In the Shadow of Lions by Ginger Garrett

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

In the Shadow of Lions: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Ginger Garrett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Henry VIII is on the throne, and a mysterious book is wreaking havoc in Europe and the Church. Two women, Rose and Anne, and their guardian angels are steeped in the midst of this momentous unrest…In the Shadow of Lions by author Ginger Garrett.

While perhaps anyone familiar with today’s historical fiction can tell who the woman on the book cover is with one glance, and this first novel in the Chronicles of the Scribe series is called “A novel of Anne Boleyn,” I wouldn’t call it that. Although she is a key player in this story, Anne isn’t exactly set up as the key player.

This tale with bold supernatural elements casts Anne in a rather different light than is usual for her in popular culture. But even with her devoutness in this account, she isn’t a perfect saint who knows it all, and this isn’t a sweet novel. Though sensual at times, it isn’t romantic. It’s gruesome and tragic, a depiction of a hellish period in Christendom.

I’ll admit I nearly gave up on this book after the first third of it, as I felt it spent too long speaking in riddles, and the choppy development made it hard for me to get a good grip on and to feel for the characters, who are each in some kind of agony. For all their belief in a Prince of Peace, no one is at peace here.

Still, novels that are so marinated in historical flavor are hard for me to turn down, and I do enjoy this author’s deft, sharp, ironic style, even when it’s haunting. Sometimes I do need something on the darker side, and while it isn’t pretty, much of this novel’s relevance is in its illustration of how ugly and base “the faith” can become in the hands of self-serving people.

So much religion. So much “holiness.” So much judgment. So much profession of Christ accompanied by little to no real love.

Have we or have we not learned from history?

______________

Chronicles of the Scribe Series

 

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Grace and others in her religious community stay within the boundaries of Haven Valley. They adhere to the strict rules made to keep them pure and safe from the evil that’s been unleashed in the world outside of their perimeter. But doubts about the reality of what’s out there and the course those in Haven Valley are supposed to take set Grace on a perplexing path in The Girl Behind the Red Rope by authors Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker.

First off—high five to a father and daughter authoring a novel together!

While it’s not my usual kind of read, I chose to try this book because of its cultish theme. Indeed, that theme set my teeth on edge, as it were, as I read: the whole issue of an isolated community with a warped sense of righteousness, where oppressive laws, leaders who rule by fear, and the magnification of sin come under the guise of “holiness.” I was 99.9% sure I’d know what the authors’ basic message would be about fear vs. love, but I wanted to see how they would get it across.

However, this suspense novel turned out not to be quite what I was expecting. That is, I expected the dark and dystopian feel, but the supernatural elements with strange creatures laced into the allegory kind of threw me. I trusted nothing and no one as I read, couldn’t really get behind the characters, and the pacing and development of the plot didn’t grip me. The story is bizarre but didn’t keep me interested enough to continue on after I got through a third of it.

I’ve enjoyed some historical/biblical fiction by Ted Dekker before and may give one of his thrillers a try sometime. I’ll probably opt for one of his older titles.

 

Midnight is My Time by Mike Dellosso

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Midnight is My Time by Mike Dellosso

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Horrendous circumstances have made an outcast out of Andy, who’s been traveling solo through this post-apocalyptic world. But he’s no longer alone after he meets Missy, a blind woman with an inexplicable gift in Midnight is My Time, a novel by author Mike Dellosso.

I’ve read ChristFic novels about end times before, and while some aspects of this story were pretty predictable to me, it turned out not to be something I would’ve expected on the whole. It uses a couple of theological elements in ways I haven’t seen before in fiction.

Now, dangerous setups feel contrived to me when they hinge on someone walking into a situation that doesn’t make the most sense for the character, which happens a time or two here. I also think some repetitiveness, unsurprising minor villains, and places where the narrator states the obvious dulls some moments that could’ve been sharper.

My interest waned through a few slower parts, and though the main characters aren’t supposed to know their purpose for some time, I’m not sure the story ever makes the point of their purpose too clear. Perhaps the full significance is dependent on the reader’s prior biblical knowledge, or there may be a sequel coming.

In any case, I think the read does get stronger as it goes along, and I really liked the messages about memories that haunt us and pivotal choices we make about ourselves. This was my first time reading this author, and I plan to do so again.

_________

Note to my blog readers: not out of keeping with the subject matter, this novel contains some moments of gruesome violence.

 

Zimrah, Dream Singer by Susan Valles

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. I received a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Zimrah Dream SingerZimrah, Dream Singer by Susan Valles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Though Zimrah has always been treated well by her Jewish master, the people of Chasah ridicule and reject her for being a “favored slave” who looks so different, and she suffers in silence many nights in the presence of unseen enemies. She doesn’t know how much her discovery of a musical instrument, and the arrival of a Roman soldier, will change her life in Zimrah, Dream Singer by author Susan Valles.

I couldn’t pass up this book after seeing its stunning cover: the sunrise, the city, the lyre, and the woman with a hint of mystery, seamlessly blended into it all. The image gives a remarkable sense of time, place, and atmosphere, as does the author’s fluid style, revealing the unusual life of a troubled but gifted young woman. It’s as if her journey isn’t just a story but a song, verses of darkness and pain that give all the more significance to the light that breaks through and makes the music a love song.

This is a weighty and deeply spiritual book, some of it reminding me of This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti and Paradise Lost by John Milton. While I was captured by the overall story here, it seemed like it was put on pause in places for commentary that didn’t quite blend into a novel flow and that was sometimes redundant. I also think the story could have benefited from more subtlety at points, trusting the reader’s discernment, as sometimes it’s more impactful for a reader to catch or interpret what a story doesn’t dwell upon or directly spell out.

Still, this is a lovely illustration of the trying but ultimately triumphant awakening of a worshipper. I’d recommend it to anyone who’ll appreciate a tale of spiritual battles, unlikely romance, and lives transformed by love.

__________

Zimrah’s journey continues in Zimrah Dream Walker.