The book Mark of the Lion is a trilogy describing the fate of heroes living in the 1st century CE. In the first two volumes, the main characters are Hadassah, a slave convert to Christianity, and Marcus, a wealthy Roman. The concept is very reminiscent of the classic novel by the Polish Nobel Prize winner. The third part of the trilogy tells the story of Germanin Artretes, also present in the previous parts, and his journey with his miraculously survived son and Rispa, the woman who took care of the gladiator’s child.
Due to the subject matter that the author chose for the first two volumes, it’s hard not to resort to comparisons with Sienkiewicz, and this must be very negative for Mrs. Rivers. There is not much Latin in the Mark of the Lion trilogy, not even Sienkiewicz’s, but any extensive descriptions of the location. The author puts the main emphasis on the emotions of the characters, and their experiences, especially in terms of the Christian faith. This is, after all, the main goal of this novel, evangelization, which the author does not hide from the beginning. The action itself is definitely engaging, and thoughtful, with changes of pace, which is a solid asset of the novel. Undoubtedly, the biggest one, at least in the opinion of the author, would be a positive transformation or conversion of the reader. However, the theological considerations here are also at a fairly basic level. Instead of a deep theological dispute, we find here rather a strong testimony of faith. The Mark of the Lion trilogy is positioned in Christian streetcar literature rather than alongside the works of Thomas Aquinas. In addition to the lack of descriptions of historical locations, factual errors are also quite glaring, e.g. when Markus’s sister pays an “exorbitant” price of three sesterces in the temple for a beautiful scapegoat, which a few pages later turn out to be gold coins (sic!). Mrs. Rivers’s novel is universal, it could happen at any time because it tells about the struggle with difficulties that certainly can and still affect modern people. From a person setting his novel in antiquity, however, I would expect a solid historical preparation, or at least a thorough check by a researcher of antiquity. Unfortunately, both of these things are missing here, and the reader, even an amateur interested in history, will easily pick up a lot of errors and misrepresentations.
Despite the factual flaws, the main task of the novel is to transport the reader into her world and make them stay there until the last page, as well as for some time after it closes, which Mrs. Rivers does admirably. Critics can hold writers accountable in many ways, but readers are the highest instance in this assessment, and this is very kind to the author. Another advantage for both Christians and non-believers must be the fact that the book is printed with a lot of positive emotions and dignified attitudes in the face of evil, which may be lacking in todays and any other times. For younger, but also some adult readers, the didactic aspect of the novel will certainly be valuable. I strongly recommend it to the reader looking for a testimony of faith, to the rest I recommend to the tram instead of Dan Brown.