Seeing the dedication of this book is to one of my favorite pastors made me smile.
I’ve only seen Pastor Jon Courson once, when he spoke at a Children’s Ministry Retreat in Southern California in the ’90s. I still remember the message he taught on the prophet who had been chopping trees with an ax and lost the ax-head in the water when it loosened and flew off. Calling to Elijah, he lamented the loss because the ax was borrowed.
The message wasn’t about the miracle Elijah performed. It was about the importance of not doing our work with blunt and borrowed tools, instead working in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Pastor Jon’s radio messages have taught and encouraged me through the years in so many ways, with words spoken that were so timely and powerful. I am so thankful for his ministry.
Therefore, in the same spirit as the author’s, I dedicate this review to Jon Courson.
The King's Mercy
by Lori Benton
Publication Date June 4, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Suspense, Clean Romance
Setting: North Carolina Colonial Era - US - 1607 - 1776
Main Character Ages: 18-24
Written for: Adults
When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king's mercy--exile to the Colony of North Carolina--he's indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey's slaves--and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant's heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father's overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he's faced with the choice that's long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex's very life.
I would like to thank Netgalley, Waterbrook & Multnomah for giving me a copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
Serving a seven year indenture in exile after participating in rebellion hardly felt like mercy to Alex. Especially serving in the sweltering heat of North Carolina in a forge, under an overseer who appeared to have only his own best interests at heart.
This gripping story followed Alex from a battle in England to the plantation where he was purchased to serve, to the mountains of North Carolina. As Alex’s heart was torn by grief and guilt and, especially, anger at God, my heart was filled with compassion and admiration for him.
Hints of the darkness in Phineas Reeves’ soul were tossed out from the beginning as was the suggestion of a mystery surrounding the relationship between him and his slave. As the truth was revealed, I wasn’t fully prepared for seeing the magnitude of evil in his heart. While this was ugly, the author kept the details clean and allusions to depravity were kept as such without actually being spelled out. Nevertheless, I only recommend this book for more mature audiences.
The contrast between the manner in which Alex and Phineas responded to the trials in their lives wasn’t emphasized, yet both men had experienced tribulation. Alex responded with strength and dignity while Phineas didn’t. I won’t say more than that.
I loved the descriptions of the time spent with the Cherokee and the lessons learned there. The pictures painted of the area, the lifestyle, and the village all vividly showed me what this would have been like. Seeing the mountains through the eyes of the Scotsman longing for home made me want to go there myself.
As I read, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between the brand of mercy the king of England offered to Alex with the mercy offered to us by Christ. Alex was slated for death by hanging – a traitor’s punishment. Yet the king instead offered him life – at a price. Indenture and exile.
We, too are condemned to death for our wrongs against the King. Our rebellion from birth deserves nothing less than this and eternal separation from Him. Yet He extends mercy to us, a full pardon without condition. No exile, no slavery. True freedom.
As a side note, there is an author’s note indicating that this was loosely inspired by a story from the New Testament. It wasn’t until I read the letter from Reverend Pauling to Joanna’s step-father that I realized this connection. Once I read this, I saw the allegory.
Mature readers of Christian historical stories, be sure to consider The King’s Mercy.