Review Storm of Fire and Blood by Taylor Marshall

I tend not to read fiction. I usually find novels frustrating and to be frank, I do not want to do the work of having to plough through 10, 20 or 30 pages ‘getting into’ a novel. When I do read fiction it is always a historical novel – but even then, with the best of writers, I usually give up fairly quickly.

Which is why Taylor Marshall’s trilogy has been so surprising for me. His first two books, The Sword and Serpent and The Tenth Region of the Night were the first novels I read through in their entirety in many years. And the third book, Storm of Fire and Blood, is no different. These books have captivated me and I hope that Taylor Marshall will continue to write such stories in the years to come.

Set in the early church period of the fourth century, Storm of Fire and Blood does not just have a captivating story which grabs you from the opening lines; or wonderfully rich and engaging dialogue which often has a delightfully humorous undertone; or complex and deep characters with whom you will feel the full gambit of emotions, joy and laughter, frustration and anger. Most remarkably, Marshall takes you into the life of the fourth century. You feel yourself walking in the cold of Britannia or experiencing the smell of the fish in the docks of Myra. You are drawn into this incredible yet deadly world of the Roman Empire and the early Church. This is truly historical fiction – in the midst of an entertaining and gripping story you are engaging with and learning about the real people of this period.

Storm of Fire and Blood follows the exploits of Jurian / Georgius and his friends Agapius, Menas and Sabra and their adversary Casca. Marshall does a wonderful job weaving multiple stories together from Jurian in Britannia to Sabra in Cyrene to Casca their nemesis. The backdrop of the story is spiritual warfare. The Emperor Diocletian is about to unleash persecution upon the church but underlying the physical persecution is the spiritual evil of the enemy who hates those who profess Christ as Lord. How does the Church of Christ stand in the face of evil and persecution, danger and death? This is the core of the story – and in the answer you will see bravery, deep faith and trust in God even in the midst of overwhelming opposition. And oh my, the ending will leave you stunned.

Finally, I want to mention Nikolaos. He is one of my favorite characters in the book. Nikolaos is mysterious. He appears just as people need him. He is peaceful, he is joyful, he is generous and he loves and trusts the Lord Jesus even when in danger. He is a true Saint and this character radiates peace. Whenever he appears in the book I would physically become peaceful.

As a pastor of an Anglican Congregation I have frequently recommended to my congregation the previous two books in this series – and Storm of Fire and Blood will be no different. A perfect Christmas present.

Review: The Crown by Joanna Stafford

During Henry VIII’s reign there was the dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry dissolved and shut the monasteries of England because of the corruption that was inherent at the time. Monks and Nuns lived in luxury. Monks often had mistresses and children. One of the side benefits of the closing of the monasteries was that the English Crowns treasury was filled with the wealth the monasteries had amassed. The dissolution of the monasteries took place in three stages – the smaller monasteries were closed first, then the medium sized monasteries and then the larger monasteries.
This novel is set during this period and begins in 1537. A novice Dominican nun from Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford defies the rule of enclosure and leaves the Priory to go to London. Her cousin is to be burnt at the stake. However while in London events lead to her being arrested and being confined to the tower. She is then interrogated by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner (Bishop Gardiner became the Archbishop of Canterbury in Queen Mary’s reign and he was the man who condemned Thomas Cranmer to death). Bishop Gardiner has Joanna’s father and threatens his life unless Joanna goes back to Dartford Priory and unearth an ancient (and supposedly powerful) relic – the Crown of Æthelstan – which the Bishop believes will stop Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries.
Æthelstan was King of the Anglo-Saxons from 924 to 927 and King of the English from 927 to 939.[c] He was the son of King Edward the Elder and his first wife, Ecgwynn. Modern historians regard him as the first King of England and one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. Æthelstan was one of the most pious West Saxon kings, and was known for collecting relics and founding churches. His household was the centre of English learning during his reign, and it laid the foundation for the Benedictine monastic reform later in the century. No other West Saxon king played as important a role in European politics as Æthelstan, and he arranged the marriages of several of his sisters to continental rulers.
The Novel follows Joanna’s attempts to find this relic.
It is written by a Catholic author and so you will find that her sympathies lie against Henry VIII. She is critical of Anne Boleyn who makes a b rief appearance in the novel.
But despite the catholic bias regarding the history of the time, it is a wonderful suspense / murder mystery. The writing will grab you and draw you into a fascinating period of time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reading the other two in the series over the summer.