Title: To Dwell among Cedars
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Series: The Covenant House, book 1
Major Themes: Ancient Israel, Biblical Fiction, Books for Women
Synopsis: After being forced to flee from her people, the Philistines, Eliora finds a home among the Hebrews with a priest’s family, but life isn’t all peaceful after Eli and his sons’ deaths.
Well, I couldn’t wait to dive into To Dwell among Cedars when I got it for review! I loved the previous series, and didn’t want to miss this one, either! It wasn’t quite the same kind of story as I got in the other books, but it was still fascinating and well worth the read. I’ve loved Cossette’s books because of the historical side of things—she does a great job showing what it might have been like to be a Hebrew back in Bible times, and that brings the Bible to life. That part is great.
Though she was born and raised in a Philistine city, Eliora was introduced to the Hebrew God and some of the stories of His mighty power from a young age. When the Hebrew’s ark came to Ashdod, things started going wrong, and, one night when her life was endangered, her Hebrew nurse made it possible for her and her brother to escape. Following the ark back to its home as it was drawn by cows, she didn’t know what to expect—but the Hebrews welcomed her with open arms, and she and her brother found a family there. Now, years later, she still doesn’t feel worthy of the life and love she’s been given. She’s safe, loved, and accepted, and although Lukio her brother is causing trouble, she hopes in time he will also find the true path. Insecurities are still there, and with mounting tension between the priests in the area, will they be able to keep the ark safe? Will she find her true acceptance in Yahweh, or always be trying to gain His—and His people’s—favor?
I didn’t find To Dwell among Cedars quite as interesting as the books in the previous series. While it held my attention all the way through, it wasn’t gripping, and the action felt a little more stilted than in some of Cossette’s other books. One thing that did strike me, especially in the first few chapters, was how close to the Biblical account this story felt. It almost felt like the original story with just a thin layer of fiction overtop to bring the story to life. I want to go back and re-read that section in Judges again, but it felt very, very similar to the original.
I did find some elements of the book very intriguing—the whole societal/political element with the Levites (and some supposed elements of the story) made me wonder what things were actually like at that time. There is quite a bit of tension between different Levite factions illustrated in here, and I just wonder whether that was actually the case, or if it wasn’t so much of a problem—I don’t know. Another idea to search the Scriptures about!
Overall, though, I enjoyed reading To Dwell among Cedars (despite my aversion to them not capitalizing that five-letter preposition in the title…). It wasn’t my favorite of Cossette’s books, but the theme of learning to accept love instead of trying to always earn it was beautifully done. Eliora was a lovely girl, and I hope I can meet her again in subsequent books!
I requested a complementary review copy of this book, and this is my honest opinion of it.
WARNING: A woman tells of her son being drowned in ch. 2. In ch. 3, there’s an earthquake and a mention of a manservant being dug out from under the rubble, and a pagan priest comes home with gashes on his arm (presumably from some ritual). In ch. 4, there is some description of a terrible plague killing people, a boy is used to gain money by fighting, and there is some lying. In ch. 5, someone thinks about what happens to people who fight for a living, a girl is sold to a priest of Dagon, and a woman is presumably beaten to death (first part overheard). There’s lying in ch. 6 and 8. In ch. 7, a man talks about what he saw while “looking at entrails”. In ch. 8, cows are killed for a sacrifice, and men are killed when they look into the Ark of the Covenant. In ch. 10 there’s a mention of men who “took female worshipers to their….” In ch. 11 someone “cursed”. A man appreciates what a woman’s face looks like in ch. 13. Someone is afraid a man would be killed while fighting (a pretty terrible fight, described) in ch. 19, there is a mention of “temple whores”, “fertility rites” and a little description around that, someone remembers their mother’s labor and a story about her father beating someone to death. In ch. 21, someone remembers a threshold offering where puppies were unnecessarily killed, as well as a mention of infants being killed in connection with pagan rituals. A man curses in ch. 23. Someone’s head was bleeding in ch. 24, someone lies, and there’s a memory of thieves being killed cruelly. In ch. 25 there’s a mention of dogs desecrating dead bodies. In ch. 32, a man plays with a woman’s hair. From ch. 35-37, several people are injured or killed while others try to steal something. There’s a little touching between an unmarried couple in ch. 38, and more and a kiss in ch. 40 and 41. In the epilogue, a man sees women with “brazen nakedness”. The historical note talks about the threshold sacrifices.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults