Normally when I finish reading a book I know exactly what I think about it. The opinion I formalize by writing a review rarely changes over the course of time. However, there are some few, rare titles that continue to dwell in my mind, and in my heart; changing both my perceptions of them, and of myself. One of these rare finds is Ginger Garrett’s In the Shadow of Lions the first book in the Chronicles of the Scribe series.
To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make or the first novel – Garrett’s writing was much more ambiguous than is typical in Christian fiction, with permeable boundaries, and few lines drawn clearly in the sand. The worlds she creates are filled with characters that reek of the flesh – struggling with sin, their own misunderstandings, and life in general. Rarely are they likeable, but they are certainly authentic.
Despite my initial uncertainty, In the Shadow of Lions stuck to me like a burr. I found myself discussing it time and again with people, either the historical events, or the characters themselves. I couldn’t rid myself of the novel; it kept digging deeper into me – lingering, and making a home for itself in my heart.
Naturally, I was overjoyed when the second installment in the series In the Arms of Immortals was released this fall. Easily read as a stand-alone novel, Garret shifts the focus of her new work to Marisska – the bitter, self-absorbed hospice nurse we met briefly in the first novel. The thread of the series is passed on to Marisska as she too encounters the Scribe and angelic beings. Sent back in time to the year 1347 in Sicily, Marisska is unable to communicate with those around her and is perceived as a mad woman as she tries to warn the local citizens of the plague about to befall them – the Black Death.
The theme of spiritual warfare is incredibly well developed in this novel; Garrett’s hugely powerful angels are the best fictional depiction I’ve ever read. Her characters throb with life – excepting the honorable knight Armando, who was somewhat flat. The one character I wanted so dearly to like, if only there was more of him there to read. His relative underdevelopment and an epilogue that jumps to a previously unforeseen conclusion are my only complaints.
Readers who appreciate thoughtful historical fiction should avail themselves of Garrett’s work immediately. Her words paint a beautifully, multi-textured story, full of rich emotions, vivid detail, and unforgettable characters. Though I rarely read a novel twice, I’m keeping my copies of the Chronicles of the Scribe series on the shelf – to lend out, and more importantly – to savour once again myself. With only one novel left in the series – In the Eyes of Eternity – I'm hoping that Garrett will continue to write absorbing historical fiction for many years to come.