THE SPIRIT WAR- LEARNING AND LOVING: a powerful, reverent filling of the gap in the Gospels

Posted: September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

I strongly believe that Jesus Christ is the One figure in history and spirituality about Whom there can never be enough books written. I was remarking in my previous review how well epic fantasy can serve as a vehicle for the Greatest Story Ever Told, when discussing book 1 of a trilogy known as THE SPIRIT WAR, a novel called BETRAYAL AND HOPE, which tells the story of the reason and early years of Jesus’ existence in a grand, cinematic, epic, Tolkienesque manner, through the masterful pen of Fernando Quiros, an author I am now very, very fond of due to his act of loving courage that inspired him to write a life of Jesus for a generation of readers fond of action-packed stories of intense showdowns between Good and Evil.

The sequel to BETRAYAL AND HOPE is, in my view, a textbook example of what it means to produce a worthy successor to an epic work.

It takes a great deal of openness and audacity to attempt a fill-in of the gap left by the Gospel writers that puts a fresh perspective upon the destiny of the greatest revolutionary figure in the history of human spirituality, using imagination to flesh out that which the Gospel only alludes to briefly, stating that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man”(Luke 2:52)

LEARNING AND LOVING, an apt title to a book that sets out to explore said growth and its implications upon Jesus and those around him, is, in essence, a Bildungsroman with Jesus as its central character. I enjoyed this book tremendously, on account of how refreshingly human Jesus is, and how His humanity is matched by that of those He loves as they realize the implications of His destiny as the Messiah. Jesus is presented here in His youth, learning to cope with life as a human being who feels the incessant pressure of a higher power compelling Him. His connection with His family is very lovingly explored, with John the Baptist being featured as a prominent character in His life, well before the famous moment of the Baptism that the Scripture describes. John comes across as a man of fierce conviction, whose humble heart is as much a defining characteristic as is his prowess as a fighter(there’s a scene with him, the family of Simon, AKA Peter, and Alphaeus, a publican, that just begs to be part of an awesome, inspiring Biblical epic). The battle between Good and Evil is a leitmotif to this novel, as it should be to any epic fantasy, much more so if it pertains to Christianity. Read this book to discover a Christ who is in search of His destiny, unsure if He’s ready to face it, a Christ who chooses to sacrifice his love for a woman(compellingly drawn Magdalene, perhaps the most intriguing portrayal I’ve read in any novel about Jesus). All the well-known figures of the Gospels are presented in approachable manners, easily understood by any reader looking to come closer to the Way, Truth and Life without the pomp and circumstance of a theological treatise. This is a story, and a masterfully told one at that. Simon Peter comes across as a world-weary young fisherman, grown beyond his years by having to deal with a drunken, paralyzed father. Judas makes his appearance as a driven Zealot. The difference between faith and religion is clearly outlined in the visit of Jesus to the Temple, during which there’s an excellently drawn dispute between Christ and the temple priests, which eloquently displays the drive for money that priests had, the essence of the conflict being an unblemished lamb. The entire scene can be summed up as “No blemish on this one? Fine, we’ll make one, just so you know you don’t come to us with your own lamb!” Excellent spiritual fiction at its finest!

Over the years, the idea of Jesus studying in the Far East has been explored in books of both fiction and non-fiction. Let me tell you, you won’t find it explored in a more respectful and dignified way, that takes into account what the Gospel suggests about Jesus, than it is here. This book also offers a brilliant explanation for such a small, yet essential detail as the long locks of Jesus, appearing in most representations. But I’ll leave you the utter pleasure of discovering with your own eyes and hearts what that explanation is, and pray it gives you the beaming smile it gave me.

The concept of demonic possession is explored again, for what would epic fantasy be without its share of disturbing, disgusting evil. Mary Magdalene, very interested in Jesus as a man, plays a key role in the exploration of this concept. (Yes, Mr. Brown, one can explore a Jesus-Magdalene connection while staying true to the Gospel, and that’s how one goes about doing it!)

Overall, the novel represents an essential, stellar addition to the literature of the Way, an epic, profound exploration of the meaning of Christ, paying respect to His humanity with awe of His divinity, a piece of fiction drenched in Truth, which, in my view, is required reading for lovers of fantasy, followers of Christ, or both. If there’s one Christian fantasy series that I could qualify as a labor of love, it’s this. Highly recommended.

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