Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she’d perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Now, as Daniel’s wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she’s safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear–until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar’s palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Belili’s tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone?
Ultimately, Yahweh’s sovereign hand guides Jerusalem’s captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.
I’m happy to be a member of Mesu Andrews’ BFF street team for this release.
Everyone has a favorite author, one they gravitate to, and one whose new books they eagerly await. I first came across Mesu Andrews’ in 2013 with her third novel, Love in a Broken Vessel. I’ve read every one of her books since then and, yes, I do look forward to each new piece of Biblical fiction she writes. It’s always a blessing to be admitted to her street team, and one I never take for granted. That’s how I got an Uncorrected Proof for review.
I’m also a bit of a tough reviewer. I have one piece of criteria for a five-star review: the book must leave me with tears in my eyes. I might really, really enjoy a book, but if it doesn’t cause tears it doesn’t get that fifth star. I strongly believe in the power of emotion and sometimes I’ve been surprised by my emotional response. After finishing the final page of this book, I can say that Of Fire and Lions is a five-star read.
I’m sure there will be some readers who object to the thought of fifteen year olds having intimate relations, and to the amount of violence in the book. But we must always consider the context. In this time period, people didn’t live as long. Children grew up quicker and became adults much earlier than they do now. One reason for early death was the constant military campaigns. This story of Daniel and Belili’s life starts with the invasion of Jerusalem. They endure forced exile, pagan customs, and political infighting between power-hungry leaders, and outlived kings and kingdoms. As I read, I thought about how I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere close to a royal court. There are examples of entire families being made to pay the ultimate price for one person’s actions.
What else is in this novel besides the above? Many will recognize the events after which the book is named. The main characters are witnesses to their Hebrew friends coming through the fiery furnace, and the lion’s den experience comes near the end. Daniel’s interpretation of dreams is a must in any story about him, and they’re included here. We also get Nebuchadnezzar (also sometimes historically referred to as Nebuchadrezzar) being turned into a wild animal. Mesu Andrews also gives us an in-depth look at life in the city of Babylon and the customs of both the Hebrew and Babylonian communities. One aspect I found interesting was Mesu’s choice of perspectives: Belili’s is written in the first person, while Daniel’s is in the third. She has also chosen to skip back and forth in time. The “present” time is when Daniel and Belili are old, while the other half of the narrative starts with exile and gradually moves forward in time.
So, yes, to conclude: Mesu Andrews has written another amazing story based on the contents of the Bible. Of Fire and Lions has caused me to look again at the Old Testament, just as her previous books have, and has helped me understand better a section of it. It was enjoyable enough that I had a hard time putting it down. And yes, it was emotionally powerful enough to cause my eyes to leak when I finished reading!
Thank you to Waterbrook and the author for my complimentary Uncorrected Proof of Of Fire and Lions.
Do you plan to read Of Fire and Lions? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Waterbrook (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 05 March 2019
Page Count: 400