A jaded, bitter editor is given the task of taking the story of two women by dictation; one a virtuous lady in waiting, the other soiled and desperate. This is no ordinary story and neither is the one recounting it. The Scribe retells the events surrounding the Reformation in England drawing out the stories of Anne Boleyn and Rose (a street woman) through the eyes of one who can see and record all for God’s purpose and pleasure.
Breaking the mold on the many “Anne Boleyns” in historical fiction, Ginger Garrett in In the Shadow of Lions (Chronicles of the Scribe, Book 1) casts Anne as a woman striving to stay true to God’s commandments. Rather than depicting a manipulative throne snatcher, this Anne is swept away by the power and insistence of King Henry VIII while she strives to protect her virtue. Garrett’s reinventing of Anne is based not upon pure conjecture, but has roots in study, research, and a heart for God’s revelation of Himself throughout history. The author's extensive afterwords, including notes on the story, a personal note, miscellaneous notes, bibliography, and discussion questions reveal the basis for her conclusions and make for fascinating closing material.
Garret has created a surprisingly gray world in which characters are presented as striving to serve God in irrevocably opposite ways. Thomas More tortures those who read the earliest form of the English Bible in order to protect the Roman Catholic church while his house servant Rose, Anne Boleyn, and his own daughter seek to know God better through the words of this forbidden book. Unlike many authors she leaves the matters of who is right and who is wrong wide open, presenting each flawed individual as striving to serve God in his or her own way. Her goal is not to provide simple conclusions, but rather to lead readers into contemplation and appreciation of the occurrences that eventually led to the legal printing and distribution of the English Bible.
The emotional tenor is somber as well. The events surrounding the Reformation are dark and violent as many Christians pay with their lives to bring the word of God to light. There is such compromise and weakness in the lives of each character that while realistic, proves heavy reading at times. Towards the end of Anne Boleyn’s life Garrett speeds up the timeline – a small blessing considering the heart-rending depictions of Henry’s betrayal as his fickle heart turns away from her.
Garrett has a gift for portraying complex and flawed men. Her depictions of Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII are remarkable. More is both kind, gentle and charitable while enacting sadistic acts of torture on those who oppose him. Henry is a lion of a man, hearty and full of life, with a lust for the flesh and full of self. It is these believable, blended characters who create the haunting uncertainties and lack of clear delineation found in this title.
Adding to the unique character of her books is the inclusion of angels. These fearsome, strange guardians more closely represent the glimpses given in scripture than do the porcelain figurines with long flowing hair. These spiritual creatures serve to connect past and present as our modern day editor types the divinely revealed history and serve as protectors for those they watch over.
Any reader with an interest in British history, the Reformation and the birth of the Bible will appreciate this immersion into those tumultuous times (specifically London, 1526–1536). In the Shadow of Lions is the first in a new series Chronicles of the Scribe. Ginger Garrett will continue to delve into historical fiction; re-imagining the lives of prominent women with an eye for God’s purposes and plan woven through history. I look forward to reading more of Garrett’s fresh perspective on pivotal events throughout Christian history.