Breathless! That’s how I felt after reading A Voice in the Wind – Book 1 in Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series. I also wanted to throw the book against the wall!
It’s because the end was such a shock. Not only didn’t it end how I wanted—I didn’t even like the ending! My arm was raised and ready to fling when the last few pages fluttered and I saw a preview for Book 2. Doubting I’d like it, I pulled the book down and read the beginning of An Echo in the Darkness.
Okay, that was much better. The end of Book 1 wasn’t the end of the story… it was the end of the first part of a continuing story. Phew.
This series was the first time I’ve read anything authored by Francine Rivers. And now I know what all the fuss is about. It’s the difference between reading about a heroine and her story and actually being right there in the story with her. Several times I became so involved that I cried out in pain or disgust. Being readers themselves, my teenage sons asked what was going on in the story knowing it had to be good for their normally silent reading mom to immerse herself to such an extent that she cried out.
The only flaw in the series as I saw it, was the placement of the Glossary of Terms after the Preview of Book 2 because I didn’t find it until after I’d read the complete book and the preview. Forearmed, I was able to use the glossary in Book 2 and 3 – both which were also placed after previews at the back of the book.
Here then is the rundown of the Mark of the Lion series:
Setting: Rome & Ephesus with scenes in Jerusalem & Germania
Although A Voice in the Wind doesn’t give an actual year of setting, approx. several decades have passed since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The personal aspect of people remembering Jesus as He walked on the earth brought reality to this fictional story where John is the only disciple still alive. The book opens with shocking details of gore yet history has proved to be far worse than anything the author mentions. It slams home the daily struggle early Christians faced. I’m filled with awe for their faith and devotion despite the knowledge they could be thrown to the hungry lions at any second. One of the book’s main characters is Hadassah who continually asks herself one question: When the time comes, will she pass the test? In the book, it was Hadassah’s father who was raised from the dead as a youngster while his widowed mother pleaded with Jesus to bring him back. And He did. How can Hadassah not believe? But believing and wanting to live are both the same and different when you must choose one or the other. In the 4 wks since finishing this book, that same question has often crossed my mind: If faced with the choice, will I pass the test? Will I chose life on earth or life after a horrifying death? I’d like to think I'll choose the latter.
Settings: Ephesus & the Journey to Judea and back
Emotions raw with the brutal end of Book 1, I eagerly immersed myself in the pages of Book 2, An Echo in the Darkness. I’ve always considered myself an historian, but Francine Rivers’ writing breathes life into her characters and shows me a truth too unreal to believe in the average history book. I see, smell and taste as if I were a character in her story. And yet, a part of me is always aware that she’s the one who orchestrated the scenes and I turn my anger to her for putting my characters through such pain. But we need pain in our life to be able to appreciate the blessings, don’t we? Or do we only need strife? Would the conclusion at the end of Book 2 have been as complete if not for the pain as well as the strife? I’ll let you be the judge.
Settings: Ephesus & the Journey to Germania
After reading the first 2 books, you may be in for a culture shock heading into Book 3. Although it starts in Ephesus, after 100 pages or so the story travels to Germania—a culture so different from Ephesus and Rome it seems hard to believe it’s the same series. And yet the story wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t end there. The Germans lack the hygiene of the fastidious Romans. They live in dirt floor semi-underground shelters as opposed to brick and marble strongholds. They fight like enraged animals instead of uniformed ranks of disciplined soldiers. And yet, both cultures believe in the same dark gods, priestesses, potions, and evil spirits.
This series rings with the spiritual warfare between one true God and false gods, good versus evil, and the euphoria of heaven compared to the perpetual torment of hell. Francine Rivers masterfully covers both sides and left me shaking at the awesome power of God - as well as the horrific hold the dark forces employ when allowed into your life.
The Mark of the Lion series left me completely satisfied – well, except for a deep hunger for more novels authored by Francine Rivers.
If you'd like to know more about this series and other Francine Rivers' books, check out her site: http://francinerivers.com/books/series/mark-lion