Title: Like Flames in the Night
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: Cities of Refuge, book 4
Major Themes: Ancient Israel, Biblical Fiction, Books for Women
Synopsis: Wanting to do something to help Israel, but unsure what she can do as a woman, Tirzah takes upon herself one of the most dangerous tasks anyone in her family has done—acting as a cook to spy in the Aramean commander’s household.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Cossette’s Cities of Refuge series over the past few years, and Like Flames in the Night was an unexpected, delightful conclusion to the series. Although this wasn’t my favorite book of the series—undoubtedly, Until the Mountains Fall is my favorite, with A Light on the Hill right behind that—it was another good story. I’ve always been intrigued by spies and code-cracking and all sorts of secretive stuff like that, and the love of mystery started fairly early on when I read Mara, Daughter of the Nile for the first time. This book’s main character is a spy. And not only is Tirzah a spy, but a good actor while she is a spy. I loved that!
Tirzah is a widow, and since she was unable to have children, she’s not so sure she ever wants to get married again—she doesn’t want to disappoint another husband. Though she’s at home, she longs to serve her people and country in some way. Would her brother, in command of a training group and spy mission, be willing to let her try to sneak into the enemy’s capital city to try to weasel out the information they so desperately need to win the war? As far as Tirzah is concerned, if she is caught and killed, she would be serving Yahweh and Israel—but if she succeeds, her brother and the commanders he works with will be enabled to win. But when it proves much more difficult to get into the position than she expected, and she accidentally becomes the caretaker of a young girl who has been left without family, will she be able to fulfill the job she’s been given? What if she was wrong, and this will end up being her death sentence?
For me, Like Flames in the Night was a confusing read to some extent—probably partly because it felt like the book had ended at the half-way mark, and it didn’t. Now, I know there was a more overarching story, but this one didn’t feel quite as pulled together as some of the other books in the series. I did love that this story brought a good conclusion to a character’s story from the previous series as well as from the beginning of this series—though I haven’t read the previous series (I’d love to one day!), it was nice to see that tied together. This also deals with the marriage of convenience trope, which I found fun and refreshing, to some extent—at least the passion shown in this story was between already-married people, and not an unmarried couple!
Historically, this book had some very interesting elements in it. I want to go back and read about the Arameans again, because I found that whole area of the book fascinating. I loved that the altar Joshua built on Mount Ebal was mentioned here; when reading through that portion of the Bible recently, I had an instant connection—“Oh, I’ve ‘been’ there!”
Like Flames in the Night was, in the end, a good read. If you’ve read previous books in the series, I’d recommend it. Once again, I appreciated the Biblical focus, and liked the fact that even though the main character was doing something I don’t think would have happened very often back in those times, it did sound possible. I also appreciated that the romance side of things wasn’t quite so described as in other books—that was a major bonus for me! A good story, in all. If you’re looking for well-written Biblical fiction, check out the Cities of Refuge series.
I requested a free review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: This book contains quite a few mentions of people being hurt or killed, since this is set in a very volatile time in Israel’s history. One of the men that features fairly regularly in this story is a Canaanite king or ruler, and as such, he did not honor godly things—so there are mentions throughout the story of different suggestive things he said or evil things he and his men had done. There is also romance in here, but mostly between a married couple—kisses and some description of touching.
Men touch girls sensually or there are suggestive themes (not described, but there) in ch. 1, 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, and 33. Women are sold or are threatened to be used by men in ch. 7, 19, and 22. Mentions of men partaking in sin happen in ch. 9, and undressed women are mentioned in ch. 9 and 13. There is kissing in ch. 13, 34, 35, 38, 43, 44, 45, and the Epilogue. There is touching between unmarried people in ch. 14, 16, 17, 19, 23, 25, 26, and 39—and an unmarried man and woman share a bedroom for an extended period of time, as a guise to protect the woman from an evil man (apparently nothing happens during that time). There are hints at marriage topics in ch. 28, 29, 30, 33, 35, and 36. Married people touch or are thinking about it in ch. 30, 32, 34 (this carries on for a while and is somewhat sensual), 35, 36, 39, 40, 44, and 45. A prostitute is talked about in ch. 33. There is a memory of a woman in labor in ch. 34, and “women’s things” and pregnancy are talked about in ch. 44, with other pregnancy mentions in ch. 45 and the Epilogue.
There are memories of scenes in battle and killing people in ch. 4 and 22 (which is a battle). People talk about or have memories of different ones who died or were killed, often with some description and a few times with more gruesome details, in ch. 1, 4, 5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 19 (man killed), 22, 24, 25, 26, 30, 32, 34, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, and 46. Some gruesome description of how people could be killed is said in ch. 12 and 13. People’s lives are threatened in ch. 19, 22, 30, 37, 41, 42, and 43. A woman is hurt by a man in ch. 42, and there is also some description of how the man was previously humiliated in that chapter.
Men get drunk in ch. 5 and 22. A woman trains to lie, kill, and steal to protect herself in ch. 6. A woman makes a blood oath with someone else in ch. 29. There is lying in ch. 2, 5-10, 13, 14, 15, 21, 26, 31, 34, 35, and 39. Someone says “oh heavens” in ch. 10. There is stealing in ch. 11. People curse in ch. 13, 21, 22, 23, 28, 32, 42, and 43. Idols and other gods are mentioned in ch. 31, 39, 41, 43, 44, and 46.
There is an extra-Biblical happening attributed to God in ch. 24; it didn’t bother me too much, as it’s something He could have done, but I still struggle with things like this because it isn’t recorded in the Bible.