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)
Tessa Afshar’s latest novel is a great concept that does not quite reach it’s fullest potential. The novel covers multiple different timelines, but centers around Priscilla and Aquila’s young adult lives and the early days of their ministry. Priscilla is the daughter of a revered Roman general and a Germanic mother – much to her brother’s chagrin. When her father died, he left her with her freedom, but no real way to make a living. As such, Priscilla lives in her brother’s home. Following a dark period in her youth that still haunts her, Priscilla decided to seek help at a local Jewish synagogue. She soon found that many of the attendees were secretly Christians. Despite her unfortunate home life, Priscilla found sincere friendship and support in this group of people who follow Yeshua. Just when she thinks her life is settling down, Aquila steps into it. Aquila, a recent convert to Christianity, comes from a staunch Jewish background and still has trouble treating Gentiles as equals. He carries his recent hurtful experiences deep inside, and sometimes lashes out at others instead of being honest with himself and God. While he is suspicious of Priscilla at first, he soon finds himself attracted to her against his will. The problem is, both Priscilla and Aquila are afraid to open their hearts to love again. To find out what happens, read the book, and leave your opinions in the comments section below!:) As I previously indicated, the plot and storyline in this novel contain both strengths and weaknesses. The plot starts out strong with a well-placed flashback to a tragic, life-altering decision Priscilla almost made, but fades to a pedestrian pace after that. While the storyline improves greatly in the last two-thirds of the novel, the first third tends to meander along through the daily lives of Priscilla and Aquila, all the while hinting at their shadowy backstories. For example, throughout the first third of the novel backstories are revealed in third person to the reader early on, then from one character to another via dialogue. There’s nothing wrong with this technique, but it does not hold the reader’s attention in this case. Furthermore, the secondary and minor characters’ sub-plots are interesting but feel incomplete. In contrast, the novel contains many well-placed Scripture references and a clear Christian message of Jesus’s grace and redeeming love. It also contains realistic portrayals of marriage relationships and friendships. Lastly, the attention given to historical detail – without lapsing into wordiness or boring narration – is impressive and adds much to the plot. Thus, Afshar earns just above an average score for her plot and storyline that improved as they unfolded.
Character Development (2.5 points)
In comparison, the character development in this novel is also above average. Priscilla is a great protagonist who is portrayed as someone earnestly seeking after Jesus, while also trying to pay penance for past sins. This paradox is a very relatable illustration of how people try to earn Jesus’s free gift of salvation and forgiveness. Antonia is a great antagonist who has a realistic motive and changes in response to her life experiences. Making the effort to craft meaningful antagonists is sometimes what saves Christian novels from obscurity. Aquila is a fairly good character, but throughout the first half of the novel we hear more about his life experiences than who he is. Although this error is nonexistent in the second half of the novel, his character feels incomplete in the end because of it’s rocky beginning. However, the minor and secondary characters are above average and round out the story well. Thus, Afshar earns a slightly above average score in character development as well.
Creativity & Originality (1 point)
In conclusion, Afshar’s original idea to portray Priscilla and Aquila before they were married and in the early days of their ministry together earns her a half point in originality, while her effort to bring Biblical accounts to life in meaningful ways earns her a half point in creativity. While the novel could have been better, we here at BOR still think it could make a great Christian series. If the novel was converted to a series screenplay, the screenwriters would have more space to flesh out Aquila’s character and improve both him and Priscilla through the use of flashbacks. It is no great secret that the Christian film world suffers a great shortage of excellent Bible-based films. We sincerely hope that Christian filmmakers will look to Biblical fiction novels like these for inspiration on how to proceed in future.
Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points