrating his wisdom and care for them. He apologizes for sending them on so many missions and wishes that he could go himself.

Marco Polo is kind to the children, saving them from the Mongols after Patrick accidentally breaks the law. He takes them to see the khan. Marco believes in the shamans’ magic and is rather nervous when Beth challenges them. He also leaves the children imprisoned in the palace.

The khan clearly states that he is only interested in power and glory. He is only curious about God because he believes that God will give him wealth and immortality. The khan promises to reward Beth if she uncovers the shamans’ trick, but instead he has her and Patrick imprisoned because he believes they are Christian shamans.

The khan intends to treat them well and have them attend school, but they are not free to leave. He is energized by the prospect of war with the rebels and dismisses the wounded messenger without thanking him or having his wounds seen to. Beki states that he is a stubborn man.

Profanity & Violence

Some of the Mongols call Beth and Patrick evil and devilish. They accuse them of trying to steal a horse. Beth calls Patrick silly at one point. Patrick calls the rocs birdbrains.

Before Patrick and Beth leave, Mr. Whittaker tells them that the Mongols are the best fighters in Asia. A horse rushes at Patrick with its teeth bared. Beth explains to Patrick that a crusade is a religious war and that knights did a lot of fighting in the Holy Land. Kublai Khan feared that the Polos were dead since they were so long in returning. The khan wants an army that will never suffer defeat and believes he will go to the afterlife as a warrior with his bow and arrows.

The messenger who tells the khan about the rebel army has an arrow through his shoulder. His tunic is soaked with blood, and he faints. The rebels begin to ram the palace gates, and Beki explains that they will try to kill her grandfather.

When Patrick and Beth are on the roof, they see the army rapidly approaching. Patrick realizes that if the roc drops him, he will break a lot of bones and maybe even die. Patrick worries that they will be bird food for the baby rocs. Beth hurts her leg when she is dropped in the nest and begins to bleed.

One of the birds grabs Beth’s dress, and Patrick swings a stick at it to get it to let go. One of the adult rocs returns, but before it can claw at Beth or Patrick, a knight appears and attacks it with a sword. Beth notes that the adult roc is big enough to swallow a man in one bite. The knight is still fighting the rocs when Beth and Patrick leave.

Sexual Content


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