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Nov 28, 2014

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

Fabulous biblical retelling

Keepers of the Covenant (Restoration Chronicles #2) by Lynn Austin
-easily read as a stand-alone!
Biblical fiction, paperback 480 pages
Bethany House, October 2014
Review copy provided by Bethany House in exchange for this review
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars

Read my review of the previous title in the series, Return To Me

The Old Testament Comes to Thrilling Life in the Latest from Lynn Austin

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king's palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra's brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude's widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple--but the fight to keep God's Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges...this one for the survival of God's covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.
Ahasuerus has risen from his throne and is in the act of stepping forward towards his wife, who falls swooning against her handmaidens. They support her as best they can, as Haman, in the seat of honor beside the King, leans forward, wondering what has prompted this reckless action of Esther's.- Women In The Bible

Long before the birth of Jesus, the Jews were persecuted and punished. The Old Testament shows us in the book of Esther how Queen Esther saved the Persian Jews from complete annihilation which resulted in the celebration called Purim. While the biblical story in Keepers of the Covenant begins with this well-known story of Haman and Mordecai of Esther 3-8, the author gives us a wonderfully fictionalized retelling of the prophet Ezra's family during this period of war and hardship. In the bible, the Book of Ezra tells us how God shows his forgiveness and restores the faith of his wayward people.

As with the first book in the series which gives us Zechariah's story, book two in the Restoration Chronicles focuses on characters who pull us into their re-imagined lives with absorbing and exciting storytelling. Ezra and his brothers were hard-working members of the Levite tribe exiled to Babylon when the king of Persia sends out a decree allowing all Jewish people to be slaughtered on a specific day. Ezra forces himself to become a leader of his Jewish peers and fight back. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to characters such as Amina and Sayfah, young daughters of the pagan Babylonian Gentiles who are eager to destroy the Jews; and Reuben, the young boy whose faith is tested when he loses almost everything during the violent thirteenth day of Adar.

Some favorite lines from characters in Keepers of the Covenant:

"As the psalmist wrote, our hope is in the Almighty One's unfailing love."

"If people follow God's laws at all, it's out of habit or legalism, not love. Some of us are no better than the Gentiles, ignoring God and His laws and then creating our own image of what God is like and what He wants from us."

"If we deny god, our lives aren't worth living."

Keepers of the Covenant is a captivating story of hardship, love and faith which depicts a historically important period for those of the Jewish community. I loved the first book, and I knew I would love this next installment. I was not disappointed at all, but I was reminded to continue to pick up the rest of Lynn Austin's work. I know I can't go wrong with any of her skillfully retold biblical novels. I highly recommend Lynn Austin and the Restoration Chronicles to any reader of biblical fiction. I especially love the larger size of these novels as well - nearing 500 pages, Keepers of the Covenant is a wonderfully engrossing and satisfying epic bible story.