Title: An Echo in the Darkness
Author: Francine Rivers
Series: Mark of the Lion, book 2
Major Themes: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Early Christians
Synopsis: After witnessing his beloved being mauled in the arena, Marcus Valerian sets off on a journey to try to find some meaning and hope for his crushing grief.
After reading A Voice in the Wind, I couldn’t wait to lay my hands on the next book in the series! It ended with a terrible cliffhanger, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to forgive Francine Rivers for what she did to one of my favorite characters. Thankfully, An Echo in the Darkness answered some of my questions, so I wasn’t as upset with her at the end of this one as I was with the first!
Having read two of the three books in this series now, I’m more and more impressed with River’s prowess all the time. I don’t always agree with the amount of detail included in her stories at times, but as far as bringing together historical accuracy, a strong storyline, and intriguing characters, she’s an excellent author. I understand now why her books—including this series—became so popular, and have maintained their popularity.
After narrowly escaping death from a lion’s claws at the arena, Hadassah finds herself with a young physician, Alexander, who is fighting for her life. Alexander hadn’t intended to save anyone’s life the day he found her—he was only hoping to learn more about human anatomy from some poor soul that would die anyway. Something prompted him to try to help Hadassah, though, and as days pass and she recovers and becomes a valued assistant in his practice, he is thankful he made the decision he did. Hadassah will be left with terrible scars for the rest of her life—but the Lord has given her fulfilling work to do, and she’s thankful for that. When Julia Valerian—the girl who sent her to the arena—falls deathly ill, Hadassah must choose to either forgive and help her, or turn her back on her Christian ideals.
When Marcus Valerian saw Hadassah being attacked by the lion, he fled from the arena, grieving. Now, as he tries to find some solace for his grief, he throws himself into work, but that doesn’t assuage his anguish. As he begins to travel—first to forget Hadassah, and later to try to find out what set her apart and made her different—he comes to understand more about her God than he is comfortable with. Why would a good God, as she claimed He was, allow one of His servants to suffer as she did?
After reading the first book, I did have some trepidation about what this one could hold in the way of things I didn’t want to read about…it wasn’t the best in that regard, as can be seen in the warnings, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve heard different people talk about how Rivers’ books can be akin to “gateway porn”, and after these two books, I don’t doubt that. She has come very close to crossing my personal comfort level as far as description goes, but I’m thankful that hasn’t happened yet. One thing I am thankful for is that whenever sin appears, it is not cast in a good light, and the ongoing repercussions of sin are described.
On the brighter side, one of the biggest things I appreciated about this story was the way forgiveness was portrayed. The characters are all realistic, and their struggles were quite relatable, which made this point even stronger. I loved seeing the example of one character, especially, choosing to follow the Lord even though that obedience went against the grain. The eventual blessing of choosing forgiveness over hate was challenging to read about.
An Echo in the Darkness was one of those books that I swallowed in just a few sittings, and when I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the story and what could possibly happen next. It was a satisfying sequel to A Voice in the Wind, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series to find out what happens next.
WARNING: By the gods or a variant: ch. 1, 2, 4, 5, 16, and 42. Bloody: ch. 1. Swear/swore: ch. 2, 5 (twice), 9, 11, 12, 13, 19, 25, 27, 34, and 44. Curse on them: ch. 2 and 10. There is lying in ch. 10, 12, 44, and 50. Throughout the book, homosexuality is mentioned at times (I noted ch. 3, 23, 38, and 44), as well as the aftereffects of such a lifestyle (venereal disease is mentioned multiple times in ch. 26, and possibly elsewhere). Introduction: A man sees people being killed in the arena, and works on a mangled woman and cuts her clothing away to help her. Chapter 1: More at the arena, mention of erotic literature, mention of women dancing with barely concealed bodies, drinking, a man pulls a girl onto his lap, kisses and almost rapes her, and a man is reminded of past affairs. Chapter 3: A woman tries to seduce a girl and a woman goes to the temple and sacrifices a goat so the priest can read the entrails. Chapter 5: A mention of a prostitute with a bloody discharge. Chapter 9: “as I swear before Sceva” (a god). Chapter 10: A woman goes through a ceremony at the temple to try to get healing. Chapter 12: A woman is in labor, and a man plans to kill the baby to help her survive childbirth. Chapter 13: A man is attacked by robbers. Chapter 16: A mention of sex and a woman hugs a man who is not her husband. Chapter 19: A man touches a woman. Chapter 20: Someone remembers a man who committed suicide and ponders committing suicide themselves. Chapter 27: A man wakes up with a hangover, somewhere in here he tries to swim to kill himself. Chapter 42: A man is stabbed. Chapter 44: A woman sees a man with a bloodied tunic. Chapter 48: A mention of an abortion, of a woman who poisoned her husband, and of an affair. Chapter 50: A man touches a woman’s shoulder (he isn’t married to her). Chapter 53: Several kisses and a man holds a woman.