About the Book
The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series.
A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she’d perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Now, as Daniel’s wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she’s safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear–until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar’s palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili’s tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army.
What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone? Ultimately, Yahweh’s sovereign hand guides Jerusalem’s captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.
About the Author
Mesu and her husband Roy have raised those two daughters and now enjoy a tribe of grandkids, who get to hear those same Bible stories. Mesu’s love for God’s Word has never waned. She now writes biblical novels, rich with spiritual insight learned through fascinating discoveries in deep historical research.
Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell)–the story of Job and the women who loved him–won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year in the Debut Author Category. Her subsequent novels have released with high praise, shedding light on some of the shadowy women of Scripture. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) tells the story of the beloved shepherdess in King Solomon’s “Song of Solomon”. Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) tells the story of Hosea and Gomer and is the final stand-alone novel in the Treasures of His Love Series. Her fourth novel, In the Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) tells the fascinating story of Queen Athaliah and the courageous Princess Jehosheba.
The Treasures of the Nile series (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015-16) included The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam and spanned Moses’ life from birth to the Exodus. Her 2017 release, Isaiah’s Daughter (Waterbrook/Multnomah), explores the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah and the tumultuous days of Judah under the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah but focuses on the woman Hephzibah–a fascinating character in Jewish legends.
Mesu writes in their log cabin tucked away in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Her best friend is an American Staffordshire Terrier named Zeke, who keeps her company on long writing days. Zeke also enjoys watching movies, long walks in the woods, and sitting by the fireplace on rainy days.
Biblical fiction is my most favorite genre, and Mesu is one of my most favorite authors. I have read a number of Mesu’s works, and have loved every single one. She is such a stellar writer, and her research is impeccably done. But what I love the most about Mesu’s books is that she is so willing to tackle the hard stories of the Bible. She does so honestly, respectfully, realistically, and in a manner that proves she really has a BIG heart for Jesus. Of Fire and Lions is a superb novel that deftly illustrates life during the Babylonian exile. I admit to being totally mesmerized and slightly terrified the entire time I was reading. And, best of all, this novel had me doing a bit of soul searching — exactly what a Biblical novel should do!
When I read the Bible, I’m always inspired by and in awe of God’s chosen people. The Bible is filled with men and women who are fantastic examples of grit, strength, zeal for God, and a steadfastness that seems unshakable. I’m encouraged by characters like Joseph, Moses, Esther, and Daniel. I attempt to glean from their stories ways I can be a better christian, but I do have to admit that many times I feel I could never measure up. I think about what I would do or say if I was in Joseph’s, Moses’s, Esther’s, or Daniel’s sandals, and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be as brave and courageous as they were. Daniel has always been, to me, one of the most intimidating figures in the Bible. He goes through terrifying ordeals, yet he never seems to waiver. He appears to be perfect in his trust and faith in Yahweh. Is this the truth though? Did he really never question or fear? Did he never get frustrated or angry at God?
One of the reasons I LOVE Of Fire and Lions is because Mesu made Daniel real. In this novel, he does have moments of confusion, insecurities, doubt, and fear. Yeah, he’s Daniel and his faith is unwavering, but in this story I see a man who feels things the way I might feel if I were taken captive into an unknown land by a brutal and cruel man. Daniel’s thoughts and questions resemble thoughts and questions I had when I went through scary times myself. And, the way Mesu envisions how Daniel feels when he’s taken to the lion’s den — the terror one feels when facing a brutally scary unknown — was like looking in the mirror. I don’t ever want someone to feel so frightened by fear they’re almost paralyzed, but it is nice to know I’m not the only one on this earth who struggles with fear. I really appreciated seeing Daniel as a man with normal feelings, thoughts, and insecurities instead of the seemingly perfect prophet one sees in the Bible.
I highlighted and made notes on half of this book. So many topics and ideas resonated with me, but there is one question that Daniel poses to his child that struck me hard. At one point, when discussing the return of a remnant to Jerusalem, Daniel asks his daughter, “Can you give up your comfortable routine to live in the tension of God’s uncharted plan?” What a FABULOUS question! I finished reading this novel over 24 hours ago, but I’m still fretting over this question. I would LOVE to say, “Yes!”, but I’m not sure I can and that scares me a little. Not being able to immediately say yes to this question means I have some idols in my life, and that shames me a bit. I can’t say, as I sit her typing this post, that I am fully resolved on this issue, but I very much appreciate that Mesu’s novel allowed for such self-reflection. This is definitely something I am going to have to work on and talk to Jesus about for some time.
Of Fire and Lions is an amazing novel. There is SO much more I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil a thing. Suffice to say, I really appreciate the new insight I gained into the life of one of the coolest humans in the Bible. And, being able to self-reflect as I did makes this novel a Biblical fiction gem. I highly, highly recommend this stellar novel.
I received a review copy of this novel in eBook and paperback form from the author via her publisher, WaterBrook. The eBook was supplied via NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.