Title: Between the Wild Branches
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: The Covenant House, book 2
Major Themes: Ancient Israel, Biblical Fiction, Books for Women
Synopsis: After years of running his life however he wanted, Lukio is faced with the choice of trying to help a girl whom he once loved, or allowing her and her countrymen to die while gaining himself more prestige and power.
At the beginning of this year, I read To Dwell among Cedars, Connilyn Cossette’s (then) most recent release. When I was looking more recently, I discovered that its sequel, Between the Wild Branches, was releasing soon, too. Now, I’m not sure how close together most authors have books published—but that felt pretty close, since it can’t be more than six or nine months apart. But I wasn’t complaining! I love her stories, and the chance to get to hear the rest of Lukio’s story couldn’t come fast enough. And what a good story. It was different, in some ways, from some of the author’s other books—based in the Philistine culture, rather than the Jewish culture, this shows a portion of history you don’t normally get to see. Oh, am I ever glad that the Lord called the Israelites out of cultures like that! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After fleeing his adopted home in Israel and heading back to Ashdod, the city of his birth, Lukio found his cousin Mataro and with his help, soon became a well-respected fighter. He was determined to forget his sister—forget everything that she had ever tried to get him to learn during his time with the Hebrews—and most of all, forget the girl who had stolen, and then crushed, his heart. Now, years later, he’s got more wealth than he knows what to do with. And he’s had his fill of fighting—but that must continue, for a bit longer, anyway. Just until he can manage to ingratiate himself with the king enough that he can get out from under his cousin’s thumb. Things seem to be lining up in his favor, too—his idea for new games for Ashdod meets with the king’s approval, and what is more, the king offers his beautiful daughter as a token of the agreement between them. Lukio couldn’t refuse, even if he had wanted to—but the opportunities seem endless. Until he meets his newly betrothed’s maidservant, and realizes that she’s the girl he was in love with years ago. And still is, if he’ll let himself think about it. But how did she come here, and become a slave of the Philistines? What has happened to the safe home he left his sister in years ago—is she a slave now, too?
Between the Wild Branches is not necessarily the kind of book you’d want to read if you want to avoid blood and pain. But I think it’s important, in that it helps bridge that gap between Samuel the prophet and when Saul became king. Reading the Bible, we don’t necessarily get a good idea of what happened then—the Philistines invaded repeatedly, people got hurt—but this book shows how that happened. Through the eyes of someone very much on the outside of the Hebrews (yet still keenly interested), the things they had to endure were shocking, but the way that drew them back to the Lord was captivating. If He had that much love for His people then, how much more does He have for us now?
I enjoyed reading this story. The book was well-written, with engaging characters and an intriguing storyline. At one point, I got quite worried that Cossette would have a character do something I really didn’t want to have happen, and I realized then just how much she had gotten me involved in the story—that was a nice realization! I also loved the beautiful thread of redemption in here!
If you’d like to get a picture of the ancient lands, and what it was like for both the Israelites and the Canaanites at that time, I’d recommend this book. There are some difficult parts, as some of the hand-to-hand fighting that went on then was described, and also as a few of the pagan worship rituals were spoken of, but overall it’s a fairly clean read. Recommended.
I was given a review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: Occasionally, there are mentions of consuming the pleasures of drink or women or “every sort of indulgence” (ch. 3, 4, 8, for example); ch. 7 is a bit worse, with a party—lots of drinking, half-dressed women, and insinuations that there would be wrong things happening. In ch. 15 a man encourages another toward adultery after he gets married. In ch. 22, a man pretends to want to use a woman, and there is another mention of the bed in ch. 24. A man’s proclivity to being unfaithful is remembered in ch. 12. People praise or pray to different gods in ch. 7, 20 (a pretty awful scene with evil worship, music, drinking, sensuality, etc.—fairly vague, but you still know what’s happening), the scene is remembered in ch. 21, and someone thinks about the evil worship practices of the Philistines in ch. 22.
There is lying in ch. 5, 12, 15, 21, 24, 25, and 28. Now and then, there are mentions of slaves and that the women were often abused—ch. 6, 9, 15 (more description than some—women had clearly been violated), and 16.
Ch. 1 starts with a fight, with people getting hurt. In ch. 20, there is some mention of cutting for the dead. In ch. 25, there is a fight. People die or are killed in ch. 9, 10 (a little description), 12, a woman’s life is threatened in ch. 14, someone remembers a story about a baby being left to die in ch. 16, someone was accused of killing people in ch. 18, someone is confirmed killed brutally in ch. 20, 25 (threatening), 26 (someone taken into custody), and 28 (several killed or hurt—some description). A man is badly beaten in ch. 31, a man is stabbed, and someone else is killed. In ch. 32, there is a bad fight, and a man is almost killed. In ch. 33, a man dies, and another man is badly beaten. In ch. 35, men have stolen something, and several others are killed. In the epilogue, people are lined up, ready to fight a battle. A man views a dogfight where a dog was killed in ch. 13.
A woman has a flashback to being raped in ch. 8 (not described), 12 (remembered, and then reveals she had a baby nine months later, who was then stolen from her), and in ch. 21, there is a little more description. A woman’s form is briefly mentioned in ch. 4. Women flirt with a man in ch. 13. Unmarried people touch in ch. 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 20, and 24; in ch. 19, an unmarried couple are alone together (this happens other times in the book, too; I just forgot to note the other times down). In ch. 36, a woman talks about how she and another man were “in all respects, joined in as much of a marriage covenant as we could have been”—and how she was pregnant. Ch. 36 also has touching and a kiss. In ch. 38, a couple apparently gets married, although there is no ceremony (there’s a little description of touching and a kiss). In ch. 30, there is an assumption that a woman was pregnant when she got married.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults