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Jul 27, 2020

Into The Unbounded Night by Mitchell James Kaplan

Into the Unbounded Night

September 1 2020 from Regal House Publishing
Biblical Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for this review, thank you!

When her village in Albion is sacked by the Roman general Vespasian, young Aislin is left without home and family. Determined to exact revenge, she travels to Rome, a sprawling city of wealth, decadence, and power. A “barbarian” in a “civilized” world, Aislin struggles to comprehend Roman ways. From a precarious hand-to-mouth existence on the streets, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy senator, but their child Faolan is born with a disability that renders him unworthy of life in the eyes of his father and other Romans. Imprisoned for her efforts to topple the Roman regime, Aislin learns of an alternate philosophy from her cellmate, the Judean known today as the apostle St. Paul. As the capital burns in the Great Fire of 64 AD, he bequeaths to her a mission that will take her to Jerusalem. There, Yohanan, son of Zakkai, has been striving to preserve the tradition of Hillel against the Zealots who advocate for a war of independence. Responding to the Judeans’ revolt, the Romans—again under the leadership of Vespasian—besiege Jerusalem, destroying the Second Temple and with it, the brand of Judean monotheism it represents. Yohanan takes on the mission of preserving what can be preserved, and of re-inventing what must be reinvented.

 When a nation dies, destroyed by another, what survives? When great leaders wander like shadows under the Earth, when monuments stare at us silently or disintegrate, what is left?

In today's society of ever prevalent conflicting viewpoints we tend to have a general airing of grievances and then move on. In the age of Early Christianity having conflicting viewpoints would easily get you killed. The author Mitchell James Kaplan brings us several opposing viewpoints in his compelling novel Into The Unbounded Night with an intriguingly unbiased view from each character.

The mystical Aislin and her simple village ways collides with aggressive Roman General Vespasian with his belief in his own gods while trying to put down all of Britannia and Judean revolts. Yohanan, lover of Solomon's Song of Songs, attempts to preserve his family's legacy of protecting treasured historical scrolls and encounters Saul in the temple trying to discredit Yohanan's childhood friend Stefanos. Septimus is a young soldier who survives Vespasian's cruelty once, but can he outlast him during Nero's murderous reign?

The most intriguing thing about this novel is not just that it draws from multiple philosophies skillfully blended together, but that the author was able to pull from actual people who lived two thousand years ago. The novel brings us St. Paul who killed St. Stephen (Stefanos) and also Vespasian, who ultimately became a Roman Emperor; all set against a backdrop of Jerusalem struggling under Roman aggression, not to mention the rumors of a messiah whose prophecy was to save them all.

Into The Unbounded Night by Mitchell James Kaplan is a fascinating tale with the author's knowledge clearly evident as he pragmatically holds nothing back as far as rape, murder and the truth of the barbaric way of life that surrounded the people of the time of Roman oppression. The intricate look at the Christianity tenet of 'the Way' is woven in with the Judean philosophy and helps to bring the many threads together to an ultimate message of hope. This was not an easy read as it does have some triggers with the violence, but I would recommend this to anyone interested in a brilliant telling of how it was to be living in those uncertain times of the earliest days of Christ's followers.

We forget. That is a blessing. If we were unable to forget, the cruelties of our mortal existence would overwhelm us.

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