4 out of 4 stars
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Zealots is an emotion-stirring historical fiction book. It is written by Jim Mcivey, and it set just a few years before the start of the first century in Israel.
Marcus has put his family in a precarious situation, but what choice did he have? Seven years earlier, he, along with many other Israeli men, were conscripted for military service in the Roman army as part of King Herod’s contribution to the great empire. Due to his impressive skill in archery, Marcus excelled as a legionnaire. For seven long, terrible years as a legionnaire, he was separated from his wife and children. When those seven years finally came to a close, Marcus was relieved at the thought of finally reuniting with his family. Upon arriving in Caesarea, Marcus is shocked to learn that he is being promoted to the position of being a centurion and must embark on another five-year tour after a short leave. He makes up his mind there and then that he will not waste anymore of his life in service to Caesar. He deserts the army and goes into hiding with his family. As a result of his desertion, he is marked as a traitor of the Empire. A reward is offered for his capture. Knowing the brutality with which the Romans deal with their enemies, Marcus is forced to take drastic measures to ensure the safety of his family – he joins the Zealots.
As mentioned earlier, Zealots evokes heavy emotions within its readers. This is achieved in the suspenseful plot and the skillful depiction of the unjust society in which Marcus and his family live. The author has portrayed the Judean society under the rule of the oppressive Roman empire through the eyes of a devoted, faithful Jewish family and a young Armenian slave-girl who becomes part of Marcus’ household. The corruption, brutality, and self-righteousness exhibited by prominent Jewish leaders and priests was shocking to read about. Even more heart-wrenching was reading about the methods employed by the Romans to break and subdue opposing forces. This all led to a clear picture and understanding of who the Zealots were and why they rebelled against Herod’s, and by extension, the Roman’s Rule.
What I found hard to digest was the amount and severity of tragedies that Marcus’ family goes through. This is especially so since they are quite lovable. Their humility, faith, love for each other, and appreciation for the simple things in life endeared them to me. And so, it was especially difficult to read through some of the horrendous things they experience. I actually had to stop reading on occasion and garner up the emotional strength to read on. Though I must admit that this is ultimately one of the signs of a good book.
Where historical events are mentioned or referred to, the author generally keeps events as accurate as possible. Though on a few occasions he did change a few facts; these are discussed in the “Author’s Note and Historical Record” at the end of the book. Those who appreciate a good historical fiction book will savor this book. If you are a sensitive, you might want to steer clear of this book as it contains quite a number of tragic events. I rate this epic book 4 out of 4 stars.
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