Book Review: Rora, by James Byron Huggins

23 Feb
Rora: James Byron Huggins: 9781891668081: Books -

“Men do not become heroes in a war; they are heroes before a war. War is only the place where their heroism is most easily seen.”

Genre: historical fiction; Inspirational; drama

Plot Summary: When the Roman Catholic Church initiates a horrendous massacre upon the Waldensian church in the Piedmont valleys of Italy, a farmer from Rora—Joshua Gianavel—takes it upon himself to lead his mountain people in a miraculous defensive stand for justice.

My Book Review: I think this title is one of the earliest that I entered in my To-Read Notebook nearly 10 years ago.  I don’t think I really knew what it was about, but the cover looked exciting, and with names like Newt Gingerich and Frank Peretti endorsing it on the front, my interest was peaked. Wow.  This story blew my mind, even more so that it was based on historical facts and not just a figment of the author’s imagination.  I knew only a smidgeon about the Inquistion, but I had never heard of the Waldenses, just as I had never heard of Rora or Captain Gianavel.  So this story was enlightening to say the least!

Torre Pellice, val Pellice, western Piedmont, Italy, site of religious persecution of the Waldenses.

Torre Pellice, val Pellice, western Piedmont, Italy, site of religious persecution of the Waldenses.

The author writes in a cinematic fashion; it could sometimes be described as poetic, sometimes almost a bit flowery.  It reminded one of “Braveheart”, or “The Patriot” and would make just as good a film… but I must admit this is one book I would not want to watch as a movie.  The murderous crimes against the Waldenses are so inhumane that I can’t think anyone would want to have the stomach to view it.  If the book was just a little more graphic in description, I think I would have had to put this one away, but I was able to steel myself through grisly battle scenes, etc., mostly due to the author’s tact in hiding the worst from us.  Later I looked up the history of the Waldenses and read more detail about their history.  Huggins didn’t begin to tell us the worst of it. Being descended from Anabaptist ancestors who were also heavily persecuted for their religious beliefs in neighboring Switzerland around the same time period, I had an interest in the Waldenses’ history.  The only difference being that the Anabaptists (who were pacifists) did not fight back in defense.  Though I have respect for them, I myself am neither Anabaptist or pacifist, and so wanted to shout out a hearty hoo-rah for Captain Gianavel! This book came quite close to making it into my top favorites list as it was a great book with an epic draw that caused me to read quickly through it.  However, it did suffer from a bit too much melancholy foreshadowing, causing it to become predictable.  It also danced a little close to being repetitious.  One interesting female character, the Duchess Elizabeth, appeared in the beginning and then was dropped for no apparent reason about a third of the way through the story.  There were also a lot of characters and I started to lose track of some of them.  The book would have benefited from a character glossary in the back and a map of the particular areas mentioned. Despite these minor flaws, I found it an inspiring read and copied out a couple of pages of quotes for my quote book.  I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint-of-heart, but for those ready to settle in for an epic drama full of cloak and dagger elements, this is for you!

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Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Book Reviews


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