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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Strength of His Hand by Lynn Austin

As Judah thrives under King Hezekiah, his heart soon becomes proud and overconfident. When Babylonian envoys arrive at his palace, telling him that they heard of the Assyrians' flight from Jerusalem and congratulating him for his success, Hezekiah does not acknowledge the Lord nor consult Him when they offer a treaty of nations against Assyria for him to sign. Now that he has ignored Yahweh, the prophet Isaiah tells him that he has brought trouble upon Judah by openly rebelling Assyria without the Lord's consent. What's worse, Hezekiah has no heir and no wife since he banished her from the palace for worshipping and making vows to the false goddess Asherah. King Sennacherib of Assyria has now begun a military campaign to uproot the nations who signed the treaty, and he is not far from Judah. Will Yahweh save Judah once again from Hezekiah's sins?
Lynn Austin continues her series on King Hezekiah in almost the same fashion she has in the first two books. She keeps true to the Biblical and historical accounts and their elements, yet fails to create original elements of her own. Instead, she uncharacteristically creates unoriginal outside elements that serve to bring this book's rating down. I'm not sure where Lynn took this turn for the worst, but it served to ruin her 100% Elite Rating.
Despite Hezekiah's obvious imperfect and sinful choices, he fails to be the character he was in the first two books of this series. Hephzibah begins the book an interesting character, but this trend deteriorates as the book progresses. Eliakim, Shebna, Jerusha, and Hilkiah all remain constant characters. Iddina returns to serve as a better than not villain with a realistic end. Lynn's character development definitely could have been improved, yet this is the not worst of her troubles.
There are no interesting plot elements save for the elements contained in the true Biblical account. Many things are fixed in the end that have nothing to do with the true story. This is the real problem with this book. In Gods and Kings and Song of Redemption, Lynn Austin demonstrated correctly the art of writing a book based on something that truly happened. One must create interesing and original plot elements of their own outside the story that do not detract or add to the actual story, but instead compliment it. This is vital; otherwise the author is just paraphraising the story. This is often not a problem for authors. The problem is introduced when they create unoriginal outside elements to counter the ambiguous elements of the true story. I never expected Lynn to do this, but she did, thus ruining her 100% Elite Rating.
It's disappointing when an author with so much potential lets one down, but there are many other book worse than The Strength of His Hand. This Hezekiah series is one of the more refreshing Biblical fiction series because these stories are often overlooked. Perhaps Lynn will deliver once again in the final two books of this series.
3 stars

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