Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, this young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.
Comment: This is book #1 in the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. I first knew about this book in a forum where a reader said something that made me curious about the story and how things would develop. I just wasn't aware it was so focused on religion, despite being labeled Christian fiction. I've read some of those and as with everything, some were god, others bad, some heavier on the religion, others not that much.
This story has a lot of preaching, to be honest, and despite being a catholic myself, I think it was too much.
Anyway, I talked to a friend and we agreed on a buddy read of this. Now that we both finished it, I think we agree some things weren't very appealing, but overall we liked the book.
I also used this title for the alphabet challenge to get the V letter done.
Basically, this is the story of a young girl, Hadassah, who lives in Judea with her family but she loses them all in a roman attack and is taken to Rome as a slave. Hadassah has never felt her faith was strong enough but she is a believer and that helps her live a simple but thankful life among her owners, especially Julia, a very childish and naïve girl around her age and her brother Marcus, someone Hadassah can't see as just an owner.
We also follow the path of Atretes, a German warrior captured and taken to Rome to become a gladiator.
But social status, intrigues and corruption fill up Rome's streets and the cities of its empire. Can Hadassah hold on until happiness is on her way?
First of all, I think the blurb is deceptive. It makes one think we'll have more romance than what actually exists. And I don't mean sex, no, it's really romance, which I think could be there without removing the Christian aspect of the story. Things were subtle in a way, but I wanted to have seen Hadassah not so blind and strict to a detail at the end that made everything go a certain way. Then the book ends in a sort of cliffhanger and now I can't wait to read what happens next.
The story is labeled as Christian fiction, so there's lots of religion conversations, elements, references. Hadassah is devoted despite everything and I get the message we should be proud of our beliefs, but if we think this was Rome at a time where Christians were killed without mercy, she could have been practical too and be devoted but not so loudly. Sure, that goes against the idea we should share the Lord's love and so on, but come on.... this was historical, if it was so important to insert certain aspects to give it accuracy, then this was exaggerated for plot's purposes too, I think.
I was actually annoyed at the whole religious content. I didn't think it would be this much and would have liked more focus on the romance story.
Nevertheless, the writing is addictive even if I wrinkled my nose over some passages. I still want to know what happens, how things happen, I want to see a HEA so I'm going to read the other books just for that.
Some historical content was very interesting, culturally fascinating too, but I admit it was difficult to read about slavery and be powerless to change the history that killed so many people and treated them so wrongly. The gladiator's fights - usually featuring Atretes - I skimmed through because they were violent and I felt for those who had to die for the amusement of others. History id teach us how unfair is was/still is for some in detriment to others...
I'm looking for to see more historical details about the imperial Rome. Not my usual preferred theme, but it's interesting to learn things through fiction books.
The characters... I liked Hadassah despite her over religious behavior and intransigency about it. I didn't expect things to happen miracously, but a bit more feeling towards Marcus would have been sweet. I'm looking for seeing her admit her love without any issue. She is a good heroine and I applaud her actions in some situations.
Marcus is the son of the man who purchased Hadassah and then gave her to Julia. Marcus is amazing although at first I didn't like him much. His love feels convenient and temporary at first but in the end I really felt for him when things didn't work out right away. I foresee he's going to turn Christian but I hope that doesn't change his personality...
Julia, Marcus' sister and the owner of Hadassah, I'd say is the villain but she does it out of jealousy and loneliness. That's not an excuse, and she was also manipulated by true villains but she got on my nerves so much for her blind belief in things anyone should realize are wrong. Too childish and spoiled. I'm curious to see what happens to her too.
Atretes was featured a lot and I got the idea he just wanted freedom but didn't enjoy the path to that. I skipped some violent scenes with him so I'm curious to see his softer side in his book.
The other characters were all intriguing and added up to the plot in a way I liked.
All in all, I liked the book and I'm eager to keep reading. But I can't put aside the things I wish were different. Less preaching would be nice because it distracts from the plot and the curiosity over the fictional plot. I get it but I still wish it were different.
Eagerly ready for the next one as soon as I buy it.