I can’t remember the last Young Adult work of Christian fiction I’ve read, but Sword and Serpent by Taylor Marshal has to count as one of the greatest. It ranked as the #1 novel in the highly specific category of “Young Adult Christian Historical Fiction. Of the 349 reviews currently on Amazon, no one has rated it with one or two stars, and I must say that it deserves this praise. Set in the days of Diocletian’s persecutions, it follows the young St. George, called Jurian in the text, and his sister as they flee persecution in their hometown. The two of them are assisted by Saints Christopher, St. Blaise, and St. Nicolaus on the way. (The first two are members of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, among whose number also falls St. George.) St. Christopher is present most of the difficult journey to Rome. Taylor Marshall does an excellent job of making all these saints human and relatable while endowed with miraculous powers.
Meanwhile, a pagan priestess named Sabra on Cyrene begins to question the legitimacy of offering human sacrifices to her demonic god. At the same time, she cannot wrest herself from what she thinks is her duty to her people. When she herself is chosen by lot, the king, her father, conceals this from the people and compels her to flee to Rome. But, she feels obligated to return to face her doom. Jurian and Sabra meet in Rome and agree to sail together to Cyrene. But, will Jurian’s prophecy or Sabra’s fate be fulfilled on the island?
I suppose all my readers know the answer to that question: we all know St. George slays the dragon! But, one has to admire how well Taylor Marshall weaves together early Christianity, the Roman Empire, St. George’s legend, and the legend of King Arthur together. The action is occasionally slow, but Marshall does a great job of delineating Jurian’s interior struggle without rendering him pathetic. Besides occasional lulls in the action (not a major fault by far), the only fault I can pick on is that the fights lack a certain technical expertise. Though, Marshall raises the stakes enough that the suspense makes up for the lack of fighting technique. I’d recommend this book to anyone, but Christian readers will enjoy it enormously.
Now, I highly look forward to reading the sequel: The Tenth Region of the Night: Sword and Serpent Book II.