by Dana McNeely
Series: Whispers on the Wind #1
Published by Mountain Brook Ink
Publication Date February 20, 2021
Genres: Biblical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Action/Adventure
Setting: Israel 1000 - 732 BC
Main Character Ages: 15-18
Written for: Adults
He is destined to be high priest-but at what cost to those he loves?
In ancient Samaria, Aban anticipates his rites of passage with excitement and dread. He yearns to join the priesthood of Ba'al Melqart, unlock the power of the rain god, and hear the deity's voice. He's been warned the licentious ceremony can take a dangerous turn, but as eldest son of the high priestess, he holds a privileged position. If he can make it through the ceremony, one day he'll rise to high priest.
On the eve of the rituals, Aban's mother confesses a dark secret about the bloody sacrifice demanded by Melqart. Aban may have escaped the flames, but if he is to save his brother, Aban must take his destined position of power as soon as possible.
When the mysterious prophet Elijah interrupts the rites, overturns the idol, and curses the land with drought, Aban's world is shaken. The current high priest and the king appear powerless, but even more confusing is the fact that the rain god does nothing.
Against his better judgment, Aban conceals the strange prophet's whereabouts, forfeiting the high priesthood. Now an enemy of the relentless Queen Jezebel, Aban has little time to question his fading commitment to Ba'al Melqart as he and his loved ones flee. But the conflict in Samaria is much larger than just a high priestess and her sons. Soon, Aban will have to choose a side in Yahweh's war against the Ba'als-and it may cost him his life.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
Rain is quite amazing! Retelling one of my favorite Old Testament stories, debut author Dana McNeely has created a realistic and very well-researched story that stays true to the Biblical narrative and adds details that enrich the understanding of some of the whys behind it. My heart was wrung. It hoped and sighed (can a heart sigh?)
I was fascinated from the very start. The thoughts and feelings of Aban, the young pagan acolyte to Melqart, are the main ones shared, though some of the other characters also have sections dedicated to their perspectives, such as Elijah and Aban’s mom. And even one who will surprise you.
I enjoyed the characters very much! At one point, I realized that keeping to the Biblical narrative meant something bad happening to a character I had come to love and I began to grieve, even before it happened! Caleb’s grandma was very inspiring and I just loved Joah and Hiel.
Lovely imagery fills the pages as well. In a scene where camels were racing across the desert, I almost felt the wind in my face! As characters engaged in things like masonry or scribing, or fishing, rich descriptions of the processes were detailed – and yet not at all by “telling” but instead woven into the narrative so well that in at least one place, I had gotten through the paragraph before I realized that the author was subtly walking through all that was involved. I have rarely seen this done as well as it was here.
Atonement, new life, faith, and trust in Yahweh were strong themes of the story. Not to even mention the overwhelming grief Elijah experienced over the idolatry of the children of Israel, which prompted him to pray for the Lord to close up the heavens and withhold the rain, in accordance to Deuteronomy 11:17. And he prayed – again and again until the Lord directed him to publicly proclaim that this very thing would happen.
Because so much of the story is told from Aban’s perspective, and as Melqart’s priests were expected to perform duties that offend many people’s sensitivities, it could have been so easy for Dana McNeely to include details that would repulse most of her readers. And yet, she presented enough details to suggest these things without doing so.
Dana McNeely is now on my shortlist of favorite Biblical fiction authors. Perhaps even just historical authors. I am so glad to have seen that there is more to come from her as Elisha begins to be discipled by Elijah. But don’t wait to read Rain! All lovers of Christian or Biblical fiction will want to read this fantastic story!