Isaiah’s Legacy by Mesu Andrews (BTSNBM)

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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 (1.5 points)

Andrews’ latest novel, Isaiah’s Legacy, takes a different turn than many of it’s counterparts by thinking outside the box regarding Biblical narratives, but falls a bit short in several areas. Manasseh is a young boy who lives mostly in his own little world and struggles to cope with noise and crowds – two things that are very prevalent in the life of a future king. Zibah, his mother, fears for his future and feels helpless to teach him how to cope. Hezekiah, whose is living on borrowed time, doesn’t fully share Zibah’s level of concern about their son, but knows that something must be done if he is to rule Judah successfully. Shebna is a jealous man of Levite heritage who has been scheming for an advantageous political position for many years. On a visit to his brother Haruz’s home, he meets his niece, Shulle, and learns that she has a way with people society rejects. Shebna brings her to the palace under the guise of being a companion for Manasseh, but is secretly training her to influence the future king as he sees fit. As Shulle grows older, Shebna and his servant Belit, a sorceress, lead Shulle astray; and as Manasseh grows older, Shulle leads him astray. By the time Shulle and Manasseh are adults, they are fully immersed in the cuttthroat world of politics and surrounded by bad influences. Will they choose Yahweh’s way before it is too late? As previously mentioned, this story contains both strengths and weaknesses. On a positive note, the latter half of the novel has strong Biblical themes of redemption and forgiveness. Additionally, it is clear that the bad decisions Manasseh makes in this depiction are not related to his disorder, but his bitterness against his Maker. In contrast, the plot and storyline contain four central flaws. First, the storyline starts out on shaky ground with an information dump from Shebna that seeks to give the reader a historical background for coming events – it would have been better to divide the vast content in this novel between it and a sequel. Second, the last third/fourth of the novel tries to cover over ten years of content, which makes the ending a bit rushed. Third, there is too much page time spent explaining how pagan rituals were carried out, and author also dwells on sensual scenes between Manasseh and Shulle (before they follow Yahweh) for a bit too long. Lastly, though it is a noble idea to portray one of Israel’s kings as having Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD], it is not clear why Andrews chose to do this. As a special ed major, I wholeheartedly affirm the inclusion of people who have special needs in literature, and think that they should be represented more than they are. However, every good story needs one or more specific reasons for why it’s characters exist as they do, and great stories will use these reasons as pivotal parts of the plot. If Manasseh having ASD does not directly tie in with the plot somehow, why does he have it at all? The answer to this question is never made clear. In summary, Andrews earns slightly below an average score in this section for numerous plot and storyline errors.

Character Development (2 points)

Comparatively, Manasseh is a fairly good protagonist who has realistic responses to change and tragedy. Shulle is a good secondary main character who makes realistic wrong decisions based on duty and the desire to protect her father. (spoiler) However, at times it is hard to know what her role in the story is, outside of calming Manasseh down and trying not to have children. As for the rest, Zibah is a relatable, flawed mother figure who wants her son to follow God and make good choices. Isaiah is a good minor character, but comes off as a bit too saintly at times. Shebna is a weak antagonist who is usually angry at someone or plotting…something. Lastly an additional error to note here is that Shulle’s father basically disappears shortly after the author introduces him, then reappears at the end of the novel with no explanation. This creates a plot hole. Overall, character development is mixed, which leaves Andrews with an average score here.

Creativity & Originality (0 points)

Unfortunately, there is not really anything creative or original to note in this novel that has not been done before in varying forms. Needless to say, this was not our favorite book by Andrews. As such, we do not recommend that it be made into a film or series. Early on in Andrews’ career, she had a rare talent for crafting original characters and deep, meaningful dialogue – see Love Amid the Ashes for an example of this. Because of this, we believe that she still has the potential to be a great author, and maybe even a screenwriter. But she, like many other authors, needs to consider collaboration as the key to future writing success.

Wish List Rating: 3.5 out of 10 points

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Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham (BTSNBM)

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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 (1.5 points)

Fordham’s latest novel, the second installment in the Azure Springs series, is a bit of letdown after her promising start. Penny has just suffered the death of her beloved father, and as a result, has become the household breadwinner for herself and her mother. The death of her father means that she and her mother have not had the funds to enjoy the high society life they were used to, and her mother has been depressed about this ever since. Her grief over her late husband causes her to treat Penny harshly and without consideration. This has left Penny feeling hurt and somewhat confused as to what the future holds. On the bright side, she enjoys most things about being a clerk in the dead letter office, however, she doesn’t enjoy throwing letters away. One day she stumbles upon passionate letters from a man named Thomas to a woman named Clara. After learning more about him through his writing, she decides to ensure that his letters reach Clara as soon as possible. Thomas is a broken individual with a colorful past who ends up in Azure Springs by chance. When Penny runs into Thomas on her search for Clara, she conceals her real reason for traveling and pretends to be an author. As time goes on, the two get to know each other better, and Thomas falls in love with Penny. On the whole, the storyline is pretty basic and predictable. It was a nice touch to use someone’s journey to Christ as the basis for a storyline, but the whole story seems a bit too good to be true. Additionally, the overused falling-in-love-right-after-breaking-up (or while still in a relationship) plot device is unrealistic and gives hurting people false hope. It is not healthy to seek fulfillment in relationships with people. What the world needs is fiction that points people to God’s healing power. Healing is not found in the arms of a man or woman, but in the arms of Jesus. Therefore, what Fordham is missing is depth and a balanced writing worldview – more reality, less fantasy. For these reasons, Fordham earns a below average score in this section.

Character Development (2 points)

Fordham’s character development is the strongest point of the novel and saves it from complete mediocrity. Penny is a good protagonist and the best character because other’s actions and decisions affect her own, and she changes in response to her good and bad life experiences. Additionally, the flashbacks to her childhood are a nice touch. It would have been nice to see these as a continual, rather than sporadic feature. Thomas is a character with a lot of potential who feels unfinished. Much like Penny, it would be very helpful to have flashbacks of his past life throughout the novel, for this would give him depth and believability. In comparison, the worst minor characters are Penny’s mother and her boss. Both of these characters seem unpleasant without basis and drag down the overall plot quality. In contrast, Penny’s friend and co-worker Dinah is the best minor character because she is down-to-earth and realistic. Overall, these characters are a good try that need a little more work to be great. Likewise, since Fordham’s characters are better than her storyline, she earns an average score here.

Creativity & Originality (.5 point)

Finally, Fordham earns a half point in creativity for her use of flashbacks with the protagonist, and no points in originality for using the same plot structure as this novel’s predecessor. Additionally, this novel turns over a new leaf in the Box Office Wish List section. We will now be including books that should not be movies for the reasons listed in the corresponding reviews. These reviews will be indicated with the initials BTSNBM in parentheses by the book title. It is not our desire to hurt anyone’s feelings or be overly critical. However, the overcrowded world of fiction demands, unfortunately, some negative reviews. This being said, we here at BOR do not feel that Yours Truly, Thomas should be made into a film. The novel is reminiscent of the TV series Signed, Sealed, Delivered, which had potential, but mostly fell flat. Christian filmmakers should spend their time bringing books to the big screen that will change the world, not empower romantic fantasy.

Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points