Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series is considered a classic of Christian fiction for good reason. Have you read the series? I am a big fiction reader, but I put off reading this series for years. I’m not really into biblical-era fiction. It can’t live up to the hype. Except, it can! It will. When I finally read these books I was amazed by the writing, the story, and how much they inspired my faith. I want to encourage you to pick this series up, whether it is your first time or your second, and discover the power of faith-filled fiction again.
The first book in this trilogy, The Name of the Wind, is the story of a slave girl, Hadassah, as she comes into the service of a prominent Roman merchant family. Her story is truly awe-inspiring. Rivers introduces her at the brink of the sacking of Jerusalem in AD 70, and Hadassah will take hold of your heart from the very beginning. Her courage and strength are remarkable to behold. The only member of her family to survive the fall of Jerusalem, Hadassah is a first generation Christian in the most literal sense. Jesus raised her father from the dead and she grew up in the presence of the apostles. After the fall of the city, she is taken to Rome as a slave where she meets Julia, the self-absorbed young woman she has been bought to serve, and her family—and comes to love them despite their treatment of her.
Throughout the Mark of the Lion series, we come to know Hadassah but also the members of the family she serves and a fierce Germanic warrior-turned-gladiator named Atretes. Familiar biblical figures, including Paul and Theophilus, also appear, providing a larger context for the story. The spirit of the first Christians, particularly in the face of persecution, is portrayed with feeling and truth.
One of the most wonderful things about this book—this entire series—is that the biblical connections in the story are interwoven seamlessly with Rivers’ narrative. She builds a unique tale of a single Roman family and their slaves with references to the New Testament in a dramatic story that doesn’t feel bogged down with history or theology. It’s personal, not just epic.
While I enjoyed the historical and biblical events at play in the Mark of the Lion series, for me the most compelling thing about these books was the emotional power of the writing. I felt every tragedy and rejoiced in every triumph. I was completely caught up in the drama—and what a drama it is! From accounts of Roman decadence and the glorified horror of the gladiatorial arena, to the dedication of a simple slave girl and the heart of a martyr, this story will—without fail—captivate you and inspire your faith.