So, for my next Outsider Applauds I want to tell you about one of my favorite trilogies. But I want to preface this by saying that, generally, I do not like Christian Fiction. I often find it boring, or predictable, and too unrealistic. That is not true for Francine Rivers books. I have not read all of her stuff, and probably won’t to be honest. I first read her book, Redeeming Love. It’s a story based off of the book Hosea (which is my favorite book of the Bible – I am sure I will write a blog gushing over it at some point) and it was really good. Like real good. So note that despite that, I am not writing about that book.
I am writing about the Mark of the Lion Series. This trilogy is made up of Voice on the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure as the Dawn. There are numerous characters that we follow throughout the books but two main storylines. The first is the story of Hadassah, a young Jewish girl just sold into slavery, and the family she serves The Valerian’s, a prominent, wealthy family in Rome. The other follows Atretes, a Germanic warrior who is captured and turned into a Gladiator in Rome. Set the generation after Christ when Rome desecrated Jerusalem and at the height of Roman prowess, this characters will captivate your heart. Hadassah is a constant testament to fighting for your faith, not just in society but within yourself, battling herself as much as she battles the world. The Valerians buy Hadassah to be a maid for their youngest child, Julia, and we begin to see the family dynamics at play. Demetrius, a foreigner who bought his Roman Citizenship and the Head of this Household doing everything he can to provide for his family and protect them from the endless indulgences and debauchery of Rome, with his wife Phoebe who loves her children but is brokenhearted by their desire to live as Romans and not live a life that is pleasing to the many gods she spends hours praying before. Then there is Julia, the spoiled, indulgent youngest child who wants nothing more than to be like her big brother and experience all the pleasures and wonders of Rome. Then there’s Marcus, a young man who has been swept up in the chaos of Rome, but had found himself jaded, unhappy and bored with the life he had created for himself, but refuses to be pressured into the life his father wishes for him. Finally, you have Atretes, a Germanic warrior who has been captured and uses his rage against Rome and his belief in his tribal god, Tiwaz, to fight for his life as a gladiator.
I have never found myself so invested in characters before, and I love to read. I would get so lost in these books that I would find myself praying for the characters. Strength for Hadassah. Salvation for others. Then I would realize what I was doing, laugh at myself and apologize to God getting so wrapped up in book. Hadassah is written so transparently and her struggles are put on display and we can see how she struggles to remain faithful, which demonstrates way we can struggle and fight to remain faithful, especially when our flesh wants nothing more than to cave and give in. Marcus is paramount in helping us to personify the struggle with being discontent with the world around us and the desperation and sorrow that comes when they have nothing else to turn to.
The book begins with a harrowing and haunting description of Jerusalem during the first Jewish-Roman war. Enjoying historical fictions, I loved the first new chapters that really set up the world Hadassah (in Jerusalem) and Atretes (in Germania) were leaving and the world they now found themselves in, the great Roman Empire. However, this intro can be very sad, and some people can get lost in it and give up on the book before getting to Rome. If this section is difficult for you, I would encourage you to read until you meet the Valerians and complete that chapter. Wait until you get to Rome and Hadassah is installed in the Valerian household. If you still are not hooked, then that’s fine, we all have different taste — but hold out through Jerusalem and Germania, get to Rome before you quit.
So, there it is. I love these books. I reread them at least one a year, I just cannot stop myself. So grab a copy on the first book for your next vacation and get ready to enter a world that will challenge you, convict you and cause you to look at the world around us. Here is the link for the author’s site and more information if you want: http://www.francinerivers.com/books/series/mark-lion
I hope that you have a great day, and happy reading!
What is your favorite fiction book you have ever read?