3 out of 4 stars
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Theona, a sixteen-year-old Christian, lost loved ones and security when raiding Huns attack her village. Fearing more attacks were coming, Theona and her father join with other bands of Germanic tribes under the leadership of a powerful chieftain named King Radagaisus. They intend to cross over to Roman territory to seek asylum. King Radagaisus plans though to punish Rome for turning their backs on the pagan gods and following Christianity. His contempt for the Christian faith becomes a major issue for Theona and her father, Pastor Rhodus. Eighteen-year-old Marius is a Roman nobleman just entering the Roman Army. He is thrust into a leadership role quickly to defend against the onslaught of the barbarian invaders. Although he knows of God, Marius has never really needed him. However, the invasion of King Radagaisus and his army makes him rethink that. A Shield In The Shadows by Cheryl Bristow is a historical Christian fiction set in the 400s AD. It follows two main characters living on opposite sides of a conflict. Their lives interconnect during this time, and God’s grace and provision appear in harrowing circumstances.
I was excited when I read the premise of this book because it melds two of my favorite genres together. I was expecting an epic tale with drama, romance, and action while working in Christian themes. Bristow delivers that . . . mostly. I loved the plot, but my biggest complaint would be on how the story was written. The author paraphrased a lot of actions and conversations. This made the pace and my attention wane at times. It was hard getting into the characters’ lives and experience what they were going through. If more dialogue had led the story, I could have immersed myself fully into it.
There were some impressive scenes throughout though. One of those was where a priest explains how Christ changes us when we accept him into our lives. The priest illustrates this by talking about an altar mosaic in his church, and how no one could fix it well except the one who created it. Another great scene was when Marius enters a city that was under siege, and emaciated residents come out begging for food. Both scenes were moving in different ways. The author also kept me guessing who Theona romantically would end up with.
Several characters in the book called Theona stupid, and I would have to agree with them. At sixteen, naivete could explain some, but still, she was not the sharpest. At one point, the barbarians raze a town they were passing by. Against her father’s warning, Theona goes into the city to see what is happening with only the protection of her dog. Although I couldn’t care less about Theona, Marius and some other secondary figures were more intriguing. King Radagaisus’s son Roderic was confident and sometimes at odds with his father. And then there’s Ptolemy, a former gladiator who sides against the Romans and plays a pivotal role in the book’s outcome. Bristow inserts many characters in the storyline and thankfully lists all of them in case you can’t keep up.
I give A Shield In the Shadows 3 out of 4 stars. I don’t think it deserves less, but I wish I could give it more. With some tweaking, this book could go from good to phenomenal. Multiple punctuation errors (mainly misplaced quotation marks) were throughout, and they became annoying after a while. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical, Christian, and romance stories. There weren’t many battle scenes or violence, but there was a smattering of profanity.
A Shield in the Shadows
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