In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king’s palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.
When the battles come to an end, Ezra’s brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude’s widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple–but the fight to keep God’s Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges…this one for the survival of God’s covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.
I think it must be really hard to write Biblical fiction — fiction that is entertaining and engaging while at the same time faithful to God’s Word, His intent and His purposes. Lynn Austin is an author who does an exemplary job of combining all the necessary ingredients to do just that. In her latest book in the Restoration Chronicles, Keepers of The Covenant, Austin combines the stories of Ezra and Esther to bring forth a cohesive narrative of the life of post-exilic Israel. She also does the best thing I like about Biblical fiction, she inspires her readers to open up God’s word to look into scripture for themselves. (You can read my review of book 1, Return to Me, HERE.)
Ezra is a scholar with no other desire but to study the Torah. But when word comes of the Persian king’s edict in which all Jews are to be killed, he is called to become a leader of his people in Babylon. Reluctantly he follows God’s call and embarks on a journey to know Him. Amina and Reuben are children in the days of Haman’s schemes and Esther’s triumphant victory, but the thirteenth of Adar changes their lives for ever. Austin follows these characters and their families in examining God’s everlasting covenant with those He calls His own.
Keepers of The Covenant is three stories in one that come together as the people of Israel return to their home in Jerusalem. All the characters face doubts and fears as well as decisions that change the course of their lives. I found all of the characters realistic and relatable for readers in the 21st century. There really isn’t anything new under the sun, and the difficulties of life are as real now as they were then. Austin has created a wonderful sense of place as well. You can almost see the the green hills surrounding Jerusalem and feel the sandy grit of 4 months travel from Babylon to the Holy Land. The theme of justice tempered by mercy is strong and a good lesson for readers today. But it was the the inclusive love of God that really spoke to me.
Keepers of The Covenant is an excellent novel, one that I will recommend to anyone regardless of their favorite genre. This historical novel is much more than dates and places in the past, but a retelling of God’s timeless truths and promises.
Audience: older teens and adults.
(Thanks to LitFuse and Bethany House for my review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)
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