Imagine a land torn by a leader exerting power on his people; a leader so cruel that he kills many of his people for disagreeing with his behavior, gives his newborn son as a human sacrifice, and even forces his own brother into exile. This is Israel in the time of King Manasseh. Among the Gods, the final book in Lynn Austens Chronicles of the Kings series, is set during this time in Israels history.
The biblical character of Joshua takes the lead in this well-crafted tale of redemption and forgiveness. He is the son of a man who was killed in Manassehs attempt to squelch any opposition to his participation in pagan ceremonies and practices. Because of this, Joshua nurses a fierce hatred for Manasseh that grows to become a deep-seated desire for revenge. This desire burns inside of Joshua for much of his life, and he begins to start planning his life around it. He pushes aside Gods will, and makes killing Manasseh his lifes purpose. Joshua allows his anger toward Manasseh to take over his life. He even goes so far as to tell his sister that she cant marry the man she loves. Instead, she must marry the Prince Amariah (King Manassehs exiled brother) in order to produce an heir to take over once Manasseh has lost the throne. Joshua shirks his responsibilities as advisor to the prince and neglects many of his relationships, including his role as father to his adopted son Nathan.
The book is divided into three parts. The first two are concerned mostly with Joshua. For most of the third part, King Manasseh takes center stage when he is arrested and thrown in a jail cell in Egypt. The reader is able to see a great transformation in him during his time there. While the main storyline concerns Joshuas hatred, there are many other secondary storylines that come into play throughout the book. Some romance is sprinkled throughout, and there is also the issue of father/son relationships. The story is a masterful combination of fiction and nonfiction; biblical facts combine with Austens imagination to create a believable tale that has lessons to offer its readers in forgiveness, love, faithfulness, and nurturing.
The anger that plagues Joshua is not something unique to him or to his story. It is because of the struggles that Joshua and the rest of the characters face that this book has take-away value; everyone can learn from Joshuas conversion from angry rebel to forgiving friend. (When I finished this book, I found myself wondering if there was someone whose forgiveness I needed to ask for or someone who needed my forgiveness.) This book will remind readers that God always has a plan and all should seek it; but, even those who dont do so immediately, will discover eventually that God never leaves their side. Those who humble themselves and ask for Gods help will find he is able to work with them in correcting their mistakes.
Among the Gods is one of Austens best works of Christian fiction. I would recommend it to anyone. However, there are a few violent scenes that, though tastefully described, may be inappropriate for younger readers. It is a great story with biblical references and also creative explanations for the parts of Joshuas story that the Bible sheds little or no light on. Austens talent for excellent writing and storytelling really shine through in her most recent book. Sarah Lachowicz, Christian Book Previews.com