Eight years ago, when the Philistines stole and then surrendered the ark of the covenant back to the Israelites, Eliora left her Philistine homeland to follow the ark to the community of Kiryat Yearim. There, the family she was adopted into has guarded the ark at the top of a mountain in seclusion.
Ronen is a Levite musician determined to secret away the ark to a more fitting resting place, watched over by priests who would restore the Holy of Holies. He never expected that the Philistine girl he rescued years ago would now be part of the very family he's tasked to deceive.
As Ronen's attempts to charm Eliora lead them in unexpected directions, betrayal leaves Eliora with strained family ties and Ronen questioning his own loyalties. Ultimately, Eliora and Ronen are caught up in the battle for the soul of Israel and its future under the leadership of Samuel, the last judge before the era of the kings begins.
Cossette (Until the Mountains Fall) introduces siblings caught up within early biblical conquests in the excellent launch of her Covenant House series. Arisa and Lukio, Philistine siblings whose mother died giving birth to Lukio, are left by their grieving father with an indifferent aunt and uncle, who put Azuvah, a Hebrew slave, in charge of their upbringing. Seven years after the Philistines defeat Israel in battle and take the Ark of the Covenant, a plague befalls the region, and Arisa and Lukio find themselves reliant on a dangerous, narcissistic cousin, who is the only remaining member of their family. Enabled by Azuvah, the pair escape the cousin's home and, as directed by Azuvah, follow the Ark as the Philistines return it to Hebrew control, who they believe God meant the Ark for. An eight-year time jump reveals the siblings have been adopted by a Levite and have changed their names to Eliora and Natan: Eliora embraces the Hebrew culture, while Natan struggles with his outsider status. After Ronen, who as a child before the Ark was originally taken knew Eliora and Natan, resurfaces, he and Eliora have an immediate romantic connection, but struggle with issues of trust, acceptance, and faith as factions spar over the fate of the sacred Ark. Despite a predictable outcome, Cossette's propulsive biblical drama has moments of high suspense and intrigue. Fans of Tess Ashfar should take a look.
This is a wonderful biblical fiction book.
I was fascinated by the look at what life may have been like in the Philistian city of Ashdod. I understand from the author’s note at the end of the story that there isn’t much known about them. I had never considered that Hebrew individuals could have been taken there as slaves.
The development of the story was great. The way that Arisa/Eliora and Lukio/Natan’s lives changed after they followed the ark to Israel was very dramatic.
The characters are incredibly well developed. I was especially drawn to Eliora, Yoela, and Ronen. Both Eliora and Ronen had very intense emotional journeys that they had to travel during the story. I was caught up in them and enjoyed seeing who gave each of them counsel along the way.
I did find the spelling of a number of the actual biblical figures’ names confusing. The author chose not to use the ones that are in English translations of the Bible. I’m not sure where she got the spellings she used. This isn’t covered in her note.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All of the opinions expressed are my own.
Disclaimer: *Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book for free in the hope that I would mention or review it on my blog. I was not required to give a positive review, only my honest opinion - which I have done. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.*
This book had me held so deeply in its grasp that now, having finished it, I’m having trouble forming a coherent string of thoughts to be able to even compose a worthy review. It touched me so deeply that I found myself blinking away tears a time or two, only to feel a bubble of laughter rise amidst the tears, wrought by one or another of the characters’ timely remarks!
Eliora (a.k.a. Arisa) was such a relatable character and I just loved getting to know her and being able to share in her thoughts, worries and discovery of the Almighty! She will definitely live on as a very memorable heroine long after you’ve finished this novel. Ronen, too, was a deep, insightful and unforgettable character that I’m loath to part with. And Natan (a.k.a. Lukio)! That boy! Frustrating and yet understandable, I can’t wait to find out what lies in store for him in book two of this duology, Between the Wild Branches!
Having read through Connilyn Cossette’s Cities of Refuge series and now this book, To Dwell Among Cedars, I’ve definitely determined that this author is one to look out for from both a Biblical and historical fiction aspect, as well as if you’re a lover of romance, adventure and rivetingly insightful lessons on the nature, character and love and acceptance of God for all who let Him in!
The God who Sees
Although the entire city of Ashdod seemed to have been shaken, the Hebrews’ Ark had not moved. Perhaps the God of the Hebrews had not been bested after all.
When you start, you won’t want to stop reading this incredible story of two orphaned Philistine children who did just as their nanny had told them - Follow the Ark. Starting in Ashdod where the gods of the Philistines were no match for the Ark, the importance of this symbol is seen throughout the book. The Ark has stood the test of time - from the wandering in the wilderness to its current resting spot among the cedars. The author has such a wonderful way with words that I could almost see the hills and smell the cedars. The description of the views were enough to to make you wish you were there.
Life had been tough for Arisa and Lukia, but perhaps this had prepared them for their adoption into a Hebrew home and family. Rescued by a young Levite apprentice, their terror turns into a haven of blessing. Realizing that they have been grafted into a new family creates many problems for one, but not the other. Learning to believe that God will be with them wherever they go is a lesson not easily grasped, but vital to their future.
This ARC was received through Baker Publishing Group and Bethany House Publishers. The impression and comments are my own and were in no way solicited.