Book Review: Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin (2014, 4 stars)

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People familiar with scripture are most likely also familiar with the story of Esther, how she saved the Jews from being slaughtered by approaching the king when he had not called for her. Keepers of the Covenant approach the story from a different angle, this time through the eyes and experiences of Ezra, a devout man of God from the same era. Ezra lives through the attack upon the Jews, because remember that while the king proclaimed the Jews could defend themselves, he could not undo the permission already given for them to be attacked. So there was an attack on the 13th day of the 12th month, and Ezra, usually a scholar, fought alongside his brothers, defending his people from their enemies. Fast-forward at least a dozen years and we have Ezra asking the new king's permission for the Jews to leave for Jerusalem, their promised land, so they may worship as instructed in the Torah. This story really is about Ezra and his spiritual journey and his putting away the seed of bitterness that has grown within him against any peoples other than Jews. But it also follows the stories of Amina, an Edomite, who was orphaned during the attack, and the story of Reuben, another child, this time Jewish, who for many years of his life loses his way.

All right, I did enjoy Keepers of the Covenant in that I wasn't familiar with the events following the life of Esther. I've never read the book of Ezra in The Bible, so had no knowledge of his story. That part of the novel was fascinating, all of the historic references, and watching Ezra draw his people back into a devotion to God. He truly is a keeper of the covenant with God, and whenever that covenant is broken, God returns the children of Israel into bondage until they repent again and turn from their wickedness. I think Ms. Austin did a superb job in capturing the authenticity of Jewish beliefs at the time, and I appreciated her efforts.

However, I never bought into her use of dialogue. A lot of the books I read are very strict in their use of language for dialogue, making sure the spoken word matches the era in which it is being spoken. I was constantly yanked out of my focus while reading this book because the spoken sentence structure for the characters was too modern. Words like "kids" or "weird" were used, along with more words than I can remember. It was very distracting, just when I started getting into the story, a conversation between characters, any characters, would snap me out of it. So I would like to see more effort put into making the dialogue authentic.

I would have also preferred it if the story had just been about Ezra. All right, yes, I liked Amina a lot. She's a very sweet girl, but the climax could have been achieved just as solidly without her and Reuben. In fact, the book would have been at last 100 pages shorter, and in my eyes, much more concise and effective a read. So yes, while I enjoyed Keepers of the Covenant it could have used a bit of tightening in places. I would, however, still recommend it to friends.

- I received this book for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.

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