Plot Summary: Book #2 of the Mark of the Lion Trilogy continues with the story of the Valerians’ lives after the perceived death of their servant girl, Hadassah. Marcus leaves Ephesus to travel Palestine in search of relief from his grief, but finds he can’t outrun God. Julia visits the Asklepion and numerous doctors to find a cure for her mysterious disease, but also needs a cure for her soul. And Hadassah is rescued by a young doctor for a purpose… could it be to forgive those who wronged her?
My Book Review: The Mark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine Rivers has been around for quite a while. Rivers (see her website here) is generally thought of as being one of the best writers in the Christian fiction world. I may be a little late discovering her books, but I loved reading the first book (A Voice in the Wind) last year, and couldn’t wait to read the next installment, An Echo in the Darkness. All of the elements I loved about the first one were present in this book as well… drama, character development, suspense, great dialogue… This was the third book I’ve read by Francine Rivers, and with each one I’ve found it very hard not to flip ahead to the next chapter to see what was going to happen. I never have this trouble with any other book!
The Mark of the Lion books are thick; chapters varying in length but they are usually not tediously long. There are frequent breaks within chapters as well, which I always appreciate.
I will have to say that I probably enjoyed Book 1 more than An Echo… just because there is more action in the first. In it we had gladiator fights, battles, romance developing between Marcus and Hadassah, and Julia getting herself into various troubles. I was eager to read the second novel, and enjoyed it because it continued with the same characters, but there were not many points of action to keep it exciting. As with A Voice…, I found it troubled by repetition, which dragged the story out a bit too much. Repetitious conversations between the same characters over and over in the same repetitious settings. On one hand, I can see that the author was trying to convey the sense of frustration the characters had at finding themselves in situations where they didn’t know how God was orchestrating His plan. Life can be slow-moving at times!
One of the things I love most about Francine Rivers is her excellent character development. Marcus, Hadassah, and Julia aren’t just fictional people. They’re so realistic they feel like family. The characters grow and change, but it happens slowly and subtly and is very believable. You learn to care about these folks!
A word on some of the characters: I had a hard time connecting with the character of Hadassah. I feel terrible about this, since she was the main heroine. I mean I liked her, but she just seemed so perfect, even in the middle of her struggles that it was hard to identify with her. And although I had interest in Marcus, I still had a hard time (as I did in the first book) understanding why Hadassah was so in love with him. Even after his conversion, I had a hard time seeing it. I do appreciate that the author didn’t write Marcus to automatically become so irritatingly saintly (and boring) after he comes to Christ, as other Christian fiction can sometimes be. Instead, he struggles with anger and harbors unforgiveness. He has to learn to allow God to begin to mold him.
I have a confession: I much preferred Alexander to Marcus. I mean as a love interest for Hadassah. I don’t know what it is with me, but it seems I always “fall” for the wrong person in a book or movie! I guess that shows what poor judgment I have!
The focus of the third and final book (As Sure as the Dawn) is the character of Atretes, who was introduced to us in Book 1. I don’t really understand the unbalanced story arc here. He was left out of Book 2, and it is my understanding that Marcus and Hadassah do not appear in Book 3, their story being over with. It’s too bad that their intertwining stories couldn’t have been spread out between the Books 2 & 3 (if I’m confusing here, never mind…).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Someone seriously needs to make this series into an audio drama at least, if not a movie! And not just a low-budget attempt at a production, either. I’m talking EPIC here! The last chapter in particular is extremely beautiful, so if you’ve been putting off reading this trilogy… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!