In the Shadow of Lions
A book review for parents
This historical book is the first in the "Chronicles of the Scribe" series by Ginger Garrett and is published by David C. Cook.
In the Shadow of Lions is written for kids ages 16 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
An angelic scribe tells an unnamed woman that a guardian angel has watched over her and the women in her family for many generations. He tells her about two women who lived during the Protestant Reformation in England, in order to help the unnamed woman in her spiritual journey. The first, Anne Boleyn, struggles to obey God's laws, while also submitting to the demands of King Henry the VIII, who wants her to be his mistress. The second, Rose, a woman with a shameful past, is a governess to the children of Thomas More, a man who is working to stop the distribution of William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament. Although Anne is initially frightened of the book, she uses it to challenge the actions of church leaders once she becomes queen. King Henry blames Anne for failing to produce a male heir, so he has her beheaded as a traitor. Meanwhile, in another part of the country, Rose has a dramatic encounter with Christ after hearing God's Word read from Tyndale's book, and she plays a pivotal role in bringing the text to America. Hearing the scribe's story (and learning that Rose is her ancestor), the same unnamed woman has a change of heart, and she seeks forgiveness from Christ before her death.
Although an angel dictates this story, the angel's actions and position do not seem to align with either the doctrine of the Catholic Church or the Church of England. The majority of the characters in this story value religious rituals and esteem the Catholic Church, but only a few embrace a true knowledge of God. Henry seeks the Lord's mercy as he suffers the loss of a stillborn son, but he openly disregards his marriage vows and seeks supreme authority over the Church to justify his desires. In order to dissolve his marriage to Catherine, he declares he has violated a passage in Leviticus, which states a man should not marry his brother's wife. Although More is generally the picture of godly devotion at home with his family, he believes that Scripture in the hands of common people can only lead to evil and takes violent measures against those who oppose him.
Anne's family does little to protect her from Henry's advances. Instead she is left with the responsibility of raising their fortunes through her role as his mistress and then queen. Henry desires ultimate authority in his realm, but his word is unreliable, and his subjects do not respect his actions. More is a loving father who has created a safe haven for his children, but his compassion and concern do not extend beyond the walls of his home. Other church leaders prioritize wealth and power over the needs of the people and violate God's law in a variety of ways, including having mistresses of their own.
Other Belief Systems
A nun who claims to see the future and speak for God is invited into the Boleyn and More homes. The people of the court are often superstitious and believe certain actions can keep witches away, ward off evil or lessen the pain of childbirth.
Anne bemoans the fact that she will be remembered in history as a whore. Men and women caught with Tyndale's book are burned at the stake. More has the body of a dead priest, who was deemed a heretic, exhumed, violently beheaded and then burned.
Rose makes her living as a prostitute before entering the More home. Prior to meeting Henry, Anne imagines undressing before her betrothed on their wedding night. Henry and Anne share a handful of passionate kisses, and she places his hand between her breasts. Declaring she is tired of waiting for God to act on her behalf, Anne later visits Henry's bed and becomes pregnant before they are married and while Catherine is still alive. Catherine's status as a virgin before her marriage to Henry is brought into question, and a joke is made regarding her possible past sexual relations. Henry later takes on another mistress and speaks of caressing her in his bed. More, although married, is tempted to kiss Rose. Later, while drunk, he is about to force himself on her, but he is interrupted. In an attempt to save Anne's life when she is accused of treason, her brother George admits to being a homosexual and is beheaded.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Although Henry seems to genuinely care for Anne when he begins pursuing her, he has no respect for his marriage vows to Catherine.
As the ruler of England, how does his behavior affect his people?
Why can't anyone tell him that he is doing the wrong thing?
How does he misuse his authority?
Do you know anyone who is misusing his or her authority in your life?
How does this misuse affect you?
- Name one character that placed his/her own desires above the will of God.
How does his/her actions affect him/her and others?
Do you know anyone who has placed his/her own desires above the will of God?
How does his/her actions affect you?
- In this story, are all the men and women who make mistakes evil? Explain.
What is the name of one person who does both good and evil?
Why is this person like this?
Are most people in your life all good or all evil?
How does a person's choices affect how people see him/her?
Which characters in this book do you believe were judged correctly for their actions?
- Anne initially is firm in her commitment to remain a virgin until her wedding night.
Why does she become Henry's mistress?
How do the customs of those around her in the court affect her decision?
What is one area where you have taken a godly stand?
How do those around you misunderstand that stand?
How can you stay firm in your convictions while surrounded by those who believe differently?
- Was the Bible available to everyone in Anne's day?
How available is the Bible in the area where you live?
Are there some areas of the world where the Bible is not allowed?
Why do you think many take the Bible for granted?
Note: Characters consume alcohol throughout the book.
The author's book Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther was honored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as one of the top five novels of 2006.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.