Plot: The author offers a retelling of religious stories in a creative and refreshing way. There are occasional inconsistencies that could be addressed, but otherwise the plot is sure to engage readers.
Prose/Style: The talented writer does a particularly good job of integrating potentially unfamiliar concepts such as Shabbat, shofar, and mikvah into the story in a way that is easily understood and doesn't interrupt the flow of the narrative.
Originality: While the framework of this story is based on the retelling of familiar Christian stories, the author's reimagining of these tales and the story line of Yeshua and Shim'on is inventive and engaging.
Character Development/Execution: Both Yeshua and Shim'on are highly developed, and despite the long ago setting, these young men feel relatable to a modern audience in many ways.
Date Submitted: May 10, 2021
The intricately woven storylines flow at a wonderful pace, as readers are swept along on a tide of lovingly rendered details – from the wonder of Yeshua’s arrival in the Holy City to Shim’on’s time out on the open water. Johnson imbues cornerstone tales of Christianity’s origins with a fresh view through the eyes of fictional people, demonstrating a deep respect and love for both the ancient Jewish traditions and the new religion that grew out of them. Shim’on and Yeshua’s eventful lives are presented with little fanfare, but instead an enticing blend of action and introspection.
While aimed at young adults, the novel’s violence and attentiveness to the rigors of spiritual journey may push it toward the higher end of that age range, especially when coupled with some unfamiliar terms that are not immediately explained. The glossary at the end proves helpful, but could have found more use at the novel’s beginning. The prose otherwise is invitingly easy to read, though occasional inconsistencies -- such as the names of the boys’ mothers being switched in several places -- may pull readers away from the central message.
Takeaway: A deeply respectful take on the origins of Christianity through the eyes of two young men and their coming of age.
Great for fans of: Lynn Austin’s The Restoration Chronicles, Ken Gire’s The Centurion.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B