January 12, 2017

Fresh from the Bookshelf: The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green {Book Review}

Every now and then, I read a historical fiction book relating to a time period I don't have much knowledge about. Once I am through with the book, if it was written well, it will kickoff a desire to learn more about the era or event. I have a couple favorite authors who I can count on for this, but I can now add another author to that list. Jocelyn Green's newest novel The Mark of the King was the latest book I was given to review, and after I kept hearing a LOT of hype about it, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Would it live up to its grand acclamation?

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About The Mark of the King

The Mark of the King is a historical fiction novel from Jocelyn Green. The book begins in Paris, France in 1719 at the birth of a child, moves to the women's prison Salpetriere, to a cargo ship in the Atlantic, and finally to the fledgling French colony of New Orleans in the early 18th century frontier. You will join in the journey of midwife Julianne Chevalier as she is wrongly accused of murder, imprisoned and branded--permanently marking her as a criminal beyond redemption. Julianne decides to volunteer to trade her life sentence with exhile to the new French colony of Lousiana---and is shocked when after it's granted is forced to marry a fellow convict as price of her passage. Throughout the book, you will see her rise and fall as life in this settlement of mud and mosquitos turns out to be nothing she expects--yet more than she could have ever dreamed. Yet through it all, she will bear the mark of the king and the stigma it brings her in this dangerous land where only grace--and love--can conquer all. 

My Thoughts

When I say that this book is a journey, I mean it. Julianne goes through so much despair and trials that they would break any "ordinary" person. Yet she repeatedly draws on her faith in God and Jesus to help her walk through the worst of times. The author brought this book to life so much, it made me despair for Julianne. It made me despise other characters. It made me hold my breath and brought me to the point of tears. I screamed internally for the abuse of Julianne, empathized with her longing for a child, held little Lily in my heart, and rooted for Marc-Paul. I winkled out the plot involving her brother Benjamin long before Julianne did and held my breath as she experienced it herself. 

Above all, this author brought to life an era in American history that I know little about. I now want to know more! I appreciate the references in the back of the book for seeking out more information, and hope to be able to do so. I can tell you this--I am SOOOO thankful that I was NOT born in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 1700's!!!!

Anything I didn't like? No, although the reader should be aware that this book will present God and Christ through a Catholic view--but not effusively. Just matter of factually. I did like how Marc-Paul goes through a moment wondering if maybe Christian life is more personal than what he'd always been taught (within the realms of Catholicism) as he looks at an actual Bible, knowing he doesn't even have to hide the fact he has it, now that he's living in Louisiana, away from the French government rules on religion. It hinted at the idea of religious freedom blooming in the young future America.

I won't lie. The author doesn't pull punches describing the grittiness of the era and frontier. There is violence thanks to the never ending indian/settler wars. There was mentions of sexual acts/rape because it was a time of great debauchery and yes, men were KNOWN to be brutal to women. It's recorded in history. It's what happened. But the author did it tastefully. She didn't gloss over the time, making it seem peaches and cream, but she didn't go overboard in her descriptions. She gave you enough to be uncomfortable with the situation (BECAUSE IT WAS HORRIBLE THAT IT WAS HAPPENING), but not inappropriate or explicit. 

The Mark of the King earns 5★
I am happy to give The Mark of the King my highest star rating of 5 stars. It was everything that I could have wanted in a story-- everything I love--plot, history, love, loss, emotional highs and lows, character "baggage", and the ongoing battle to understand one's place in this world in their journey with God. Any book that also leaves me desiring to learn more about the time in history is deserving of praise. I think you will really enjoy the flowing language that the author uses. She just describes everything from the diseased decaying bodies to the effects of the swamp fever (aka Malaria). I could practically feel the Mississippi river mud between my toes.

The Mark of the King
by Jocelyn Green
Available on Paperback and Kindle

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