A wonderful, unique tale, despite the fact that this was Christian fiction (which I can rarely stand, for a variety of reasons).
I loved the historical setting of this one too: Keren is an impoverished Hebrew girl who lived during the days of the prophet Daniel toward the end of the time of Babylonian captivity. Her parents were forced to sell her into bondage, but they do so to Daniel’s own household. Keren has (very unusually for the time, for a woman) learned to become a scribe, and so she aids Daniel, while learning with some of his other apprentices. She eventually falls in love with Jared, a fellow learner, and we’re all set up to expect a stereotypical romance… but then there’s an extreme, and rather gruesome twist.
This twist forces Keren to flee for her life to the neighboring Media, where Keren becomes tutor to an enigmatic and endearing shepherd boy who turns out to be the future King Cyrus of what will one day be the Medo-Persian Empire–the very one whom, Keren knows as Daniel’s former scribe, was prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah to free the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. Jared later comes back into Keren’s life, and together they must protect Cyrus from his paranoid grandfather, restoring him to his rightful position.
I was grateful for the afterword at the end, describing the author’s research into what is and isn’t known of Cyrus, as I found myself wondering as I listened where history ended and fiction began. My only complaint of the story was the prominence of the author’s very mainstream theological beliefs on the subject of God’s purpose in suffering, making God seem like the cause of it. This never fails to make me angry, as it seems like it’s slandering Him, making Him seem capricious and cruel, framing Him for crimes He didn’t commit. But most Christian fiction makes this a major theme of the entire story; in this one I could almost overlook it, since although it came up multiple times, no major plot points hinged upon that concept.
My rating: ****
Sexual content: none
Violence: present and there’s some graphic scenes, though not too much
Political content: none (though some of the the theological content is a bit revolting)