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G.K. Johnson
The Zealots
G.K. Johnson, author
Comradery goes awry between two restless, young men living in the political angst of first century Roman rule over Judea. Who doesn't love the classic legends, myths and fables like Ben Hur, The Silver Chalice, Two from Galilee, The Robe and The Passion of Christ? Here, you'll find the brightness of another viewpoint drawn from the epic beginnings of the Christian faith.~ Books For Bonding Hearts

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


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

Johnson’s debut novel is a beautifully imagined re-telling of some of Christianity’s most beloved stories from the viewpoints of two friends. Friends Shim’on and Yeshua are two young men in their mid-teens in Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Yeshua’s father is a rabbi and craftsman while Shim’on is the son of a fisherman. When Shim’on’s father is killed by the Romans occupying the region, the boys’ paths diverge as one seeks vengeance while the other seeks righteousness. As the story progresses, their experiences run the gamut from the chance to study in Jerusalem to interactions with the Zealots, a Jewish resistance movement opposed to the Roman occupation of Judea. The tales of both young men run a parallel track to that of Jesus, the rising Mashiach, or Messiah.

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.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: C
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B