A Voice in the Wind
A book review for parents
This first historical fiction book in the "Mark of the Lion" series by Francine Rivers is published by Tyndale House Publishers.
A Voice in the Wind is written for adults but is sometimes studied by kids ages 16 and up.
Hadassah, a young Jewish girl, lives in Jerusalem during its fall to the Roman Empire. After the death of her entire family, Hadassah finds herself as a servant in Rome, living with the wealthy and prominent Valerian family. As a believer in Christ, Hadassah longs to share her faith with the Valerians, but she is afraid of being rejected for her beliefs. Hadassah quickly becomes the personal servant of Julia Valerian, a demanding young girl who seeks temporary pleasures and rebels against the restrictions placed on her by her parents. Instead, Julia engages in a series of troubled relationships, including a love affair with the famous gladiator, Atretes. As Hadassah continues to love and serve Julia, she attracts the attention of the handsome Marcus Valerian. Though she loves Marcus, Hadassah makes the difficult decision to openly follow and profess Christ, even at the risk of being killed in the Roman arena.
Hadassah is a devoted Christian whose faith is evident in every area of her life. She is constantly in prayer, and she longs deeply for others to trust Christ. Hadassah often struggles to share her faith in an environment that is hostile to Christians, but she prays for boldness and faithfully lives out her Christian beliefs. When Julia faces a beating from her second husband Claudius, Hadassah throws herself over Julia and takes the punishment for her, a beautiful metaphor of Christ's love. Hadassah's father is another example of strong Christian faith. Having been healed by Jesus as a young boy, he is eventually martyred for sharing the gospel in public.
One of the major themes is, "Whom do you serve?" Hadassah's whole-hearted allegiance is to God, and she makes decisions to serve Him even when it is difficult or unpopular. When Hadassah becomes a servant in the Valerian household, she chooses to serve the family from her heart, rather than out of obligation, realizing that her earthly service is also spiritual. Her example stands in contrast to many other characters' responses to authority: Julia and Marcus both openly rebel against their father's wishes, Julia repeatedly defies her husband's authority and Atretes often opposes his instructors during his time as a gladiator. Marcus asserts that Romans serve their emperor first, and he often serves Rome and himself even before serving his own family.
Other Belief Systems
Hedonism runs rampant in the Roman Empire, and both Marcus and Julia seem eager to lose their innocence in exchange for instant gratification and pleasure. Like most other Romans, the Valerians worship Roman gods and goddesses by praying to stone idols or visiting elaborate temples. Many of the characters view death as the end of life and thus worship intellect and sensuality. Atretes worships the Germanic war god Tiwaz, and he hopes to gain Tiwaz's favor and honor by dying in battle. Julia's friend Calabah believes people can improve themselves through the power of the mind. There are also a few references to black magic.
The brutality of the Roman Empire is accurately portrayed. The story contains explicit depictions of death, including death by crucifixion, beheading, beating and burning alive. Vivid war scenes describe soldiers amputating limbs and slicing groins with their weapons. During Atretes' gladiator training, he is whipped severely and branded as a Roman slave. In the arena, gladiators fight to the death and slit the throats of their victims before a cheering crowd. There are several references to rape, as captive women are stripped and abused by Roman guards. A less overt murder occurs when Julia poisons and kills one of her husbands.
Many of the book's characters seek fulfillment through sensuality and promiscuity. Numerous accounts of pre-marital and extramarital infidelity appear. The beautiful woman, Arria, actively attempts to arouse Marcus' sexual passions, and several intense kissing scenes are included throughout the book, including an implication of sexual abuse between Caius and Julia. Julia even pretends to be a prostitute at the temple of Artemis in order to win the affections of Atretes. Homosexuality is widely accepted in Roman culture, and two men are seen kissing in public. Julia's friend Calabah encourages Julia to marry a homosexual man with a boy lover. The Roman arena is full of sexual innuendos as well, where gladiators not only entice crowds with violence, but also by provocatively revealing their bodies. In addition, Julia aborts her first baby, and Hadassah must bury the unborn child's remains.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- While Hadassah's faith remains strong throughout the novel, she is often afraid to openly share her faith for fear of persecution. The apostle John encourages Hadassah to continue trusting God for the strength to carry out His good purpose.
How do you feel trapped by fear when sharing your faith?
- How have you hesitated to tell others about Christ because you were afraid of what they would think or do?
- How could you apply John's advice to Hadassah in your life?
- The theme of service runs throughout the novel. Marcus serves Rome; Julia serves her passions; Decimus serves his business; and Phoebe serves Roman gods. Hadassah, however, serves the one true God, and her life is marked by far more peace and joy than the other members of the Valerian family.
How does Hadassah demonstrate her total devotion and service to God?
- In what ways do the other characters prove that serving anything or anyone other than God leaves people empty and broken?
Whom do you serve?
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.