I have decided to incorporate a little segment into my blog, which will be "Recommendation of the Month". My very first recommendation is not a single book, but a trilogy.
If there is one series I would love to convince you to read, it is Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion trilogy.
If you have ever read a book by Francine Rivers, you will understand what I mean when I say she is truly one of the greats. Her stories are always flawlessly constructed, built on a strong Christian foundation.
The Mark of the Lion trilogy starts with A Voice in The Wind which sets the tone of the trilogy by introducing the main characters and their histories. The series follows Hadassah, a young Christian Jewess sold into slavery after the fall of Jerusalem; the Valerians, the family Hadassah is sold to; and Atretes, a Germanic warrior who is also captured by the Romans and sold into a life as a Gladiator. This first story mainly focuses on Hadassah’s Christian faith, which she must keep a secret lest she be killed for not bowing to the Roman gods. The Valerians, worshipping their many gods, realize early on that their new slave is a Christian but all of them, having come to love her, also keep her secret. They cannot understand Hadassah’s unwavering faith in a God she can’t physically see, especially given her situation in life. Hadassah’s faith is continually challenged in unimaginable ways, but also grows stronger beyond all understanding, helping her adjust to life as a slave in the Roman Empire, and impacting the lives of all those around her.
From the first page Francine Rivers grabs a hold of you and refuses to let go. She pulls you along the journey of these characters, and before long you truly feel like you are right there in the pages, living through all of the characters’ experiences with them. I cried with Hadassah every single time she shed a tear (sometimes even harder than she did). I hurt for Marcus who knew he was missing something in his life, but didn’t know what. I loathed Rome as much as Atretes, and felt his desperation and desolation just as intensely as he did. It is the mark (no pun intended) of a truly brilliant author to be able to make the reader experience these emotions so intensely.
The second book in the series, An Echo in the Darkness, is a sequel to the first and picks up right where A voice in the Wind left off. It mainly follows Marcus in his quest for understanding Hadassah’s God. This book did to me what no other achieved before: It literally made me gasp aloud, covering my mouth and dropping my book to the floor, before I burst into tears. I won’t tell you where or why, because I want that moment to be as unexpected and as beautiful to you as it was to me. An Echo in the Darkness is one of my all time favourite books, and it definitely contains some of my favourite scenes in history. This book has more beautiful, touching scenes than any other I've ever read before. To me, this second book is the crowning glory of the series.
Last but not least, As Sure as the Dawn rounds up the trilogy. Instead of following the second, this is more of a split with An Echo in the Darkness, and serves as a second sequel to first; only the story now focuses on Atretes following the events of A Voice in the Wind. Having served several gods in his lifetime in a search for peace, Atretes is finally faced with Christianity. As Sure as the Dawn follows Atretes’ struggle whether or not to accept Hadassah’s unseen God, or turn back to Tiwaz, the god he served while in Germania. Atretes is confronted with choices, conflicting loyalties, love versus lust, forgiveness, friendship and family, and faces the ultimate test when he must finally choose which god to embrace and serve under unthinkable circumstances.
I simply can not say enough good things about this series! Every single page feeds the Christian soul, and even in moments when your heart is breaking, it’s already healing. Why is it called The Mark of the Lion? I won’t tell you, because telling you will give way too much away, and you need to discover it for yourself. I can tell you that you will understand the significance of the name in An Echo in the Darkness.
The Mark of the Lion series is an absolute must read, and I strongly recommend it! It is also a perfect gift this Christmas Season during which time we will once again celebrate the birth of our Saviour. Get it as a gift to yourself, or a gift to a loved one. The three books are available individually, as well as in a box set.
Whoever reads these books will be forever changed.