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The Good Friday narrative in the Gospels is, in my view, the quintessential story of forgiveness in human existence. And given the symbolism of the name of Barabbas, there is a bit of him in all of us. He was the one whose life was changed firsthand through the sacrifice of Christ. There are countless ways in which this story can be told, and it always remains fresh and powerful.
The most recent retelling that I have had the blessing to read is called SUBSTITUTE, and it was written by Mr. Andy Back.

The novel may well be the most original retelling of this story that I have ever come across. It is set in the time of Christ, but in an interesting creative choice made to highlight the „otherness” between Jews and Romans, the names of the Jewish characters have been converted into English-sounding names. The name of the protagonist, given the symbolic meaning, „Son of the Father”, thus becomes James Parsons. Peter, the apostle, is Simon McStein, who, in an interesting twist, speaks with a thick Scottish accent, surprisingly fitting for his rugged, yet warm personality. Jesus Himself is Jesus Davidson, which is a simple, yet effective way to render his prophetic title in the Bible as Son of David.
What I love the most about this novel is how clearly the author has understood the amazing power of forgiveness. The manner in which Barabbas goes from a man who is greatly confident in his right to stand up to the Occupying Force(the way in which the Roman Empire is referred to in the novel), to one whose life is shockingly changed by the sacrifice of Jesus, and whose soul is slowly, and sometimes strenuously, but surely placed upon the path of forgiveness. The road he walks from anger, to rebellion, to confusion, bitterness, forgiveness and gratitude, is a road you will be a better, spiritually fuller human being for having walked, which is certainly true about myself. I love this little gem of a book.
Though I was provided with a review copy by Mr. Back, the thoughts herein are my own, and I am entirely blessed and grateful to say so.
Thank you, Mr. Back, for what is truly a masterpiece of Biblical fiction, which should be turned into a performance of some sort. I can see it as a theater show, a movie, or even a TV series. It has earned its ten stars out of five.


Alexszollo's Blog

In my previous post, I was reviewing a recently discovered Biblical novel called A TIME TO HEAR, set during the time of not one, but the two greatest prophets in the history of mankind, John the Baptist, here called Johannes, and Jesus Christ, here known as Jeshua.

The idea that a sequel should surpass the original is something that has been well set into the minds of people for years now. With that in mind, I can certainly affirm this about A TIME TO SEE, the second volume in the compelling trilogy by SJ Knight.

If I were to sum the series up so far, I would say it shines new light on old stories, and really, really succeeds in acquainting the readers to characters who are far from perfect, though touched by perfection.

I loved seeing Dan grow even more thirsty for knowledge. I loved Loukanos, whose mind was…

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I was talking in my previous post about a novel by Mr. Kevin Brooks, called THE LOST GOSPEL OF BARABBAS, which aims to offer readers a different perspective, far more nuanced than what is known from the Biblical text about him. And I was saying that I had really enjoyed this take on the character. He is not just a „robber” as we are told in Scripture, and yet, there is much more to him than a heroic Braveheart type of figure. If the first book set the proverbial stage for all the pain and anguish that makes Barabbas tick(read that and you will gasp at everything that he has had to endure, I guarantee you), this one shows him being forced to accept the painful facts of his life, as well as struggling with more of the frighteningly vivid visions of the supernatural that he experiences. This is a man who is unsure whether the intense things he sees, hears and feels are blessings or curses, a man who is constantly trying to make sense of who he is and what he is meant for, and for Christian fiction, this is as refreshing as it comes. The world needs more heroes of this caliber in Christian novels, as they have been too often accused of having saintly Sunday-school-like protagonists who overcome the evil that stands against them with their purity alone. Here we have a man who has seen, heard, felt and done horrible things, and he knows it very well. A man who has a calling, which he cannot deny, and yet, does not fully understand. Which, in a way, is a story that every one of us Christians know.

What I loved about this book is how well the author continues to use certain aspects of what is a typical heroic journey with a character that is not entirely a hero. I loved the moment in which Samuel, the adoptive father of Barabbas, gave him the sword that he had fought with while serving Rome. A perfect example of a new purpose being given to an object once used, at least in the view of our Roman-hating protagonist, for nefarious purposes. The supernatural encounters are also back, and as stated before, they are intense and filled with foreshadowing. A huge lion gives Barabbas a dire warning telling him to choose a side, and the chant of his name rings out from the tongues of angels, in the most brilliant bit of foreshadowing that I have ever come across in a work of Christian fiction.
But do you, dear readers, want to know what I loved the most about this book?
The fact that, as intense, cinematic(one would surely be inclined to say Netflix-worthy in this day and age), and gritty this book is, the best is yet to come. Given what I have read so far in this series, I cannot wait for the final installment which will surely have Barabbas meeting Jesus. I have never been more eager for a Christian author to finish a trilogy than I am for this one. A solid ten outta five for a gritty, heartfelt effort!

Though Mr. Brooks was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his work for review purposes, the thoughts herein are my own, as a book of this kind is surely worthy of. Thank you, Mr. Brooks! Great, great job!

The figure of Barabbas, in my view, is the most intriguing in all of New Testament history.  We know so little of him, he is almost a footnote, and the connotation he was given over the years is decidedly negative. And yet, when looked at from a certain perspective, he suddenly gains symbolic weight: he is the one person who directly felt the power of the love of God on that fateful day which Christians have come to know and revere as Good Friday.  From what we are given in the Gospels, we know him as a „robber” who „committed murder in the insurrection”, which, given the time period in which the Greatest Story Ever Told takes place, could have only meant that he was a Zealot.

From this alluded, but intriguing idea, Mr. Kevin Brooks has embarked upon a journey of epic proportions to uncover the truth of who Barabbas may have been beyond the obvious negativity he was portrayed with over the years.  The novel Mr. Brooks wrote is called THE LOST GOSPEL OF BARABBAS, and boy, oh, boy, does it ever deliver.

We meet Barabbas as the son of a ship-builder, and find that Barabbas is not actually a name in itself, but more of a „moniker”, so to speak, that his father, Jeshua, gives him. Barabbas, as per the richness of Jewish culture, has a very profound meaning. „Son of the Father”.

The young Barabbas is devout as can be and truly believes in the coming of the liberating Messiah  who will give Israel its glory days of long ago back.  He is taught by his father to stand against the pagan idolatry of Greeks and Romans and remain steadfastly devoted to the One true God of the Jews.

What I loved the most about the book was how easy it was to relate to Barabbas. Mr. Brooks has taken a character that the Bible gives us little to nothing about and turned him into one of, if not the most  compelling angry young man that has  ever graced the pages of a Biblical novel. Reading what Barabbas goes through at the hands of the Romans, one truly gets to understand how and why the young Zealot first felt the fire of vengeance burning his heart. Oh, and  his supernatural visions are absolutely chilling.

Readers will experience a story they have always wondered about, and see one of the most mysterious figures in the Gospels in an entirely new light. The highs and lows of the life of Barabbas, as they are presented here, will put a compellingly human face upon a name known only through the crime of its bearer in the Scriptures. This is a young man literally battling for his soul, and it is utterly heartwrenching to feel the anguish he goes through when the Romans commit the ultimate injustice against him, fueling his desire for revenge. Tormented by visions of crows that flock madly around him, Barabbas is almost always on the edge in this roller-coaster of a novel.  At some point, one wonders how much bitterness and death one man can go through until he finally snaps.

I loved the character of Samuel, the priest who takes care of Barabbas after a very traumatic event in his life. The idea of a servant of God actually teaching someone survival skills, such as hunting, is a breath of fresh air in Biblical fiction, where we often see priests arguing semantics with the Lord.

To those who enjoy their Biblical fiction as sharp as the edge of a dagger,  THE LOST GOSPEL OF BARABBAS is a must-read, as much as it is to those who want their faith challenged and then refreshingly confirmed. This is one of those books that linger in the mind long before they are closed.  Great, great job, Mr. Brooks. Solid 5 out of 5!

Though Mr. Brooks was kind enough to send  me a copy of his work for review purposes, the thoughts herein are mine in their entirety. And I am a spiritually richer human being having read this book.

My experience as a reader has taught me one thing above all: when one knows that there is a sequel to a great novel, the expectations for it grow greatly. So when I finished BRUECKE TO HEAVEN, the amazing historical novel by Mr. Timothy Tron dealing with the Waldensians, I knew what I expected from it: greatness.

And boooy, did the sequel ever deliver. It was absolutely epic in scope and cast of characters, significantly upping the proverbial ante for the characters. There is a great subplot about a hermit and his wolf that I absolutely adored. There are epic battles with pagan barbarians.
But what I loved the most about this book was the struggle that one particular character from the previous one was going through, and I am talking about Lucier, the general with the mission of hunting down the Waldensians. His long, arduous transformation, full of twists and turns, is among the most intensely written spiritual crises I have ever had the blessing to read about. He comes across as painfully torn between duty and conscience.
The reason I love these two books so much is the fact that although the villains are part of the Catholic Church, the books are not by a long shot anti-Catholic per se. These books were meant as a reminder of the power of true faith in the face of blind literalism. These two books are more than simple historical fiction novels to me. They are part of a legacy that the author does his best to honor, and of a faith so intense and so personal that one would have to be made of stone not to feel it. Do not let the size of this book get to you. Its 700+ pages move at a blistering pace to reveal a world that is long gone by, and yet so vividly described that it seems like it is part of the here and now. It is a sweeping epic of faith, hope and love that pulls no punches on the gritty side of life. Readers will be transported to a time when dying for faith was not just an ideal, but a cold, harsh reality that is too often taken for granted nowadays. The world needs more books like these.

I usually give a star rating. These books are worth constellations. Thank you, Mr. Tron. You have written a tale for the ages.
Disclaimer: While I do thank Mr. Tron wholeheartedly for agreeing to send me his books for review purposes, I must state the views herein are my own, and I am tremendously blessed to say so.

My Christian faith has led me to many awesome stories over the years. Real-life examples like those of Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese pilot who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and later embraced Christianity, and Richard Wurmbrand, who stood as a pillar of Christ in an era of rabid persecution against Christians, were nuggets of authentic inspiration to me.

A little while ago, I heard about the Waldensians, a community of Christians spread throughout the Alps, who copied and memorized the word of God during the Middle Ages, when the authority of the Catholic Church was considered absolute.
I had the blessing of coming across a series of novels about the Waldensians, written by one of their descendants, Mr. Timothy W. Tron.

The first book in the series, called BRUECKE TO HEAVEN, is one of the most gripping Christian novels that I have ever been blessed to come across.

Set in the Vaudois region that gives the Waldensians their name, in the 11th century, it tells the story of an epic struggle between worldly power and the Power of God in a truly memorable manner. I loved every page of it and felt deeply for every character, from young Jakob, who we see in the opening of the book struggling to memorize Scripture, to wise old Arktos, with his unwavering faith. Even the villains are compellingly fleshed out, from the power-hungry Pope Lucias to his loyal general, Lucier, who is struggling deeply with his conscience.

What I love the most about this book is the fact that although it is Christian fiction, it pulls no punches in regard to the things that people are willing to do to each other in the name of a misguided approach to faith. There are scenes in this book that are definitely not for the faint of heart, but those who stick with it to the end will have read one of the most captivating historical novels ever written. I had no idea that there was a proto-Protestant community long before Martin Luther thought of his reforms. This is a surprising, entertaining and educational read that should grace the shelf of any Christian.

Ten out of five for a masterpiece of faith-based historical fiction. Although Mr. Tron was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of his work for review purposes, it is my blessing to say that the views herein are my own.
Thank you, sir! May God bless you abundantly.

The Bible is ripe with great stories. I believe there is a very good reason for it to be called The Good Book. It is filled with larger-than-life tales that just scream to be given an epic fantasy treatment, while holding onto the Truth that is at their core.
Among those tales, the biggest and boldest, in my view, is the story of Noah and his iconic Ark. It has everything: adventure, faith, impossible odds and a truly inspiring ending. And it is my great honor and blessing to say that I have found a novel that truly does justice to the story of Noah, giving it a fresh perspective while keeping the Truth in it intact.

The book is called ARMY OF GOD, and it is written by Mr. Dennis Bailey, to whom I extend my gratitude for the copy he graciously provided. With this in mind, DISCLAIMER: The views herein are my own. This kind of book deserves nothing less.

I think the author chose the style of the novel very well. From the very beginning, it all feels so cinematic, as people seek to take Eden by storm.
I loved how the author tried his hand at a bunch of different genres altogether with the book. At some point, it gets going in a sort of whodunit direction, as a mysterious killer leaves a trail of bodies behind, as if in a ritual. And the whole concept of an „Army of God” just SCREAMS IMAX material, and would make an infinitely better version of the Noah story than the confusingly lukewarm movie that came out some years ago, with Russell Crowe in the leading role. This story is never mind-boggling and never preachy. I love the struggle that Noah has with coming to terms with his mission from God. A cardboard-cut, Sunday School Noah would have just gone with it, and his family would have followed him without hesitation. But this interpretation gives them all flesh-and-blood human faces, and Noah is often considered mad by his own family. This is only hinted at in the Bible, as far as I can remember it, but fleshed out in an amazing manner here.
But what I loved the most about the book is how gradual the whole story arc with the animals is. It starts out with two lions, which is a big enough challenge for a family still struggling to figure out what God wants from them. And then it slowly but surely encompasses all of the living things on Earth. The final battle between the animals and the enemies of Noah is worthy of the big screen without any hesitation. The whole feud between Eden and Enoch comes crashing down in a final epic confrontation worthy of Tolkien.

I think this book has the most compellingly drawn villain I have ever read in a piece of Christian fiction, in the person of Bohar. I have never enjoyed the feeling of being disgusted by the appearance and actions of a villain as much as I did here. You are gonna love hating this dude.

This solid, amazingly well-written piece of Biblical fiction that hardly feels like a debut has earned my appreciation and respect. 10 out of 5 solid stars. Thank you, Mr. Bailey! Great work!