I recently discovered Francine Rivers and her "Mark of the Lion" trilogy.
I read the third installment and I have to say, I doubt the first two will be the same...well yeah.
Let me explain. First of all, this trilogy followed the lives of characters who have somehow met at the crossroads of their journey to Christ, and it doesn't happen in the same way.
The novel I read was called "As sure as the dawn" and it followed the later half a German gladiator names Atretes' life, who you will see hulking it up in the front of the novel like some dime-novel hero. He's a free man as of the beginning of the novel, having won his freedom after defeating so many opponents in the arena. The story begins as he's speaking to the soon-to-be-executed Christian Jew Hadassah, about how his ex-lover Julia, supposedly killed their infant son, but Hadassah tells him that the son is alive and living with a woman called Rizpah living in the where abouts of St. John the Apostle. Finding his son in the crowded town of Ephesus, where he is well known from his gladiator days, was hilarious. Especially the part where he interrupted St. John's batisms and the crowd all thought he was coming to be baptized. Lol, to say the least.
As you read the story, I think that you will appreciate more and more, the illustration/painting of Atretes. It seems cheesy with his huge muscles and anger and well-chiseled features, but it symbolizes who he is and I love that about characters. Their outter reveals something integral about their inner.
Anyway, I love this book because while you accompany Atretes and the Christian Jewish wet nurse for his infant son - Rizpah, you accompany not only their brokeness as human beings and as sinners. On their way back to the Germanic regions of the Roman empire, where Atretes was captured and indentured into a ludus, their relationship gets closer and closer, and while theres only a few small and two significant miracles that happen during the latter half of the book, through the interaction of their stubborn banter with one another, you encounter minute and gradual transformations within their characters. The tone turns darker and darker as they travel onward, Atretes clever jabs are less light-hearted, his resolve is tested and both are more tempted to despair.
I won't give more away, but the last third of the book displays the darkness unflinchingly in Atretes past and pagan heritage, and how the two unlikely partners brave the evil brooding in his tribe.
Bonus points for including Theophilus - "friend of God" who is a major secondary character and just as burley and larger than life than Atretes. A true foil.
There however, was a little problem I had with Rivers making most of the Apostle John's dialogue with others verses from his book. It would have been clever, but it doesn't seem to reveal anything revolutionary or applied in a different context than what we all are familiar with. I don't think Rivers was too much concerned with being an apologist or theologian in that sense. It's a minor issue though, and doesn't conflict with the believablity of the story, the plot or character development, but it doesn't do anything to help it either.
In any case, I'm glad she's being faithful to the bible. That's always an excellent thing.