Review: “The Mark of the King” by Jocelyn Green

It’s no secret around here I am somewhat of a history buff. Lately, I’ve been enthralled with American frontier-era fiction because it’s often supported by meticulous research and historical accuracy (yay for dedicated authors!). I always love learning something new about this era, especially when it involves a setting I’ve not previously read. One of the latest books I’ve enjoyed in this category is a new standalone novel by Jocelyn Green: The Mark of the King, a vivid historical drama with hints of romance. Its setting is 1720s New Orleans, Louisiana, — the French frontier in America at a tumultuous time of survival before the French and Indian War.

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-greenAfter being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Review

This book explores such a unique and new-to-me setting! The writing style is wonderfully descriptive of the wilds of Louisiana and the Mississippi while also connecting the reader with the deep emotions of Julianne and a few other key characters. I confess, there were a few tears shed over this story, both over moments of tragic pain and beautiful grace. This is my first ever story by Jocelyn Green, but I know it won’t be the last!

Scars, not just those of Julianne, but physical and emotional scars of the hero and others, bring them together in grace, in purpose, to bear one another’s trials, to fight for the thread of hope they hold. I can’t help but bring my thoughts full circle to the way Jesus’ scars are meant to bring us together. United by His nail-scarred hands, He offers us freedom with those scars as we seek to bring Him glory.

Amidst the twists and turns of this story, and fascinating look at life in a new world, a poignant romance blossoms. In contrast to other books in the genre, this romance is more purposeful than sweetly unexpected, which makes it all the more impactful and one to “root for”. It has to battle the elements and traitorous environment, but it promises survival and comfort through the heartache these characters face.  To say any more about this aspect would give away key plot surprises, so I won’t do that to you! Just know that all of it together brightly shines an overarching message of grace.

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton: Review + Interview + GIVEAWAY

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton: Review + Interview + GIVEAWAY

On rare occasions, books come along that have such depth and truth painted in a beautiful manner, they surpass mere literary purposes and become timeless accounts of their characters’ trials and journeys — even if they are fictional.

The Wood’s Edge by Lori Benton is one such gem. I’m happy to be reviewing it today and sharing an insightful review with the author. Plus, Lori has graciously offered to give away an autographed copy of The Wood’s Edge to one of my readers!!! You can find instructions for how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

Plot Summary: At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?Woods Edge

The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.

On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.

When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both–Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him?

My thoughts:

Lori Benton has a way with words that completely immerses the reader in the story – the setting, characters’ hearts, the smell and feel of the woods, the clothing, and the feelings of opposite cultures. You might recall how much I LOVED one of her previous novels, The Pursuit of Tamsen LittlejohnIt still remains one of my all-time favorite books.

I’m sure it is challenging to write a complex story that spans over several years’ time, but Lori makes it seem effortless. Small gaps in time are traversed while maintaining ongoing emotions of the characters and with no lull to the pace of the story. From the beginning, the reader is torn between two worlds (much like the characters themselves are), that of frontier colonial America and generations of established Oneida Indian culture.

Without saying too much, I did love how Lori chose to develop a certain romantic relationship between two of the characters. This relationship was a little unexpected initially (though I was rooting for it!) and seemed, at times, an impossibility due to the characters’ circumstances. But it was sweetly developed in the story in a way only Lori could write!

Within this story, Lori has included the unique perspective of the events leading up to the Revolutionary War from the Oneida tribe’s viewpoint (specifically, the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, to which the Oneidas belonged). The attention to detail and the historical research included in The Wood’s Edge make this a rich and fascinating read.

With themes of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, the characters of The Wood’s Edge face lessons wrought through choices. Choices of love, hatred, following God’s path, or sin. These choices shape who the characters become, whether right or wrong, with consequences that can only be overcome through forgiveness.

I could go on talking about this book for a long time. There is so much I could still say about the characters – the faithful missionary who shared the simple truth of Jesus’ sacrifice, the friend who becomes a mentor to Anna, or the supporting characters who offer words of wisdom in the midst of great loss. Or, I could save us both some time, and you could read it for yourself! Trust me, it will be time well spent.

Alright, next I get to share my interview with author Lori Benton! 

What was the inspiration for The Wood’s Edge?

TWE_2ChSneakPeek_txtIn writing my previous published novels, Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, I recognized my passion for telling stories about people caught in a middle ground—between cultures, identities, social classes, world views, etc. So I was looking for a setting and historical situation through which to weave another story of this kind, something similar to those previous titles but not exactly the same. I began thinking about the back story I hinted at in Burning Sky—the political conflict on the New York frontier, during the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, that divided not only colonists but also the Iroquois Confederacy. Then there was that terrible battle called Oriskany in 1777…

Around that time I read an article about twins born to a multiracial couple where one twin was dark skinned, the other fair. They were quite a startling contrast. That snagged my attention. I began asking myself the “what if” questions that authors do. What if a set of twins like these was born in the 18th century? What if one of them was raised never knowing he had a different heritage than his skin proclaimed? What if I set this against that Revolutionary War backdrop and put one twin on one side of the conflict, one on the other?

That’s the short story of how The Wood’s Edge grew into being.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

The Wood’s Edge is a story of grief and healing, vengeance and forgiveness, and man’s justice verses God’s mercy. I hope the journey these characters take will be one that touches readers hearts in all these areas and more. God’s ways are often counter to the impulses of the human heart and mind. Sometimes it’s in dying that we find life, or in laying down a right that we find the peace we truly need.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in mid-18th century America?

It’s always challenging to force myself to think like a person from the mid-18th century and not with my own 21st century world view. People from that era wouldn’t necessarily react to situations as we would. The only way to absorb something of their mindset is to read widely in primary sources like diaries and journals and letters.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

LORI_1

When I’m not home writing I love to get out into the mountains, take a hike along a river, enjoy our wonderful forests and mountain vistas. We try to do that on Sundays after church. Heading up to church is an excursion into the mountains too, as that’s where our fellowship is situated. As for hobbies, right now writing doesn’t leave time for them, though I wouldn’t mind getting back to my abandoned love of wildlife painting.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I’d just pick the 18th century purely for research purposes—if I could get back. Otherwise I really like living now, with the hope of Christ’s return so near.

What are you currently reading?

Remnants: Season of Fire by Lisa T. Bergren

Grace Intervention by Bill Giovannetti

A book on blacksmithing for research

Connect with Lori at her blog or on her Facebook author page.

Thank you so much, Lori, for taking to time to answer my questions! I look forward to seeing what’s next in this “Pathfinders” series. Also, a huge thank you to Lori and Waterbrook Multnomah for sharing an advance review copy of The Wood’s Edge with me.

Giveaway time!

To enter, leave a comment (with a valid email address) answering this question: What are you currently reading? Giveaway open to US residents only through 5/01/15. Winner will be contacted by email on 5/02. Good luck!