4 out of 4 stars
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No Dark Clouds by R.W. Nelson explores mostly the lives of underprivileged children. Set in the first century AD (around 31 AD) No Dark Clouds follows the story of a group of children subjected to begging by the Taskmaster, a man who treats them badly caring nothing about their wellbeing. Beggar Boy, a major protagonist in the novel is an independent street smart beggar who combines theft with his begging as a means of survival. He has five very ugly scars on his face thanks to the cruel knife of his former boss. He’s stubborn, determined, and above all possessed by a strong sense of intolerance especially matters concerning his face. He also looks out and provides for some other children such as Rebekah, Aditya, Scooter, and Figs. Beggar Boy is adopted by Leonidas, a Roman Centurion, after the latter’s life is saved by the boy. The boy begins to gradually settle down to a steady life until he hears about Jesus of Nazareth and his healing powers. This brings a new mission – to meet Jesus and have him remove his scars. But despite all his efforts, all roads seem to lead to Calvary. Would his new circle of friends hold true? Will he achieve his quest?
Although it's a historical fiction set in the time of Jesus, the story is not about Jesus but largely about Beggar Boy and other street children like him. The story captures the nameless people of society. This is evident in the way some of the characters are named: Beggar Boy, Scooter, Figs, and Baa-Foo. They are nameless and particularly belonged to no one. Like leaves in dense rainforests that fall unnoticed, so too the plight of these children. They suffer and die in the open but not many people notice them. An African proverb: “A goat owned in common dies of hunger” came to mind while reading.
This is a fine piece of historical fiction. There is a slightly humorous angle though the novel largely has an emotional tone. Right from the Prologue, the book engulfs a reader and evokes several questions. Nelson uses a narration method, not unlike that employed by Tolkien in The Hobbit. Through the pages of this book, I literally walked through the streets of Jerusalem during those distant days. The book is packed with so much intrigue. What I enjoyed most while reading was the many unexpected twists in the novel. Reading through it was like navigating unknown terrains but arriving frequently at familiar junctions. An example is the story of Darius, a centurion, and how he fits into the whole story.
Nelson writes the story as if the English language was the lingua franca of the era. This is illustrated by the use of mispronunciation of words (by Beggar Boy) such as “unically instead of unique” and “meear instead of myrrh”. The importance of name figures prominently in the novel. Beggar Boy initially has no name till around the end of the novel. And even his name serves as an important lesson for him years later.
I like most of the characters in the novel but my favourites are Leonidas and Beggar Boy. They both are strong-willed and are imbued with leadership qualities such as foresight (for example Leonidas), fast-thinking (Beggar Boy), and decisiveness (both). One character that initially left me puzzled is the old woman. She appears at distinct parts of the novel – about three times to Beggar Boy – and acts as a guide. She is a typical example of a deus ex machina.
I recommend No Dark Clouds to people who enjoy reading historical fiction and books with Christian themes. The book is also suitable for young people. I found very minimal errors while reading the book. This reflects very good editing and based on this and the fact that I greatly enjoyed it, I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. People who dislike reading books that have religious themes would do well to avoid this book.
No Dark Clouds
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