"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Kingdom Horizon is Christian fiction, and the author is not afraid to be explicit in the book's messaging. What keeps the book from becoming “preachy” is the thoughtful way in which Ashley Nicole explores the challenge and calling of belief in the midst of the messiness that is human existence. The Christian story itself is a study in contradictions as its primary figure of Christ is exalted only after He passes through the most demeaning death Roman culture had to offer.
Taking place in the second century A.D. around Germany and Rome, the characters in Kingdom Horizon are much closer to the historical roots of the Christian story than modern Christians are. As such, one of the most fascinating aspects of this novel is watching the way the primary characters, members of a Germanic tribe, wrestle with this new religion and its implications for their own belief systems and way of life. Does accepting a Christian identity mean that one must give up one's cultural heritage? This question is most poignantly explored in the character of Charlana, a Germanic tribal princess who is desperate to maintain her tribe's history and culture despite her father's interest in moving the tribe “forward” through the educational attainment and, eventually, the religion of his mentor, the Christian Laurentius, a Roman and former centurion.
Charlana resents what she perceives as Laurentius's “intrusion” into her tribe's way of life, especially when her father converts to Christianity after a devastating personal failure and betrayal. Ironically, it is only the change of heart wrought by his conversion that allows him to offer Charlana the selfless “father-love” she has longed for her entire life, although the avenue through which it comes initially pushes her away.
This is not a book that offers easy answers – even the characters with the highest moral standards display moments of selfishness, rage, and doubt, while those who turn to darkness do so believing they have the purest intentions. The combination of rich characters and a vivid historical setting make for a story that is haunting in its exploration of this tumultuous time in Christian history and the way it may have impacted those who lived through it. It is also a story about the way belief can lend meaning to even the darkest moments in our lives, and how God shapes the things we didn't think we wanted into the very things we need.