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


2018 Box Office Revolution Book Awards

Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, novels are judged based on plot continuity and storytelling skills, character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue that relates to current issues in American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

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Staff Choice Book of the Year: The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr (#3 of The Darkwater Saga)

Runners-Up: Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin, Looking Into You By Chris Fabry, Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse, Judah’s Wife by Angela E. Hunt

Honorable Mentions: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette, Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

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Reader’s Choice Book of the Year: The Wounded Shadow by Patrick Carr

Runners-Up: Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin, Looking Into You by Chris Fabry, Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Honorable Mentions: The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers, Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Staff Choice Author of the Year: Patrick W. Carr

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Lynn Austin
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Chris Fabry
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Morgan L. Busse
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Mesu Andrews

Runners-Up: Lynn Austin, Chris Fabry, Morgan L. Busse, Mesu Andrews

Francine Rivers
Connilyn Cossette

Honorable Mentions: Francine Rivers, Connilyn Cossette

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

Love in a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Love in a Broken Vessel is Mesu Andrews’ unique take on the Biblical story of Hosea. The novel has been around for several years, and is well-loved by fans of Biblical fiction. Andrews’ talent for telling a raw story with an important lesson really shines in this novel, and although her plot is imperfect, the flaws are few and far between. Gomer is a woman with a hard exterior who is actually quite fragile on the inside. She has been a prostitute since a young age, and knows no other way to survive. Her view of the followers of Yahweh is cynical…to say the least. From Gomer’s perspective, the religious leaders demand much and do little. While this is mostly true, this reason for avoiding God’s love is simply a cover-up for her deeper issues. Hosea is a passionate prophet of God who has lived a somewhat sheltered life under the tutelage of the old prophet Jonah. When God calls him to marry a prostitute and have children with that same woman, he questions God’s sanity…but soon recognizes His divine plan when the prostitute in question turns out to be a childhood friend. Gomer is trying to entice a customer on the temple grounds when she spots Hosea and his homely friend the “fish prophet”. Her shock is quickly forgotten when she witnesses a horrific scene play out before her eyes. Gomer’s response to this scene earns her the worst beating of her life, and when she opens her eyes again, there are two people speaking. The physician is saying she may not survive, and Hosea is asking for her hand in marriage. Gomer quickly learns that Hosea intends to see his promises through, and is not sure how to respond. She soon finds that life in the prophet’s camp is not what she expected, and that most women in the camp are not exactly open and friendly. Gomer continually retreats to the safety of what she knows, and Hosea keeps chasing after her. Will Gomer surrender to the One who loves her completely? Will Hosea trust in God’s seemingly crazy plan? To answer these questions, read the book! Overall, this novel is very well-written and holds the attention from cover to cover. The only flaws are a few continuity errors, and the somewhat predictable conclusion.

Character Development (4 points)

Andrews characters are, as always, masterfully done in this novel. Gomer is real, raw, and the reader can connect to her emotionally. Hosea is imperfectly perfect, and has realistic personal and spiritual struggles. Furthermore, the secondary characters are very effective, and there is a great little plot twist towards the end of the novel with one of these. Authors of Biblical fiction who are trying to improve their character development should look no further than Mesu Andrews for inspiration. Although at the time she was somewhat of a new author, her talent was clear. For these reasons, Andrews earns a perfect score in this section.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, Andrews earns a full point in creativity for crafting a novel about Hosea that was distinctly different than the famous Redeeming Love. These two novels are written for two different audiences, and yet, they complement one another beautifully. Unfortunately, when compared to Andrews’ other novels, there is not much original content here. However, this is still one of the best books I have ever had the privilege to read. It is for this reason, and others, that I believe Love In a Broken Vessel would make an excellent Christian series. The character development is perfect as is, the plot would need only minuscule alteration, and the creativity is on point (no pun intended). If a filmmaker feels so inclined, I must insist that Andrews be a big part of the filmmaking process, especially when it comes to casting. After all, they’re her characters. To conclude, great job Ms. Andrews! You continue to be an inspiration to writers of Biblical fiction everywhere!

Wish List Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

Miriam by Mesu Andrews

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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 (3 points)

Miriam is one of Mesu Andrews classic novels, written in the early days of her career. Andrews high quality storyline and masterful character development make for an enjoyable read that I would recommend to others. This novel tells the story of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and the son of her heart, Eleazar. Miriam never married because no man’s love could live up to the perfect love of El-Shaddai. She has filled her days by being a healer; by caring for the physical needs of her fellow Israelite slaves. Her family has always revered her as a prophetess of sorts, and the Egyptians respect her parents because of their unusually long lives. In short, she has a good life when compared to most slaves, and not much has changed of the eighty-plus years of her existence. However, that will soon change. When her long-lost brother Moses returns from Midian claiming that Yahweh has called him to lead the Israelites out of Israel, she and all the other slaves are suspicious…until he performs miracles that only God could have orchestrated. Everyone quickly turns to Moses as leader and prophet…and Miriam is left confused as to the purpose of her life…and more than a bit jealous. She struggles to feel the presence of God as she used to, and is angry that God did not choose her to lead. Will Miriam overcome her jealously and accept Yahweh’s plans? To answer this question, read the book! (spoiler) The main issue I had with the plot was Miriam’s eventual marriage, which seems silly and unnecessary. Additionally, Eleazar and his wife have a bit of a rocky storyline that needed further development – or their own novel. Despite the flaws, this is a unique, well-done story that should definitely be made into a Christian film. Therefore, Andrews earns an above average score in this section. 

Character Development (3 points)

As previously mentioned, the character development in Miriam is above par and contains many strengths. First, I appreciated that all the characters were the correct Biblical age. In most portrayals of the story of Moses, he is either young or middle-aged. People forget that he, Miriam, and Aaron were all elderly when their journey out of Egypt began. Secondly, Miriam is a strong character because she has a unique, fully developed personality, along with strengths, weaknesses, and a clearly defined spiritual gift. Third, Moses is a good, imperfect character who struggles with his calling to be a leader because it does not come naturally. Finally, the relationship between Aaron and his wife is well-done and realistic. In comparison, Eleazar is a good idea because he struggles to submit to God and surrender his need for control. However, he is two-dimensional and needs depth and flashbacks to be well-developed. Additionally, the minor characters are not always well-integrated into the story. Because the strengths of the novel outweigh the weaknesses, Andrews earns an above average score in this section as well.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Andrews has always had a certain talent for inserting creative and original elements into her novels, and this one is no different. She earns a half point in creativity for her creative characters, and a half point in originality for her unique portrayal of the story of Moses. To date, I have not read a better portrayal of this Biblical hero, therefore, this should most certainly be made into a Christian film. A new face in the Christian filmmaking world would do well with this story, for all the key elements are already there. Finally, I must insist that Andrews work directly with the screenwriter on the screenplay. Readers, this is a Biblical fiction novel that you can recommend to friends and family.

Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points

By the Waters of Babylon by Mesu Andrews

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Mesu Andrews’ latest work and first novella, titled By the Waters of Babylon, is a captivating read that teaches the reader several important life lessons. Andrews’ stark commitment to Biblical accuracy drives the plot, and instead of leaving out the harsh truths of the era, she portrays them in the most palatable way possible. Merari is living a nightmare. She can no longer sell her hand-crafted harps in the marketplace, and because of this, she cannot buy enough food to nourish her young son and sister. Each day she returns from another fruitless effort to make money, only to be met by harsh words and insults from her sister. As she watches what her cousin Jeremiah prophesied come to life, she feels helpless to protect her son…and herself…from the horrors they face every day. Following a tragic set of events, Merari falls ill and slips into unconsciousness. When she awakes as the sole captive of a Scythian prince…she knows her life has changed forever. On the whole, this plot is masterfully done. Andrews handles this harsh topic tastefully and once again shows how God gives grace along with consequence. She seems to take a cue from pioneers such as Francine Rivers by combining gritty reality with the timeless message of God’s omniscience and unfailing love. For these reasons, Andrews earns a high score in this section.

Character Development (3.5 points)

Merari is the ideal female lead in a Biblical fiction plot because she is a great blend of relatable humanity and the potential we all have in Christ. Her personal struggles are very realistic, and her strengths are well-crafted because they develop through her decision to let God use her weaknesses. Idan is also a strong character because he is not portrayed as a straw-man pagan, but rather as a person equal to Merari and in need of God. Furthermore, the secondary characters are mostly effective. The only flaw to point out here is the presence of some unnecessary romance elements. The good in this novel outweighs the flaws, and because of this, Andrews earns an almost perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

Finally, this plot is very original and creative, earning Andrews a full point in creativity. I for one, was impressed with By the Waters of Babylon and highly recommend it to both those who love Biblical fiction. For these and other reasons, I think that this would make a great Bible film that could change the way Biblical films are viewed. The screenwriter would need to rewrite the romance a bit, but the wrinkles here can definitely be ironed out.

Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

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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 and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Isaiah’s Daughter, Mesu Andrews’ latest novel, tells the tale of three people, the prophet Isaiah, an orphaned girl named Ishma (who later becomes Hephzibah), and Hezekiah, the future king of Israel. Five year old Ishma’s most recent memories are of destruction and violence. After witnessing the murder of her parents, she and her friend Yaira are taken captive, only to be released by God himself. They find themselves in the home of the prophet Isaiah, who treats them as members of his family. Ishma is scared of the world and has not spoken since her parent’s death. However, a chance encounter with Prince Hezekiah will decide her destiny. Prince Hezekiah is growing up in a broken home, he has witnessed the rages of his father King Ahaz and his marital abuse. Not to mention the fact that he has just been subjected to watching his older brother Bocheru being sacrificed to Molech. One day, a chance encounter with a fellow suffering child – Ishma – will begin the road to healing. Isaiah is tasked with tutoring and raising Hezekiah and Ishma to follow the ways of the Lord, something he finds difficult at times. However, his unshakable faith that God will do what he promises sees him through both difficult and unusual circumstances. As the story continues, Andrews weaves together the broken pasts of Ishma and Hezekiah and shows how these experiences mold them into the adults they become. Hezekiah and Ishma will discover that while trusting God is not always easy, He is always faithful. The main issues here are some continuity errors, and the need for a bit more editing, especially where sub-plots are concerned. Therefore, while the storyline is not the strength of the novel, Andrews rounds out with an average score all the same.

Character Development (3 points)

Andrews has always had strong characters in her novels, and this one is no different. Ishma and Hezekiah are portrayed as flawed people who struggle with weaknesses, yet who also have God-given gifts that they use for his glory. I especially liked how she built them into adults through the broken pieces of their youth. While some novels that cover a lot of time neglect to develop the characters and leave plot holes, this one does the opposite. The main errors here are the presence of a few too many minor characters, and likewise, the need for a bit more editing. However, these characters have a lot going for them, so Andrews earns above an average score in this section.

Creativity and Originality (1 point)

Finally, Andrews earns nearly the maximum number of points in this section for creativity and originality. While the stories of Hezekiah and Hephzibah have been successfully interpreted by other authors of Christian fiction in the past (e.g. Lynn Austin); Andrews brings fresh meaning and poignancy to the tale. The novel is well researched and she is creative in her implementation of historical fact by weaving these into her tale subtly. Furthermore, her novel is in no way similar to other Biblical fiction about these two Biblical characters. Thus, she also earns a half point for original content. All of these reasons lead me to one conclusion, this novel should hit the big screen ASAP. This novel has ample content for a Christian miniseries.  Something else to note here is the need for exceptional casting. The novel is character-driven and anything less than the best in the area of casting would be a disaster. Lastly, it is time for writers like Andrews to be discovered and given the credit that their humble hearts likely don’t desire, but deserve.

Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points