Daughter of Rome by Tessa Afshar (February 4, 2020)

Release date: February 4, 2020

Author: Tessa Afshar

Plot summary: When the daughter of a prominent Roman general meets a disinherited Jewish immigrant, neither dreams they’ll eventually become the most influential couple in the early church. And no sooner are Priscilla and Aquila married than they’re banished from their home by a capricious emperor! Joining forces with Paul, they’re catapulted into the heart of history.

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette (March 2020)

Release date: March 3, 2020

Author: Connilyn Cossette

Plot summary: Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander’s kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger. Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted. When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam’s thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he’s come to love?

King’s Shadow by Angela Hunt

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Angela Hunt’s latest novel, the last installment in The Silent Years series, has a pretty good storyline and average characters, but does not reflect the usual pathos demonstrated by this author. Hunt set a high bar for herself with novels like Uncharted and The Offering, a standard that has not been reached by this or her other most recent novels. The Silent Years series as a whole has been a mixed bag; some novels have been better than others, but none have demonstrated the author’s true potential. Egypt’s Sister was a very slow-paced novel, Judah’s Wife was the best of the series but had a predictable ending, Jerusalem’s Queen was wordy, and this novel is average. Salome is the sister of King Herod and the wife of her uncle, Joseph. She navigates tumultuous palace politics by knowing everything about everyone in order to ensure her own survival. Salome is a hard, selfish woman who rationalizes other’s deaths when her life is on the line. Her world is rocked when her longtime servant and friend dies suddenly, but she finds consolation in the young girl who takes her friend’s place. Zara is a young Jewess who has just been betrothed to a shoemaker in her village. She has suffered the loss of her father in the recent war, which also left her mother paralyzed. Though her aunt helps out here and there, Zara shoulders most of the responsibility around the house; however, when the opportunity to leave her mundane life presents itself, she takes it. Zara has always found solace in working with her hands, a talent that serves her well as Salome’s new hairdresser. Together these two women from completely opposite social spheres must carefully navigate the dangerous waters of Herod’s court if they expect to come out alive and sane on the other side. On the whole, this story holds the attention and contains only minor plot errors. Additionally, the unique depiction of Herod as a human, not a tyrant, is much appreciated. Similarly, Hunt makes an effort throughout the novel to portray people as neither all good or bad, a choice that demonstrates her grasp on crafting excellent characters. In comparison, the novel’s pace is inconsistent at times, likely due to the vast amount of time covered in the same. Moreover, there are no ‘wow’ moments here – just a good bordering on average story. Nothing that happens to the characters is unexpected, and nothing that occurs in the plot especially groundbreaking – there is no particular climax. Therefore, Hunt rounds out with just above an average score in this section.

Character Development (2 points)

In contrast, Salome is a very interesting character with a clearly defined personality and consistent tendencies. Zara is also a good character, but she seems a bit too good at times. It would have been nice if Hunt had made her a little more imperfect like she did with the other characters. Hunt’s portrayal of Herod is one of the best I have seen, but without a first-person perspective from him the novel feels unfinished. It is my opinion that the novel would have been great if it revolved around first-person perspectives from Herod and Salome. The main errors to point out here are few, but they do affect the quality in this section. First, Alexandra is a weak villian who needed further development, and Mariamne needed a bigger role in the story – she has little involvement in the plot overall. Lastly, these characters do not stand out from the others Hunt has crafted in their genre – they are good but not great. Thus, Hunt earns an average score here because we know she can do better.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Hunt earns a half point in creativity for her portrayal of little known pieces of Biblical history, and a half point in originality for her well-balanced characters. Despite the fact that this is not the best novel in the series, we still think The Silent Years book series would make a great Christian series or show. Some of the books would need to be heavily edited and all the characters given greater depth and emphasis. Additionally, the filmmaker would have to give Hunt a place on the screenwriting team to ensure quality is upheld, but such a project is possible. Even when Christian novels aren’t perfect, we continue to hope Christian filmmakers will realize the film potential in the same.

Wish List Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith (March 3, 2020)

Release date: March 3, 2020

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Plot summary: In an effort to complete a war his father had planned to win, King Xerxes calls every governor, satrap, and official in his vast kingdom to his palace in Susa to strategize and feast. When they finally leave, he decides on one more week of frivolity, which ends in the banishment of his favorite wife, something he never intended to do. But when he discovers Esther, Xerxes is sure he has a second chance at happiness. In her wildest dreams, Esther could never have imagined that she would end up as queen of Persia. Yet she knows better than to become complacent. Another of Xerxes’s wives is vying for position, and his closest advisor has a deep and dangerous grudge against Esther’s adoptive father. Caught in the middle of palace politics, Esther will find herself in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to annihilation.

Author’s note: This post will be updated as more information is released.

The Heart of a King by Jill Eileen Smith

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Author’s Note: We were provided with a review copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Jill Eileen Smith’s newest novel is unique in many ways and is overall a great portrayal of the life of King Solomon. While the novel is imperfect, it stands out among many works of Biblical fiction for being both honest and relatable. The opening chapters introduce the reader to Solomon, a young man who lives in his father’s shadow and longs to be named co-regent. In the midst of his struggle to climb the political ladder, he runs into a young woman named Naamah who he has not seen in five years. Naamah is a somewhat spoiled and willful Ammonite woman whose one desire is marriage to Solomon. Despite her flaws, Naamah worships Yahweh rather than the gods of Ammon, and believes that love can overcome all obstacles. Solomon and Naamah are wed and soon have a child together – Rehoboam. However, Solomon’s increasing desire for political alliances leads him away from his first love and in many different directions. Abishag is a young virgin who cared for King David until his death. She is devout in her worship of Yahweh and seeks peaceful relationships with others. Now a king, Solomon marries her for reasons both of love and political advantage. Following this marriage, he goes on to wed Siti, princess of Egypt, the queen of Sheba, and many other women. Will Solomon’s wisdom prove to be a blessing or a curse? To answer this question, read the book!;) This plot holds the attention quite well from beginning to end, and is punctuated with creative musings of The Teacher that became the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes (King Solomon). Smith tastefully weaves passages from Song of Solomon into the story and uses them to shape Solomon’s personality and relationship choices. Furthermore, Solomon’s chaotic personal life and wrong choices are portrayed in a realistic manner. The main flaw here is that the five main characters – each with their own story – make for a bit of a choppy read, especially in the second half of the novel. Additionally, the ending, although well done, feels a bit rushed. However, this remains the best fictional work of King Solomon’s life that I have read to date, therefore earning the storyline an above average rating.

Character Development (3 points)

Smith’s character development is the strongest part of her novel because it demonstrates her clear understanding of different personalities and tendencies among people. Solomon is the best character because his arc slowly develops throughout the novel and is punctuated with a creative look at poetry and philosophical musings he actually wrote. Additionally, his rationalization of disobedience and distrust of God’s promises are relatable and add much to the storyline. Naamah’s character is quite good at first, as is Abishag’s, however, both women feel left unfinished. In contrast, Siti has a clearly defined personality, and Smith’s queen of Sheba is unique and realistic. The only other flaw to mention here is that Naamah and Abishag have a somewhat choppy arc. In spite of these flaws, Smith’s portrayal of court politics and royals using one another is quite good and would make a great Bible miniseries. Therefore, Smith earns an above average score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Smith earns a full point in creativity for weaving Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon into her story in such a way that the Biblical accounts and her fictional story are interdependent upon one another. The flaws that exist in this novel are mainly a result of it being a standalone work. It is my opinion that these errors could be corrected on the big screen by breaking the novel up into a miniseries. This series should focus on one character at a time and eventually tie their stories together to make for better continuity. It is our hope that Christian filmmakers will recognize unique Christian novels such as these for their potential, and act on this realization soon. Good job Ms. Smith! Your creativity is much appreciated!

Wish List Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews

Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Mesu Andrews’ soon to be released novel, Of Fire and Lions, is a step up from her most recent novel. This new novel takes an unconventional look at the story of Daniel, and introduces a fictional character who demonstrates Andrews’ understanding of real people. While the novel isn’t perfect, it stands out in a crowded genre. The opening chapters introduce the reader to Abigail, the daughter of a palace servant. One day, as they are performing this task, Israel is invaded by their enemies. Abigail’s mother locks her out of the king’s chambers and tells her to hide in the Temple. Abigail hides in the Holy of Holies, where she experiences God’s presence for the first time in her life. This holy moment is interrupted by her being captured and taken in captivity. Abigail is made responsible for caring for the needs of a group of brilliant young scholars -Daniel and his friends – during the march to Babylon. However, when they arrive, she is ‘relieved’ of her duties and given a much more unpleasant occupation to perform. (spoiler) Although she is reunited with her friends for a time, extraordinary circumstances lead Abigail to other, darker places and a new name – Belili. Belili is a hardened priestess who holds power over men of high position. Under her hard and manipulative facade, Belili longs to be Abigail once again. On the whole, the plot holds the attention and contains multiple unexpected plot turns as time goes on. The main errors to point out are an overall choppiness throughout the novel, and seemingly convenient plot elements, such as Daniel escaping the fate of being made a eunuch through his marriage. Additionally, there are some moments of inconsistency towards the middle of the plot – sometimes the story is a bit slow, and other times it moves too quickly. This may be due to the absence of proper editing. (spoiler) However, Andrews’ unique and unsurpassed portrayal of Nebuchadnezzar’s God-induced insanity saves the novel from being commonplace. Therefore, Andrews earns an a slightly above average score in this section.

Character Development (3 points)

Andrews’ unique talent has always been making Biblical characters accessible to the average person – a fact that remains true in this novel. While there are a vast number of characters in the story, they are mostly well-balanced and each have a clear purpose. Nebuchadnezzar his wife are a great addition to the plot and could easily go to the big screen because of Andrews unique, and likely accurate depiction of both characters. One error to point out is that some of the minor characters needed further development or omission, a fact likely resulting from the vast amount of time covered in the novel. However, a major strength of this book is found in Andrews’ imperfect depiction of Bible characters. Thus, she earns a nearly perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

In conclusion, Andrews earns a half point in creativity for her depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year insanity. This novel would make a interesting multi-season Christian TV series that gave Andrews a change to collaborate with another screenwriter and expand on and edit some of her ideas. Mainly because it seems like her potential was reined in for this novel, a fact that could be remedied on the big screen – a filmmaker could go many directions with this novel. In conclusion, Andrews continues to produce some of the more original content in the Biblical fiction genre, however, we feel that she can do more.

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 3

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The third and final (?) novel in Angela E. Hunt’s Dangerous Beauty series continues her previous decision to bring depth and meaning to Bible characters that the church does not usually bring to the forefront. In this novel, Hunt gives her depiction of the story of Delilah, a woman famous for betraying the famous Biblical judge Samson. In the Bible, Delilah was the second wife of Samson; a woman who appeared to be willing to do anything to get what she wanted, including betraying her own husband. Hunt invites one to look past this famous offense and into the very heart of this woman named Delilah. The novel focuses on two main characters, Samson, and Delilah. Told in first person by these two characters, the story teaches the reader that while neither of these people are perfect, both are loved by a Holy God. In Hunt’s depiction there is no greater penalty for Delilah’s sins than for Samson’s. Throughout the story she reinforces the Biblical truth that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. The opening chapters of this novel introduce the reader to Samson as a young man, and Delilah as a teenage girl. Samson is depicted as a somewhat spoiled and arrogant young man who thinks that he can use his gift from God for his own benefit. While he does care for his nation, he cares more for himself. Against the advice of his parents, Samson marries a spoiled young Philistine woman who will only bring him grief in the end. After the tragic death of his young wife, Samson vents his anger against the Philistines, but finds that it brings him no relief. Alone, still angry, and somewhat humbled, Samson sets off on his own to discover his purpose. Delilah is a fiery teen who grew up in a somewhat tumultuous environment. Her mother was a slave, until she fell in love with a rich Philistine businessman and they married. This gave Delilah’s mother both social standing and a roof over her head. However, Delilah’s stepfather has a bitter son named Achish who is waiting for his father to die in order to claim the inheritance. Delilah does not understand why Achish is always taunting her and seems to appear wherever she goes. The sudden death of her stepfather grants Achish his coveted inheritance…and control over the futures of both Delilah and her mother. Achish sells Delilah’s mother back into slavery, and keeps Delilah as his concubine/slave. Delilah suffers abuse of the worst kind at the hands of Achish, and becomes bitter against God and the world. Eventually she escapes her physical captivity, but is still a prisoner in her own mind. A group of traveling tradesman save her life and find a safe home for her with a widow known as a talented weaver. Delilah discovers that she is pregnant as a result of Achish’s abuse, and is more grateful than ever for her home with the widow. She hardens her heart against love for the child, because it reminds her of her captor. In the novel, Samson and Delilah are depicted as two hurting people looking for the answer to their grief. Initially they find distraction from their pain in their love for one another, but soon learn that this is not enough to heal old scars. The ending of the novel is accurate to the Biblical account…with a twist. To find out what it is….read the book!;) This novel, like the others in the series, would make an excellent Bible film, if done correctly. As I have said before, I believe that Christian authors should be involved in the creation of movies based on their books. Which is why I believe that Hunt would need to be involved in the making of this hypothetical movie. We here at Box Office Revolution continue to wait for that glorious day when Christian movie makers will realize the potential found in Christian novels.

Angela Elwell Hunt: The Dangerous Beauty Series Book 2

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In keeping with the spirit of the first novel in her series, Dangerous Beauty, Angela E. Hunt continues to bring life and new meaning to familiar Bible stories in this second installment. Titled Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty, the name is somewhat confusing…..until one reads the novel itself. In the Bible, Bathsheba was a woman who caught the lustful eye of King David, a woman who was an object of temptation to a man who thought that he was too righteous to fall into sin. Many see Bathsheba as the cause of David’s sin, however, the truth of the matter is the David made the choice to commit adultery, not to mention the fact that he killed her husband to cover his sin. Bathsheba was partly a victim, and partly a participant in this familiar case of adultery found in the Old Testament. Hunt invites the reader to look at this Bible story with new eyes, with eyes that see past the blockade of sin, and into the heart of the characters. Bathsheba: Reluctant Beauty deals with subjects such as sin, adultery, secrets, devastation, loss, confession, redemption, God’s unfathomable forgiveness, and how God puts the broken pieces of a person’s life together, creating a beautiful picture of His love. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the two main characters, a young woman named Bathsheba, and a prophet called Nathan. As the story is told from their perspectives, the reader will see how God uses our darkest sins for His glory. Hunt points out how having a dysfunctional family life shaped the habits and influenced the choices of the man Israel knew as King David. She makes the reader see that while he did commit a sin in the eyes of the Lord, any of us are capable of doing the same, so who are we to judge? I especially enjoyed how Hunt brought Bathsheba to light as a real person, not merely a victim or a participant. Hunt’s Bathsheba feels that she is to blame to provoking the king to his sinful choice, because of her beauty. Bathsheba, on the whole, is wiser than the king, but she still made the decision to follow his bidding. If you are interested in a Christian novel about forgiveness, then this one is for you. This novel is another brilliant piece of work from Angela E. Hunt, and deserves to be on the big screen. However, because of the rather sensitive subject matter, I absolutely insist that Hunt would have to be involved in the making of such a film. It can be done, but it must be done right, or not at all. We here at Box Office Revolution have seen too many “stories of the Bible” films with wasted potential.