A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (Book #1 in the Mark of the Lion series)
Read: for February book club, and my friends Hannah, Brittney, and Esther highly recommended the whole series (Tyndale House, 515 pages)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (finished 2/3/10)
Synopsis: A Voice in the Wind takes listeners into a richly imagined ancient Rome in the midst of its great decline. This heart-stirring tale of a young slave girl, torn between her love for a handsome aristocrat and her faith in God, transcends genres with its awe-inspiring power and emotional intensity.
General Impression: Over the years, I’ve shied away from Christian fiction. I think it’s because I read some fairly craptastic Christian fiction back when I first became a Christian ten years ago. I remember thinking it was sappy and overwraught and that the characters made me kind of want to vomit. I did read Rivers’ Reedeming Love around that time, and found it to be a phenomenal book (I highly recommend it). I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of Rivers since then. Anyway, my book club picked this as its February selection, and internally I sort of cringed because the cover is all soft focus and scripty font. But I do trust the opinions of my friends, and those who had read it said it was one of the best books they’ve ever read. So I dove in.
And floundered a bit. It really took a significant portion of the book to get into it. But once I got caught up in the story (and figured out how to differentiate between all of the Roman names), I flew through it. I read the last couple hundred pages in a day or two. I ended up really investing in the characters. Normally I find myself rolling my eyes at characters who are overly noble and self-sacrificing, but somehow Rivers managed to write Hadassah — who is probably the least selfish character I’ve ever read — without her becoming trite or pious or annoying. I spent the whole book thinking, Oh, if I could only be more like Hadassah! Her quiet faith and servant’s heart were so inspiring. She has quickly become one of my favorite characters in literature. The other characters are compelling as well — Marcus, the handsome young aristocrat who aches for some other life; Julia, the self-serving daughter who is only after her own selfish pleasure; Phoebe, their mother, who puts her faith in stones; and Atretes, the warrior ripped from his home country and trained to fight in the arena. They were all excellently written and I fond myself captivated by their stories. Once I got past the initial introduction of the characters, the story moved quickly and I learned A TON about ancient Rome and the surrounding areas. Rivers did a commendable amount of research for this book.
And then I got to the end, said, “AHHHH!” and immediately started the second book in the series.
Pros: stunning characters, themes that will sock you in the gut, fantastic writing, and it is incredibly well researched.
Cons: Took me too long to get into it. Every once in a while, I felt like Rivers was subliminally saying, “I know soooo much about history!!”
Other books I’ve read by Francine Rivers: Redeeming Love, An Echo in the Darkness (review to come)
Other Blogger Reviews: My Friend Amy (read the first chapter here)