So Shines the Night
by Tracy Higley
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: March 12, 2013
Source: Review copy from the publisher provided through BookSneeze.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Daria has come to beautiful Ephesus to serve as a tutor to Lucas, a wealthy merchant. But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.
The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings. When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him.
So Shines the Night is a Christian historical romance set in 57 AD in Rhodes and Ephesus. As usual, Higley expertly wove historical and setting details into the story so that I felt immersed in the story, like I'd been transported to Ephesus in 57 AD.
The romance was a sort of Gothic romance with two hurting people who were trying to fix tragic mistakes they made in their past marriages. But they find that they can't overcome the evil powers that are against them (demons). Yet Paul can cast out demons, so Daria becomes interested in his God. The story was full of action and high suspense as Daria and Lucas went from one dangerous situation into another, and nearly everyone seemed at odds with each other (except the Christians).
I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, but I had two problems with the last third of the story: it departed from what is actually stated in Acts 19 (by adding significant events, people, and time gaps to the stated events) and her Paul was not the man I know.
The Paul that I know from Acts and his letters is a zealous man who thought he was righteously destroying blasphemers (Christians), but who realized Jesus really was divine when he encountered Him on the road to Damascus. After that, he was zealous for preaching this wonderful, good news--no matter the price--out of gratitude and joy.
The Paul of So Shines the Night says that he was angry that Christians taught that there was no need for sacrifices anymore and that they departed from the Law. Even after he realized that they taught the truth, he wanted them dead out of pride. Then he met Jesus, which somehow made him stop, but now he's a guilt-ridden man. He believes that the suffering he endures in preaching the gospel is God's rightful punishment for his past sins, and that all other Christians are innocents who only suffer as an overflow of God's punishment on him. The only thing Paul seems to learn in this story is that he can't protect others from getting hurt for being Christians, and he shouldn't be surprised by suffering that comes when sharing the gospel. It's like he doesn't understand forgiveness, grace, etc.
Paul gave a number of short sermons in the story, and I generally agreed with what he taught in them. Some were quotes from the Bible. However, I just couldn't get past the wrong theology that Paul preaches about his own situation including how God views sinners and who qualifies as a sinner. And I seem to have missed Daria's acceptance of Jesus (which is not the same as her rejection of the Greek gods). Not to mention that Paul could be a "fortune-teller" himself with how much knowledge God gave him about Daria's future over the course of the story.
Also, I was disturbed by how the baby's mother was killed at the end. The woman finally showed a glimmer of selflessness despite her terror, yet she's brutally killed to get her out of the way, and she probably died unsaved. That rather ruined the "happy ending" for me.
There was no sex. There was a minor amount of "he cursed" style of bad language. Overall, I probably would recommend this novel because of its historical immersion aspect, but keep in mind that the ending might leave you disturbed instead of happy.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.