Three historical novels from extremely different time periods and places led to a feast of pleasurable reading this month. Deliverance, Vol. 2 of the Moses Chronicles by H. B. Moore transports the reader back to the Old Testament time when Moses fled Egypt and took refuge among the Midianites. A.L. Sowards opens a door to a more recent time, a hundred years ago when Europe was caught up in World War I with The Spider and The Sparrow.
The third jumps to two thousand years ago on the American continent with Secrets of the King’s Daughter by new author Renae Weight Mackley. The three stories deal with different forms of social behavior and combat, yet are similar in their portrayals of loyalty, betrayal, family, and faith. They are also similar in their ability to draw the reader immediately into the story and hold his/her attention to the very last page. All three fit into the Easter season as they explore new beginnings, sacrifice, and tests of faith.
DELIVERANCE by H.B. Moore
Moore is one of those writers who started strong and has become better with each book. She writes in several genres, but is decidedly at her best with her historical novels based on scriptural characters. Deliverance picks up the story of Moses at the time he fled across the desert from Egypt and his encounters with various desert tribes until he rescues a group of young women from raiders who are scattering the sheep and threatening the young women who are attempting to water their father’s flocks. This is the second volume in Moore’s highly acclaimed new series, The Moses Chronicles.
Moses has just learned he is not the son of an Egyptian princess, but is in fact a Hebrew, part of Egypt’s slave class. He doesn’t know anything about his biological family. The Midianites take him in and he finds himself falling in love with one of Jethro’s daughters. With the passage of time he fights many battles for survival in the harsh land, but enjoys much of his new life as a shepherd. Along with learning a new language and customs, he is introduced to the God the Midianites worship and learn He is the same God the Hebrews worship. A desire to know and the accumulation of faith promoting experiences leads him to prayer and eventually to the burning bush that starts his life on a new course and sets the stage for Vol. 3 of the series.
Moore has a knack for turning ancient figures known mostly for their pivotal roles in scriptural events and pronouncements into flesh and blood people with the same wants and needs as ourselves and the people around us, both the good and the bad. Moore’s Moses gained his strength and the faith to call down plagues and part the Red Sea through adversity, obedience, love for others, a willingness to serve, and a trust in God that grew bit by bit. Moses is someone readers can relate to more than an unapproachable ancient prophet. His wife, Zipporah, is made real also and plays a major role in Moses’s development into the powerful leader he later became.
Moore has inserted into the story a large number of fictional characters as well as those named in the Old Testament, and though they’re realistic and enhance the story, they in no way take away from the historical facts.
H.B. Moore, also known as Heather B. Moore, is the author of seventeen other books, most of which have an LDS scriptural base. Along with impeccable research skills, she brings firsthand knowledge to her descriptions of Middle Eastern lands as she has lived or toured in many of those places. She attended Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. She also has a Bachelor of Science degree from Brigham Young University. She and Her husband are now living and raising their family in Utah.
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DELIVERANCE, VOL. 2, THE MOSES CHRONICLES by H.B. Moore, published by Covenant Communications, 270 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.
THE SPIDER AND THE SPARROW by A.L. Sowards
All right; I’ll admit it. A.L. Sowards has become one of my favorite authors. When I pick up a Sowards’ novel, I tend to drop everything else and keep my nose stuck between the pages from beginning to end–or as close to that as I can manage. Her newest novel The Spider and the Sparrow is a harrowing, well-researched story of espionage, the privations of war, loyalty, treason, compassion, and love that occurs during World War I. It takes place after the war has already begun in early 1915 and continues to a few months after the war ends four years later in 1919. The setting for this book is mostly in France, but portions take place in England and Germany.
Warren Flynn is a Canadian pilot flying with the allies against the Germans. He loves Claire Donovan, the daughter of an American munitions manufacturer almost as much as he loves flying. Julian Olivier fights in the trenches for France and is wounded. After losing his best friend, he’ll do almost anything to not return to the trenches. He agrees to become a spy, but just before Flynn flies him into a remote location in Germany, he meets a peasant girl, Evette, who is on her way to Paris to seek employment in a factory and escape her abusive stepbrother. Neither can forget their brief encounter during the coming four years that the war rages on.
Flynn sees the war from the air in increasingly better planes. He loses loved ones, advances in rank, and spends as much time as possible with Claire in her Paris home. At great risk to himself, Julian discovers secrets critical to the Allies success, but he also learns to love and respect many of the German people, especially the children and realizes the soldiers on the other side of those trenches suffer the same privations and fears as he and his comrades. Julian isn’t the only one who takes on the mantle of a spy. Evette, well schooled by her need to evade her vicious stepbrother, makes a startling discovery that leads to her becoming an operative for the Allies. When the war finally ends, the danger is not over. There are those who still seek revenge, to prosper from the continuation of the war, or to keep their identities and deeds concealed from the public.
Sowards’s characters are a mixture of strength and flaws that make them real and allows the reader to share their emotions and fears. Their conversation and the social mores of the time period lend to their realism and evidence the author’s attention to research. The settings and background of this story are well done. I could almost feel and taste the mud of those rain filled trenches along the French/German border. There are two romances that take place. They are important elements of the story, but do not dominate it. Violence is a necessary part of a war story, but is not overdone or overly graphic.
There are no direct mentions of the LDS Church, but reading between the lines, one can surmise that Flynn’s family is LDS. One very good small scene includes a Catholic priest. A gradual low key search for, then discovery, of faith in God, is the strongest religious aspect of the novel. Terrible sacrifices are asked of the characters in this story as in the all too real war a hundred years ago, but though it was a terrible time and included horrible events, the overall story leaves the reader with a sense of hope and faith.
A.L. Sowards is the author of four other historical novels. She was born in Georgia, grew up in Moses Lake, Washington, and has spent most of her adult life in Utah. She and her husband are the parents of three young children. She swam competitively during her high school years and later on the Brigham Young University swim team. She majored in political science and English.
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THE SPIDER AND THE SPARROW by A.L. Sowards, published by Covenant Communications, 290 pages, soft cover $16.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.
SECRETS OF THE KING’S DAUGHTER by Renae Weight Mackley
Secrets of the King’s Daughter by Renae Weight Mackley is billed as a Romance, but though a portion of the book contains elements of a Romance, overall the story is more Historical Women’s Fiction than Romance. It is also an exciting action novel. It is the story of the life and experiences of Karlinah, a fictional daughter of King Lamoni during the time Ammon is preaching to the Lamanites. More emphasis is placed on the teachings of Ammon and the scriptural account from the Book of Mormon than on the romantic relationship that occurs in the latter portion of the book.
King Lamoni’s daughter, Karlinah, married a neighboring prince to seal an agreement between their two countries. Her husband drinks excessively, beats her, and controls her every action. One night he attacks her with a knife in a murderous rage. The next morning he is found dead.
Murder? Or self-defense? Surprisingly Karlinah isn’t considered a suspect and a massive search is begun for the killer.
The daughter of King Lamoni is sent back to her father after the death of her abusive husband. A search is on for the killer and Karlinah has a secret she must hide. Expecting to be safe in her childhood home with her royal parents, she is disappointed to be thrust into an another unwanted betrothal to a priest she suspects of being as cruel as the husband she so recently escaped.
Ammon arrives and the events as outlined in the Book of Mormon occur, leaving most of the kingdom converts to the gospel, except for Karlinah, and of course, the priest she is supposed to marry. Her father releases her from the contract to marry the priest, but she doesn’t trust Ammon and fears conversion and baptism because it would require repentance and confessing her secret. The priest is determined to marry Karlinah in spite of her wishes and sets in place a scheme to entrap her. Her only hope is the son of a stone mason and her realization that to move forward she must face her past.
It’s easy to sympathize with Karlinah. She’s a bright young woman with an independent streak caught up in a manipulative society that gives women almost no rights. She’s a survivor and has learned to protect herself, both physically and to some extent emotionally. Her thoughts and feelings are portrayed well. There is a large cast of characters and most are believable. The realization that the priest goes beyond evil to madness is developed slowly and fits well in the story. She shows growth slowly at first, then in the face of terrible adversity discovers her own strength and worth.
The overall storyline follows Karlinah , with several subplots strung together to make up different episodes in her life. Some of these are told from other characters’ points of view. There is her secret and how she deals with it, Ammon and his impact on her life and community, her interaction with family members and other characters. The settings vary too, from her time in the household of her husband’s family, back in her father’s household, a building site, the jungle, and along a river. The author’s descriptions of the outdoor areas are the least convincing because they aren’t quite jungle and not quite forest.
Secrets of the King’s Daughter is a compelling read with edge of the seat action. It also makes the reader consider questions concerning repentance, forgiveness, and the atonement. It’s a reminder of the differences in the day-to-day life between then and now. Yes, the overall story and many of the characters, including Karlinah are not real, but the author does an excellent job of creating a realistic picture of the people, customs, and prejudices that Ammon and people in general faced two thousand years ago. It’s a story of hope, second chances, and never giving up.
Renae Weight Mackley is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a BS degree from Brigham Young University and been primarily a stay at home mom to her six children, she has been a K-12 substitute teacher for thirteen years. She has lived in California and Utah.
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SECRETS OF THE KINGS DAUGHTER by Renae Weight Mackley, published by Covenant Communications, 252 pages, soft cover $16.99.Also available for e-readers.