Josh has been gone for almost a week and a half so that means I’ve finished a 496 page novel and already started the next on in the series 🙂
Ordinarily I succumb to watching Disney movies, or at least having them on for the vocal company, but for this spread of alone time I resolved to commit to keeping the TV off and picking up a book instead. I had barely started A Voice in the Wind before Josh left and I finished it at 2:30am Saturday night.
If you are like me and prefer to know as little about a story as possible before diving in, I simply tell you this tale is about a young Jewess facing the calamity and debauchery of a post Nero Roman civilization. So, count this your SPOILER ALERT and skip the Summary but the rest of the content is safe for you. However, I do reveal very little in the Summary.
A Voice in the Wind is the first installment of a three book series by Francine Rivers called Mark of the Lion. The story is split from multiple perspectives with a main character a couple secondary characters and a couple more tertiary characters.
The predominant main character is a teenage Judean slave girl named Hadassah. She is a soft-spoken, humble, and compassionate Christian. The reader begins with her in a rotting Jerusalem with her dying family.
Our secondary characters, Atretes, Marcus, and Julia, narrate the story intermittently as well.
Atretes has the second most noticeably dominant voice. He is a barbaric and to-the-core macho, yet beautiful and soulful Germainian clan chieftain’s son. The reader starts a journey with him in the middle of a thick forest in Germania at war with the Romans.
Marcus is a handsome and cunning wealthy Roman aristocrat. He is the very image of corrupt Rome and gives voice to Rome’s debauchery and vile desires.
Julia captivates the reader briefly at the beginning of the story as the innocent and beautiful little sister of Marcus but her brightness rapidly dissolves rendering her an utterly selfish and loathsome character. Not too far into the novel she is presented with Hadassah as her personal slave and the story unfolds deeply from there.
Tertiary voices include Marcus and Julia’s parents Phoebe and Decimus, the dark Calabah, and a generous sprinkling of other characters.
To be honest, I avoided this book for years. Josh and several other friends highly recommended the book to me but, as a writer, I struggled to bring myself to start because of my experience with River’s Redeeming Love several years back. In Redeeming Love I found that I loved the story but the overbearing amount of sappy loving and the undesirable, and sometimes unprofessional, writing style almost had me setting the book aside. River’s is a brilliant story weaver but sometimes emotions run rampant and the Christian aspect gets in the way of the storytelling. That being said, I am a strong advocate for Christian fiction because I love learning Biblical messages in a creative way but it irks me when it’s an excuse for bad story structure and evangelical interruptions. I am a firm believer in practicing love and life to emit Christ rather than always confront non believers over the head with Bible thumping and I find too often that Christian fiction falls in the latter category.
Anyway, I committed to reading it and fell in love with learning about Biblical and Roman history in such an entertaining way and, in the end, I found myself convicted by the character lessons within the story.
A Voice in the Wind gave vivid picture and detail to the history of Rome and Ephesus as it coincides with Biblical history. I cherished learning about historical Rome at the collapse of Judea, post Nero, and in the midst of gladiators. One of my all time favorite movies is Gladiator so naturally that was an easy point of connection and intrigue but I also love learning about world history, especially as it pertains to the Bible. I found River’s depiction of Rome visually and socially very enlightening and infinitely interesting.
The other aspects of the novel that struck me were the lessons I was left with to ponder when I turned the last page of the book. I won’t divulge too much of what happened because I truly hope you will commit to reading the book yourself but I found myself left with convictions to boldly speak up, stand up firmly in my faith, and persevere down God’s path even if death looks me in the face. I have a new and profound respect for Christians that lived, loved, and died during that time period and feel so blessed with the religious freedom I possess.
My grievances with the novel were in the characters, the plot and the structure.
The most believable character, and, thus, my favorite character, was Atretes. But I struggled with the other main characters. I found Hadassah unrealistically and irritatingly long-winded in her evangelical exploits and her personality somewhat inconsistent. I loved her gentle and compassionate spirit but I never fully loved this character that the reader is supposed to adore because she sometimes spends pages reiterating Biblical passages, she rarely spoke a word that was her own and not recited from the Bible, and she had bursts of boldness that were uncharacteristic of everything I’d learned of her personality.
As far as the plot is concerned, I found most of it more than satisfactory. Overall it was continuously engaging while remaining believable. However, at the introduction of Hadassah to other Roman and, later, Ephesian Christians I was occasionally subjected to lengthy Biblical banter consisting of scriptural recitation and rigid religious conversation. Plot interruptions by Hadassah’s occasional Biblical rants were also unnecessary and unwelcome. I liked River’s intention of driving a message home but I just wish she would have done so with more brevity and cleverness.
The structure of everyone contributing their perspective in the story is interesting but somewhat immature. I believe a good writer should be able to give a well-rounded view of their characters, story, and the setting without having to succumb to grappling for every character’s perspective. I can appreciate a good novel with a few narrators but not everyone should get their voice in the story.
Despite my qualms with the novel I do highly recommend it. The reward of learning more about the history surrounding the Biblical letters and the personal Biblical conviction delivered is well worth trudging through moments of religious rants and disagreeable characters. Not to mention, the story is captivating.
My highest recommendation in reading this book is reading it along side Romans. I so happened to accidentally stumble on this excellent pairing. When I started Voice in the Wind I simultaneously and coincidentally started Romans for my daily devotions. I loved the picture painting of the novel paired with the Biblical history and telling of Roman civilization.