Friday, January 29, 2016

Francine Rivers - An Echo in the Darkness

A prosperous trader, Marcus Lucianus Valerian has made a fortune providing sand and slaves for the Roman games. But Hadassah, a slave in his family's household, has enchanted him with her quiet beauty and her staunch faith in Christ. When Marcus' sister sends Hadassah to almost certain death in the games, Marcus feels that his life has been ripped apart. Now he is on his way to Jerusalem to find out more about Hadassah's god, unaware that a miracle awaits him back in Rome.
The political intrigue of the imperial city provides a dramatic backdrop for Marcus' spiritual quest.

Comment: This is the second installment in the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. this is a Christian fiction story and it's the follow up from the first book, A Voice in the Wind. I was so curious to read this story and to know if the main couple would finally get the HEA they deserved! 
After what happened at the end of the first book, Marcus is feeling desperate and lost and is looking for answers to why certain things happened. He decides to travel, to se Hadassah's country and house and where God appeared to men from her old community and to demand the reasons why things happened the way they did.
At the same time, Julia is ill and her husband stole much of her money from her but she still has people who care, namely a veiled crippled woman who works as an assistant to a doctor and makes her duty to care for Julia in her last days.
But in the end, can everyone find what they need, what they require to survive or to be finally accepted? What about love, does it have hearts where it can flourish?
Well, I've read this book full speed and only stopped, tears in my eyes, around 2am the day before yesterday. It's a big book, it has some passages where I wasn't as interested, but overall, this has a plot and a way of developing I couldn't put down. I really needed to know what would happen and at the end of the book, of course I cheered the HEA despite the sad moments in it as well.
The book starts where the other left of, although we get a sense of time passing, if I remember well, one year. Marcus is still in mourning, angry at the way things happened, Julia is ill, Hadassah is...well, she lives on, despite what happened. Especially in the hearts of those she cared about.
The majority of the plot is Marcus traveling to search for answers, for God and the veiled assistant and the doctor helping and dealing with patients, etc.
Of course the whole book is centered about Christian Faith, devotion and inner struggles everyone has to face to embrace the faith or to understand it.
I'm a Christian, catholic, and many of the things "preached" are recognizable to me. In a way, it doesn't bother me much but I can understand why it would others of different faiths; there's a heavy, almost complete focus on the religious matters and that affects every character's actions, even those who don't care or don't believe.
I could put it aside, though. Not that I "dismissed" those sections, but they didn't had to convince me, I could read them but not feel their highlight in my enjoyment of the fictional story. Maybe not everyone can do this, but I was so interested in the story, it felt like just one other detail.
The plot is simple, but I was so curious to see what would happen.
There's a lot of human emotions and actions to wonder about here. Sure, we all know about religion and stuff and that does affect what we choose to do, in a way, but it was amazing how simple things like knowing what's right and what's wrong are things you need to think about in certain contexts, religion aside. But of course religion has a heavy weight here, so both are connected, but the lesson to get is you should help others, you should respect them, you should know which choices are always bad for you and others and that has nothing to do with religion, but simply loving and respecting people around us and trying to be a friend or a good person.
I liked I could have this notion even if I didn't believe in God or if I weren't a religious person.
As for the plot, I did like the historical atmosphere, the way certain daily life issues were dealt with, I liked to see the author wrote showing off how so many things never changed, human character related, I mean. I liked there's closure in this book. The end is very sad because a character finds redemption - although in a very cheesy way, but that's to e expected - but there's also love and hope and a wonderfully sweet HEA I really, really loved. And an epilogue proving things are alright, which was great too.
I still think some things were left unsaid or undone, though. Maybe it's the author's choice, maybe it's something that historically wouldn't happen, but I got the feeling it wasn't something chosen to be in the story...oh well.
Marcus and Hadassah find their HEA. Yes, this was what mattered, no matter how well done the historical context was, the romance was what drove me to keep reading and despite the super clean aspect of it, there's only one sweet kiss and references to future happiness, I still think it was romantic and special. I wouldn't mind a bit more proof, but I get it.
Julia has an expected end, Marcus' mother becomes a wonderful character again and even two or three secondary characters prove their worth.
I don't know, this book just convinced me. I could put aside all the things I'd change and just enjoy the story. Sometimes books talk to us in a certain they don't to others and so on. I'm very glad this book was good to me and that I can cherish it, even though some parts aren't things I'd like to re-read.
It's not for everyone, but for me it worked and was quite sweet.
Grade: 8/10

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