3 out of 4 stars
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I found There Ariseth Light in the Darkness by JV Love to be a curious fictional account of several groups of people during the early first century. So many centuries have gone by since that time that the world has largely forgotten what life would have been like so long ago. The Jews in Jerusalem and surrounding areas were governed by Rome. In the cities, you could find devout Jews worshiping in the temple, tax-collecting Jews working for the Roman government, zealous Jews avenging Jews from Roman leadership, and Roman soldiers attempting to keep the peace. Also inhabiting the city would have been "Gentiles," that is, any non-Jewish citizens. This many subcultures seeking to inhabit the same geographic area allowed for only a very uneasy truce between the various factions. Into this somewhat unstable region, a child was born who was destined to create peace.
Meet Jonah and Thomas, two Jewish brothers whose way of life was decimated by the Nabataeans. The family of their cousin Zebulun takes the brothers in and raises them in the way of the zealots. After spending several years under the command of Zebulun, Jonah eventually realizes the zealots will never offer him peace. He leaves the bandits and seeks his own life as a nominal Jew. Mostly, Jonah wants to be left alone, but he also seeks answers to life's difficulties.
Meet Vitus, an ambitious Roman soldier determined to attain the rank of Centurion. Contrary to most in Roman leadership, Vitus has the propensity to be fair to those around and under him.
Azara is an educated female Gentile who wants to change the world for the better.
Can Zebulun, Jonah, Vitus, and Azara all find what they are looking for? JV Love weaves a tale of despair, love, desire, and humanness. His characters are not only well developed, but they undergo transformations throughout the book. Each character makes decisions that take him or her on a path of either self-discovery or self-destruction. I loved this process. By the time the book ended, I felt grief for the characters who lost everything, anger at the characters who would not budge toward the light in stubbornness, and relief when the world finally made sense to the true seekers.
The book follows the stories of each of the main characters somewhat separately. At times, the path of one character intersects with the path of another, but having all the characters meet and interact as a whole is not the author's main purpose. Philosophical sections are handled appropriately; the various characters are allowed to process life's questions naturally instead of forcing the reader to endure long discourses written by the author. This allowed the author to keep a good pace throughout the book and added to my overall enjoyment.
As a historical fiction novel, I appreciate all the effort the author put into researching the time period. The knowledge of each subculture mentioned is obvious, making this a jewel of a novel. I noticed an interesting side theme, namely that racial diversity and tension are not new concepts.
I have one issue with this book. When it becomes clear that Jesus is key to understanding life and happiness, the author does not seem to have a genuine understanding of the message Jesus brought. Instead, the author talks in generalities of forgiveness and living for others. While these things are good, they are not what the Bible brings out as the reason for Jesus' life on earth. At the end of the book, the author includes discussion questions and historical notes. The wealth of facts that the author built the book around is impressive. I did also find scattered editing errors.
I feel that the book was edited, but perhaps not professionally. Since I generally enjoyed the story and felt that it was historically accurate, I would give it 4 stars, but due to the lackluster editing, I am going to rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I feel that any history buff ought to enjoy reading this book. However, if you are looking for a particularly religious (Christian) novel, I don't feel this is a strong candidate other than that of gaining a better understanding of the world into which Jesus was born.
There Ariseth Light in the Darkness
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