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