on May 25, 2005
I just finished "A Voice in the Wind" this evening and I'm already plowing through the second novel in the series. I read Francine Rivers first novel for the Christian market, "Redeeming Love", and was impressed with it. The Mark of the Lion Series lives up to the rave reviews, but I do have a few words of caution.
The novel is set in the Roman Empire of the first century and deals quite frankly with the society of the time. The story opens with the destruction of Jerusalem in 79 AD. Here we meet Hadassah and her family, trapped in the city by the Roman army. When Roman legionaires enter the city and slaughter its inhabitants, Hadassah's starving family is among their victims. Hadassah herself is taken prisoner and sold into slavery. The descriptions of death and war violence are vivid and this somewhat shocking opening sets the pace for the story to come.
Ancient Rome is probably one of the more captivating periods in history. The romance and splendor of the empire have been depicted in countless films and novels. Ms. Rivers effectively places the reader in the midst of this world, with all of its decadence and debauchery. While Hadassah is technically the main character, a great deal of time is spent developing the other characters in the story. These characters include Hadassah's owners, the Valerians, and a German gladiator named Atretes. Ms. Rivers deals very frankly with the sensual nature of ancient Rome. Many of the characters are promiscuous and the descriptions of the gladiator matches are graphic enogh to make you cringe. In all honesty I would have preferred less vivid detail. Sexual content is present. We don't read every lascivious detail, but we know that characters have slept together. The story deals with murder, abortion, idol worship, witchcraft and various forms of sexual depravity. Some have criticized the graphic nature of the stoty. However, as the novel draws to a close, we can see that Ms. Rivers has used these elements to show how depraved some of the characters are, throwing other character's virtues into sharp contrast.
Hadassah herself seems to represent what Christians should be. She falls just short of being too perfect, but one can't help but connect with her just the same. The climax of the novel is heart wrenching. This story is not about happy endings and we see virtually nothing resolved with the novel's cliff-hanger ending. However, we do see Hadassah mature into a model of Christ-like behavior that we should emulate. Aside from the graphic depictions of violent battles and the seemingly endless stream of debaucherous behavior, the story is engaging and powerful and will leave you with a great many things to think about in your own walk with the Lord. I would not recommend this novel for a young audience, however mature older teens might be able to handle it. Have the second book on hand as you'll race rather quickly through the last few chapters.
I don't normally read much in the way of fiction, but occasionally find historical fiction worthwhile for expanding the mind, so when an employee of mine recommended this book, I decided to give it a read. My initial assessment, after only 20 or 30 pages, was that Francine Rivers was a devoted Christian using her literary talents to witness for Christ. An admirable undertaking, to be sure, but I soon learned I underestimated the authors' ability. She has woven a tremendous story here and in the process, has reached out to disperse the good news of Christ through a captivating story.
I was first Impressed with Rivers as a writer by her glaring knowledge of the subject matter. Not just of the Christian aspect of the story, one would expect a Christian writer to well versed in that venue, but her knowledge and descriptive prose in battle tactics of two millennia ago. Weaponry is rather easy to comprehend with a little research, but to comprehend battle tactics of that era is a much deeper challenge and Rivers has mastered that challenge magnificently.
The story revolves around a young Jewess, her family killed by the Romans, taken captive and sold into slavery in Rome to a well-to-do Ephesian merchants family. She finds herself in the servitude of a Roman day Scarlett O'Hara, roughly a generation after the death and resurrection of Christ. Over what I gather to be roughly a seven year period in the service of the family, the young Jewess serves their every wish and has a profound influence upon all the family members, but is torn by her inability to make them understand her beliefs.
Rivers draws masterful parallels between Rome of 2,000 years ago and the U.S. today, particularly in the area of social decay, moral decline, juvenile disobedience and the overall degenerate social environment. Some might find this a stretch but readers well aware of the state of Roman society of the time will understand the correlations and know this is not just a writer using literary liberty to make a point. The truth is, the similarities of Rome, just prior to its fall, and the U.S. today are more than coincidental.
This is a well-told story with a message for all. It's not just run of the mill historical fiction, but rather a valuable work which will enrich the lives of readers open to its lessons. Upon finishing this one, I immediately ordered part II of this story.
The year is 70 AD. Hadassah has been captured at the fall of Jerusalem. Taken to Rome, she is bought to serve the Valerian family. The Valerians are having their own problems. Decimus, the father, is very traditional, yet his children, Marcus and Julia, embrace all the decadence Rome has to offer. Hadassah wants to share her faith in Jesus the Messiah with this family, but she cannot find the courage to do so. Meanwhile, Atretes has been captured in Germany and taken to Rome as a gladiator. As their lives intertwine, they will all face problems that will challenge who they are and what they believe.
I just read this book for the first time, and can't believe I waited so long to do so. This is an amazing novel. The characters are strong, the writing is crisp, the plots are remarkable, and the detail given to ancient Rome makes it come alive. Every time I picked up this novel, I was drawn into its world and had a hard time putting it down.
This was my introduction to the books of Francine Rivers, but by no means will this be my last. I am looking forward to finishing this series and exploring her other novels. She is truly a gifted author.
on December 15, 1999
I borrowed this book from my elder sister while on holiday. I was so astounded by the characters and how easily they were to identify with! To start with, the book chronicles the start of a trilogy about a young Christian slave girl sold into a Roman family. There she finds herself clinging to a faith she took for granted and finding joy, peace of mind and a strong steadfastness in the Lord despite her circumstances. Fall in love with Marcus, rave against Julia and find yourself in awe of the power of the Lord. Rome in those days was not so different from now - extremes of poverty and wealth accompanied by greed, enterprise and the emptiness found in material things. I was so affected by this book that I took down the title, author and publisher's name so that I could order my own copy plus the next 2 in the series, An Echo In the Darkness and As Sure As the Dawn. As soon as these books came through the post, I stayed in my room till I'd finished reading them - there was no way I was leaving my room till I'd finished! Later, I ordered The Scarlet Thread and decided there was simply no point in looking for a better fiction/scripture writer than Francine Rivers. FR, you're brilliant - don't change!
on January 2, 2000
This was absolutely the BEST book that I have ever read. I have read this whole series 5 time over, I'm still not tired of it! Francine Rivers really puts this story of a slave girl in Rome, in a light that is realistic and understandable. You can feel the stuggles that Haddassah faces, not only read them. Its a book that can be really enjoyed by both genders. I stongly recomend this book to anyone. Man OR women. This book changed my life.
on December 6, 2000
In a short time Francine Rivers has become one of our finest Christian authors, and THE MARK OF THE LION trilogy is her crown jewel. Quite simply, these are my favorite works of fiction - ever. While other authors may sell more books at times, none can WRITE like Rivers.
The trilogy is set in the Roman Empire, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem. Using a Hebrew slave girl (Hadassah) and a German gladiator (Atretes; think the movie Gladiator) as the main characters, three books are crafted around themes of faith, redemption and sacrifice. Rivers is one of the best at writing characters and the ones she creates here are absolutely convincing -- flawed and heroic on multiple layers, with developmental conflicts that relate to and parallel modern times almost seemlessly. A VOICE IN THE WIND, the first and best of the series, lays the groundwork for the trilogy but stands tall on its own merits as well. The character of Hadassah, in particular, shines most bright in this part of the trilogy. You can read it on its own, but I guarantee that you will have to order the rest of the series when you're through.
These books will not only grab hold of you and demand to be finished but they will challenge you to take your walk with God to a much deeper level. Do not read this series unless you want to be changed. No other stories have every affected me in such a deep way. Forget the LEFT BEHIND series and invest in a true Christian classic. Five Stars.
It was difficult for me to come up with a rating for this book. It was well-written with a captivating story. The ending left me wanting to know more about the characters and I will probably read the next book in the series just to find out what happens. I am also a fan of Francine Rivers and have loved a number of her other books.
The problem I had with the book was the graphic portrayal of the Roman empire during the time of the story. The author was very open about the society of the times and that meant that there was a lot of violence and sexual innuendo throughout the story. As I generally tend to like authors who do not sugar-coat their stories I was puzzled as to why this bothered me.
I do tend to be very squeamish when it comes to gory violence. The fights of the Roman Empire were quite violent and were vividly portrayed that way. The sexual content also bothered me. There weren't any details but the author gave enough information to leave little to the imagination. This is probably came from the fact that she wrote Romance novels before switching to Christian Fiction. I personally thought it was a little over done.
My favorite character in the book was Julia; the spoiled rich girl who reminded me of Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare. It was her story that kept me reading as I wanted to know more about what was going to happen to her and I wanted to see what other choices she might make. It was the flaws in her character that made her the most interesting to read about.
I tend to read books in the Christian genre when I'm looking for a good story without an overabundance of scenes I would prefer not to read. If this is not why you would pick up this book then it may be the right one for you. I would not recommend this book for young teens or anyone who wants to avoid reading material that has a lot of violence and sex as it is impossible to avoid in this book. When I make my choice in ratings I base it on whether or not I would own or would re-read the book. In this case I would not do either but I can easily see why someone else would answer yes to both of those questions.
In summary, if you are not bothered by violent fight scenes and/or sexual innuendo then you may very well enjoy this book. It was definitely an interesting read and it gave me a greater insight into the Roman Empire. For me, it proved a little too strong for my tastes.
on February 16, 2005
AMAZING,AMAZING,AMAZING!!! Francine Rivers is definately at the top of christian fiction! If you haven't read this book, I HIGHLY recomend it!
No matter what you're looking for in a book, you'll get something out of this. If you're into romance or are simply looking for a good read, you'll enjoy it!
For me personally, this book challenged me as a person. Francine Rivers writes with such an honesty, I can't really describe it, but she captures the essense of man and his need for a higher purpose and really the heart of the Christian faith as well.
Hadassah, while quiet and dealing with her fears throughout the book, is really the strongest character of the story. Her unwavering faith is really the centerpiece of this story, and her beautiful humility seems to outshine everything else.
A few of the other more "flawed" characters really served to point out how I am so much more like them then Hadassah and really got me thinking.
This is a very touching, fascinating, inspirational book, and I don't know how someone could read this and not sense a need in their life to change, to be a better person, to be more like Hadassah.
For whatever reason you feel like reading this, you DEFINATELY should. I HIGHLY recomend this book!!!
on September 8, 2000
In this first volume of the Mark of the Lion series, Francine Rivers spins a spell-binding and deeply-moving story that entertains, educates and enthrals. The captivating tale of the Christian Jewess Hadassah took me on a breath-taking ride that starts in the ruins of Jerusalem, travels to the godless hub of first century Rome, and concludes in the Artemis worshipping city of Ephesus.
This book has the capacity not only to keep you captivated for as long as it takes to read (500 pages plus!), but long afterwards also. Rivers' story-telling capabilities are simply superb, as is her colourful characterization, and these are unquestionably some of the highlights of this novel. Particularly compelling is the touching manner in which Rivers portrays the special relationship between the slave Hadassah and her master Julia, and I gained valuable insights and understanding about slavery from this relationship. Rivers' theological weaknesses (endorsement of Arminianism and belief in ongoing revelation outside of Scripture) are evident, but only occur incidentally, and do not really detract from the power of the novel.
Her portrayal of first century Rome is especially outstanding. The culture of the Roman empire is described in vivid detail, complete with its godless and decadent lifestyle, political intrigue and corruption, infatuation with gladiators and games, sex and sensuality. The description of Rome's decadence is at times almost too vivid, and consequently the book is not really suitable for younger readers. The inclusion of contemporary issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and common-law marriage at first seem anachronistic, but I soon realized that the decay evident in contemporary Western culture is merely a mirror image of the decay that also characterized and eventually destroyed corrupt Rome.
Over against the destructive decay of Roman culture, Rivers describes its counter-culture: Christianity. The only hope for a people trapped in a immoral and disintegrating world - both then and now - is the Saviour and restorer of life: Jesus Christ. Ultimately this age-old contrast between the church and the world is at the heart of this epic novel. As never before, I was able to picture and appreciate the extent to which the Christians of the early church were counter-culture in first century pagan Rome. This renewed understanding of Christianity being counter-culture quickly became a personal incentive to be a faithful Christian in our equally corrupt times. It is especially this quality that made "A Voice in the Wind" not only immensely satisfying, but also incredibly stimulating for my own faith.
This novel is not just good, it's great, and is undoubtedly one of the very best in contemporary Christian fiction. Very highly recommended!
on April 15, 2000
And I've read enough to get a good sample of what's out there. I have found a lot of Christian fiction has undeveloped characters, and repetitive plots in subsequent volumes (such as any Janette Oke book) This book was the total opposite. I totally forgot I was reading and was transported to 1st century Rome, Ephesus, and Germania. Ms. rivers totally made the characters come alive, and I could barely put it down from the first page.
A piece of advice: While you buy this book, buy the second and probably the third. Trust me, you won't want to wait for it to be shipped to your house. I just finished reading it, and guess what I'm doing: ordering the next book.
The only flaws in this book were that they made it sound too much like liberal America, although it does make you think. Some parts get a little graphic, so I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers (Ha ha, what a laugh coming from a 14 year old!) or people with a weak stomach. Other than that: READ THIS BOOK! If you don't like it, email me and tell me why!