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So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley
3 of 5 stars
When Daria agrees to tutor Lucas, a wealthy merchant in Ephesus, she becomes entangled in the politics of the city, its warring sects, and the lies which threaten Lucas’ life.
Purity was in rare supply in Ephesus. After her journey to the temple and Lucas’ angry reaction, Daria had wondered if her plan was hopeless. Perhaps Lucas’s preoccupation with revenge had already so colored his spirit that she could do nothing for him.
Told in the style of a Gothic romance, borrowing heavily from stories like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, this book in the Seven Wonders series tells a tragic story of a man tormented by his wife’s death and the peace that comes to him through his young, beautiful tutor and hearing the message of The Way. I enjoyed the familiar aspects, and the tale was one of surprises and deception all around. The tie-in to Acts 19 was also interesting, as it is a little-known New Testament story.
I had trouble, though, believing the character of Paul. Though he always was a humble man in his letters, calling himself a ‘chief of sinners,’ the Paul of this story seemed still haunted by the guilt of his previous life, even having him imply that he was not innocent, and that he deserved to be imprisoned. I guess I always imagined him to be more… joyful in his work.
There were also some strange demonic practices and sorcery that was described in detail, that may be upsetting for some readers.
Overall: Jane Eyre meets the Acts of the Apostles
Isle of Shadows by Tracy L. Higley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publication date: November 13, 2012
It had to be this way… This was her fight, her life, and it must be done right. Besides, who was this stranger that she should trust him with her only chance at freedom?
In ancient Greece, under the watchful gaze of the giant statue of Colossus of Rhodes, Tessa, a courtesan in a powerful politician’s household, hides a dangerous secret as she weaves her plan for escape.
The historical island of Rhodes is a fascinating place, and lends itself well to the tense, politically-driven plot, full of deceit, secrets, cunning, and revenge. As a Christian novel, it seemed to be doctrinally sound, and I enjoyed finding out at the end a certain character’s Biblical connection (trying NOT to give it away here!)
Tessa herself is an incredibly flawed character, one towards whom the reader might feel sympathy or pity, but to whom it is difficult to relate. Since she is essentially a prostitute, she reminds me a lot of the main character in Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, but with more of an instantaneous change of heart and coming to faith. Nikos’s attraction to her seems superficial, as she has built up such a wall around herself that she actively goes out of her way to avoid giving him any genuine reason to like her, and as such the romance lacks depth.
Overall: Intriguing historical fiction, decent Christian fiction, or incredibly predictable romantic fiction, depending on how you look at it.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this novel!
With suspense, intrigue, and a touch of romance, T.L. Higley expertly weaves together the Biblical account found in Daniel 4 (Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year insanity, a curse brought on him because of his pride), the mysteries of the Babylonian Hanging Gardens (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), as well as the history of the Judean kings in exile in Babylon. For seven years, the princess Tiamat and her family have kept her father’s condition a secret, but when Tia begins sneaking out of the palace to investigate some suspicious deaths, she finds that the deceit and betrayal within the palace goes far deeper than she could have even imagined. Soon, not only is her freedom at stake, but also her family, her kingdom, and even her very soul.
This book was everything I like in a good book — mystery, suspense, beautifully descriptive language, plot twists, and characters that change and mature as they learn more about themselves and the world around them. Tia is strong, intelligent, and passionate, though spoiled and short-sighted, but throughout the novel, she also grows to be forgiving, selfless, and compassionate. Though there is a touch of romance in the novel, it comes about gradually, naturally, in some ways even paralleling one of my favorite romance novels, Pride and Prejudice. The scenes were described in ways that really put the reader into the setting, and the plot works seamlessly in conjunction with the historical facts presented in the Bible, creating a plausible story that adheres to the truths of Scripture.
One minor complaint stems from the characterization of Tiamat. Her obsession with athletic running and gymnastic-like training seems out of place and unnecessary. There was even a scene where she competes in a chariot race, which would be completely unlikely considering the historical context. I kept waiting for her athleticism to be used as a plot device somehow, but instead, I was just left wondering why it was included at all.
Fans of Biblical fiction will likely enjoy this tense, beautifully crafted novel which reminds readers of God’s grace for all people and his omnipotence over all things.