BLOOD OF EMPIRES, VOLUME ONE: the grittiest Biblical novel out there.

Posted: April 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

If there is one historical novel subgenre that I could read thousands of examples of without getting tired, that subgenre is Biblical historical fiction, particularly that  which is based upon the New Testament.  I find a great deal of truth in the name that has been given to the story of Jesus as The Greatest Story Ever Told, and I think it’s utterly amazing how many perspectives this story has been told from throughout the ages, and it just keeps getting retold without losing its original impact.

The novel I am about to review is the latest and grittiest retelling of this story that I have ever read.  It is called BLOOD OF EMPIRES and written by Mr. John Lawrence Burks, whom I’m eternally grateful to for the signed copy of his work. Nevertheless, every word of this review is a product of my own thoughts, and I’m more than blessed to say so.

Venustus Vetallus is an old man. He is just turning 91 and is about to be executed as the story begins. His crime: being a Christian.  The novel is essentially the story of how Venustus became a Christian, but it is so much more than that. It is an action-packed, gritty story of Ancient Rome, as though Lew Wallace had met Ridley Scott over a cup of coffee.  There are 40 years of research behind this book and it shows. The story kicks off when the mother of Venustus is murdered by his corrupt senator father, and what should be a story of revenge turns into a saga of self-discovery, ripe with gladiatorial combat and assassination attempts, as Venustus’s ideals about power collide with the emerging ideals of Christianity as preached by Jesus. Venustus does not come across as a saintly figure whatsoever. He’s a man of violence, used to blood and death, a man who ends up in the service of tyrants, a man who thinks that power is a notion he knows well, until he sees Jesus in the Temple, and speaks to John the Baptist.  The manner in which the presence of these two men comes to affect him is very impactfully rendered, with Venustus ending up questioning everything that he learns, from the time spent at Aristotle’s Lyceum, to his training as a warrior.  The novel is replete with information about the Roman and Jewish cultures of the time, mostly pertaining to notions of divinity, freedom and slavery. The entire point of the novel, and it’s a very well-thought out point, is that of providing a comparison between the Roman Empire, which is known for its bloodshed, and the Kingdom preached by John and Jesus,which was formed through the blood shed by Christ on Golgotha. It’s an intense, informative and inspiring book that I feel richer for having read, and I cannot wait to see where the story will go.

Thank you, Mr. Burks! Great job! Ten out of five for a story for the ages!

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