Review: Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

keepers of the covenant In Their Darkest Hour, Where Would Hope Be Found?

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the exiles in Babylon are thrown into despair when a decree from the king’s palace calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire in less than one year.

Ezra, a quiet but brilliant scholar, soon finds himself called upon to become the leader of his people. Forced to rally an army when all his training has been in the Torah, he struggles to bring hope in a time of utter despair, when dreams of the future–of family and love–seem impossible.

In Keepers of the Covenant, acclaimed novelist Lynn Austin weaves together the struggles and stories of both Jews and Gentiles, creating a tapestry of faith and doubt, love and loss. Here, the Old Testament comes to life, demonstrating the everlasting hope displayed in God’s unwavering love for His people.

Christian fiction author Lynn Austin brings a second strong novel to readers of her Restoration Chronicles with Keepers of the Covenant. Fans of the author’s historical fiction will not want to miss this novel because relatable characters, a detailed and compelling plot, and lyrical prose bring the Old Testament to life.

In Biblical times, quiet scholar Ezra just wants to study the Torah in the hopes of reaching fellow Israelites with God’s word. God’s chosen people, however, are threatened by outside forces determined to annihilate them and desperately need a leader. When the king of Persia calls for the decimation of the Jewish people because of a long-standing feud between God’s chosen people and the Gentiles, Ezra’s life is subsequently upended as he is chosen to lead the Israelites against their foes. For an introvert who prefers books to people, Ezra struggles to understand why God would put him into a leadership role; ever the follower of His laws, though, Ezra zealously takes his position with pride and determination throughout the entire novel.

Keepers of the Covenant is Ezra’s story of leading the Jewish people through battles and trials as they fight for peace and prosperity in their homelands. Austin uses four primary characters to illustrate the struggles and joys of the Jewish and Gentile peoples of Biblical times. In the author’s characteristic fashion, the historical setting and timeline do not deter readers from connecting with her characters. Keepers of the Covenant readers will feel the pain, empathize with the plights, rejoice in the joys, and wonder about the confusion around them when Ezra, Devorah, Amina, and Ruben participate in and come through the battles of the Old Testament.

One of Austin’s best strengths—and she has many—is her ability to ability to bring the Bible to life through relatable characters, accessible prose, and compelling storylines. Stories, lessons, parables, and more that have intimidated generations upon generations of people are somehow adapted through characters and situations that seem just like who and what readers would encounter today—and suddenly those Biblical stories are not so scary compared to what those same readers will hear from the altar. Keepers of the Covenant is a long novel, so Austin has a lot of material to work with, which drives the plot in exciting ways; however, as in any prose, longer length also gives the writer more room for error. Austin does not do anything wrong in Keepers of the Covenant—I really don’t think she could ever do any wrong—but her characters do not grow as much as the 450+ pages could allow them to, which does begin to drag the story a bit towards the end of the novel. Most readers will probably not pick up on this observation because the plot and characters equally drive the story, but a bit more fleshing out of certain characters would have helped develop a reader-character relationship with Ezra and Devorah.

Keepers of the Covenant plays with numerous emotionally driven questions through Austin’s protagonists. She brings arguments about God’s decisions for His people when certain characters do not make it alive from battle. She discusses Old Testaments laws that are definitely out of place today but even during Biblical times were questioned. Austin also relates the intricacies of raising children in Jewish and Gentile households, which is especially interesting to consider in this novel because of the protagonists’ status within the communities. Along with these and other subjects that arise throughout Keepers of the Covenant, Austin retells the story of the Book of Esther, teaching her readers about Old Testament stories and culture without overwhelming them with Biblical facts or difficult language.

Lynn Austin is an author whose back-cover blubs of her books I do not need to read before automatically selecting “pre-order” on Amazon or bringing the novel to the check-out counter at any store. I have read almost all of her novels and have loved each and every one. Keepers of the Covenant is one of my favorite novels of 2014, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. More than anything, I want to thank Austin for helping strengthen my faith through her Restoration Chronicles novels. I would not nearly as much about the Old Testament as I do now because of her stories. I hope that is high praise an author seeks when they write historical Biblical fiction.

I received this book courtesy of Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review; no monetary compensation was provided. This review was originally written for LuxuryReading, The Christian Manifesto, and Bethany House Publishers.

RATING: 4.5 stars


lynn austinLynn Austin has sold more than one and a half million copies of her books worldwide. A former teacher who now writes and speaks full time, she has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction. One of those novels, Hidden Places, has also been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and make their home near Chicago, Illinois.

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