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?
As you know, Thompdjames and I are very enthusiastic about good contemporary Christian novelists, especially with the effusion of secular or even anti-religious works on the market. So, I find myself very eager to read Star Readers from out of the East by D. A. Nygaard and Sword and Serpent by Taylor Marshall. My father appraised me of the latter title. As an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, Taylor might be the only Catholic priest in the United States with seven children. (Certain married former Protestant ministers are allowed to join the Catholic clergy after conversion.) Marshall also happens to be involved in apologetics, and one can find his blog here.
At any rate, Sword and Serpent is set during Diocletian’s persecutions and offers a retelling of the myth of St. George. It focuses on two characters, a young man and a young woman, who set out “to battle an evil beyond imagining” (from the linked webpage above). Reviewers agree that it tells a gripping story. Of the 214 reviews on Amazon, only five give it three stars or less! I shall soon get my hands on what is the best selling Christian action and adventure teen novel on Amazon.com and give you my opinion of the work.
Concerning Nygaard’s Star Readers, the great pleasure of being a preferred or advance reader of the penultimate draft fell to me. Since the errors in that draft have by now been expunged or diminished, I shall tell you what I found best in that work. Nygaard wished to tell the story of the Three Wise Men, which led him to employ the very unique setting of the Parthian Empire and Palestine of the first year of Our Lord. The novel’s world building reveals a deft hand. One felt immersed in the setting, and the political struggles within and without the Parthian Empire were delineated brilliantly. The most fleshed out of the characters captivated me, and the middle of the work was a real page turner.
The second time I have been so acknowledged. I wish Nygaard’s book much success!
I hope that the published work allows me to make an even more glowing recommendation for the novel. Nygaard happens to also be a minister. Would that all Christian priests and ministers had the same talent for fiction as the above two! It might create a Christian revolution in the novel market!