keepers of the covenant book coverReviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Christian fiction author Lynn Austin brings a second strong novel to readers of her Restoration Chronicles with Keepers of the Covenant. Fans of the author’s historical fiction will not want to miss this novel because relatable characters, a detailed and compelling plot, and lyrical prose bring the Old Testament to life.

In Biblical times, quiet scholar Ezra just wants to study the Torah in the hopes of reaching fellow Israelites with God’s word. God’s chosen people, however, are threatened by outside forces determined to annihilate them and desperately need a leader. When the king of Persia calls for the decimation of the Jewish people because of a long-standing feud between God’s chosen people and the Gentiles, Ezra’s life is subsequently upended as he is chosen to lead the Israelites against their foes. For an introvert who prefers books to people, Ezra struggles to understand why God would put him into a leadership role; ever the follower of His laws, though, Ezra zealously takes his position with pride and determination throughout the entire novel.

Keepers of the Covenant is Ezra’s story of leading the Jewish people through battles and trials as they fight for peace and prosperity in their homelands. Austin uses four primary characters to illustrate the struggles and joys of the Jewish and Gentile peoples of Biblical times. In the authors characteristic fashion, the historical setting and timeline do not deter readers from connecting with her characters. In Keepers of the Covenant readers will feel the pain, empathize with the plights, rejoice in the joys, and wonder about the confusion around them when Ezra, Devorah, Amina, and Ruben participate in and come through the battles of the Old Testament.

One of Austin’s best strengths—and she has many—is her ability to ability to bring the Bible to life through relatable characters, accessible prose, and compelling storylines. Stories, lessons, parables, and more that have intimidated generations upon generations of people are somehow adapted through characters and situations that seem just like what readers would encounter today to the novels that many readers of Christian historical fiction rush to buy upon release day—and suddenly those Biblical stories are not so scary and much more interesting that what those readers will hear from the altar. Keepers of the Covenant is a long novel, so Austin has a lot of material to work with that drives the plot in exciting ways; however, as in any prose, longer length also gives the writer more room for error. Austin does not do anything wrong in Keepers of the Covenant—I really don’t think she could ever do any wrong—but her characters do not grow as much as the 450+ pages could allow them to, which does begin to drag the story a bit towards the end of the novel. Most readers will probably not pick up on this observation because the plot and characters equally drive the story, but a bit more fleshing out of certain characters would have helped develop a reader-character relationship with Ezra and Devorah.

Lynn Austin is an author whose back-cover blubs of her books I do not need to read before automatically selecting “pre-order” on Amazon or bringing the novel to the check-out counter at any store. I have read almost all of her novels and have loved each and every one. Keepers of the Covenant is one of my favorite novels of 2014, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. More than anything, I want to thank Austin for helping strengthen my faith through her Restoration Chronicles novels. I would not know nearly as much about the Old Testament as I do now because of her stories.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.