Several years ago, I was given a series of books that, to this day, is my “gold standard,” the measure to which I compare all other works of fiction. The series that I am highly recommending is the Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers. A Voice in the Wind is the first book in the series.

The saga begins on the streets of Jerusalem during the Roman siege of Titus in approximately 60 A.D.  Rivers depicts the depravity and horror of this historical event with raw intensity as she describes the hostile takeover of the city; the brutal murder of men, women, and children alike; and the devastating effects of war.

It is during these intense opening scenes that we are introduced to Hadassah, a Jewish Christian girl who is the main character and heroine of the story. In the midst of chaos, loss, and fear, there is an echo of hope beating in the heart of this young girl, as she remembers the lessons she’s been taught about the living God and the last words her father spoke to her, “Remember the Lord.”  It’s this flicker of faith that compels her forward in the ensuing sequence of events.

The setting of this book is intriguing.  We get a glimpse of the days of the early church when believers gathered in each other’s homes, often in secret, fueling the flame of commitment they had to their resurrected Messiah and their relentless pursuit to identify with Him even in the midst of persecution.  We are transported to Jerusalem, Ephesus, and Rome along with Hadassah who is taken captive and sold as a slave to a rich and powerful aristocrat. It is in this place of humble servitude that her Christ-like attributes arrest the attention and curiosity of the household.

As I read this story, I longed to have the godly character of Hadassah (I admired her so much I actually wanted to be her, or at least name my firstborn daughter after her!). She was a person you could identify with; someone who struggled at times with her fledgling faith, yet whose noble qualities of humility, compassion, and faith (coupled with her knowledge and trust in the Lord) enabled her to triumph over the difficulties and obstacles of her circumstances.

Her story also illustrates the impact and influence one godly person can make when they live for the Lord. She affects the lives of everyone around her! This example of love and obedience to Christ inspired me and made me desire to hone my own testimony, examining how my life in Christ can be effective.

There are many fascinating characters fleshed out in this book, and it’s for that reason that a variety of readers will enjoy it. For the romantic, there is a love story that swells between Hadassah and Marcus, a young, ambitious, and wealthy publican. Men will also resonate with Atretes, an honorable warrior who becomes a gladiator in the Roman arena. His story is explored further in the subsequent books An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure as the Dawn.

I believe the strength and impact of this book is in the way the author delicately weaves the truth of Scripture through the various storylines. It’s done in such a subtle and unpretentious way. As a believer, I found it to be delightfully refreshing, as if it was nourishing my soul with every turn of the page. I also felt it could be an effective ministering tool to an avid reader who is a nonbeliever.

When I inquired into other works by Francine Rivers, I came across an interview where she revealed that this series was her first attempt at writing a Christian novel. Her impetus in writing A Voice in the Wind was to share her newfound faith with her family and friends who didn’t necessarily want to hear about her belief in Jesus Christ.

I found this to be so interesting. I believe the reader will encounter the clarity of the gospel in a non-confronting way as they read through the trilogy and explore the recurring themes of redemption, forgiveness, and grace.

This collection is an engaging combination of history, drama, action, and romance, in which faith, hope, and love triumph! The Mark of the Lion series hits the mark of excellence!