Sunday 17 November 2013

Brother Half Angel by Martin Roth (A Brother Half Angel Thriller, Book 1)


A military operation gone tragically wrong. An elite commando loses his forearm. The angel tattooed onto his arm is sliced in half. And the man acquires a new nickname. Brother Half Angel is the leader of a secret new church military order, dedicated to helping Christians under attack around the world. In this book, the first in the Military Orders series, he is dispatched urgently to China, where an underground seminary is under siege from fanatical sword-wielding members of a local cult who still pay homage to the bloodthirsty extremists who tried to expel all foreigners from China in the nineteenth century. But at the same time the seminary has its own internal divisions. The director, Uncle Ling, a hero of the underground Chinese church, holds secrets that he cannot reveal. And now the tensions are threatening the marriage of idealistic young American missionary Daniel Westloke and his wife Jenny. Relentless suspense is the hallmark of this gripping thriller. But it is also a book that raises serious questions – how far can Christians go to defend themselves? When should they turn the other cheek? What happens when a Christian kills in self-defense? And should those who live by the sword really expect to die by the sword?



The plot of this book intrigued me, as it involves Christian special ops. It is far easier to accept special ops in the secular world but in Christian circles and specifically the Mission field? I have come across this type of ops in other Christian novels, namely the Coil Series by D. I. Telbat (yet to read), The Diaries of Pontius Pilate by Joseph Max Lewis and a trilogy (no trilogy name) by Alton Gansky and Jeff Struecker. One other similar genre is the Riley Covington series by Jason Elam and Steve Yohn where the main character is a Christian in a conventional secular special ops team.

I must confess that I had some trepidation in reading this novel and still have in regards to the 4 remaining in this series that I have yet to read. The reason is that overseas missions is not something I can relate to or want to be involved in. One the surface that seems to be against the Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:16-20, but I just find this very scary and foreign. I am more at ease in and find challenging enough, the "mission field" of my family and friends and work colleagues!

However, I must say that I did enjoy this novel. It gave me a good introduction into what the mission field is like, and did evoke further the trepidation I mentioned in the beginning. However, this trepidation turned into a healthy respect and admiration for these characters of Chinese, Korean and American nationality to risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel under such oppression and hatred of the same. I shared in Jenny's fear, indignation of the effects of this hatred and persecution on their lives and her questioning whether they should remain, I agreed with Daniels reasoning about being obedient and understanding the culture of the population and what is behind the hatred of Christianity, I sympathised with Uncle Ling in his anger towards the experience of suffering and persecution of Western Christians versus Eastern Christians and the condescending attitude Western Christians, namely Americans, have towards those Christians in the Mission field.

I reacted towards the violence and hatred expressed verbally and physically by the Boxers towards the staff of Uncle Ling's seminary. However, I was expecting this on both accounts to be of a much stronger intensity as portrayed in movies I have seen or the reports in the media. I am not promoting violence in novels or movies or real life but, I feel that if this verbal/physical abuse was of a greater intensity in this novel, it would have portrayed the reality of the persecution experienced by Christians and the hatred of Christians by the Boxers in a far more realistic way. But I have not been to the mission field whereas, Martin Roth has, and he is portraying his experiences as he sees fit.

This novel does raises some controversial questions as outlined in the book description: how far can Christians go to defend themselves? When should they turn the other cheek? What happens when a Christian kills in self-defense? And should those who live by the sword really expect to die by the sword? The author has debated and answered to a certain degree these questions in introducing the history of The New Mercedarians special ops team and those teams in the past such as The Knights Templar and The Hospitaliers. I am sure further content of these answers will be forthcoming in the remaining books in the series. It is from this perspective that the author has based this series on, the persecution of the church in non Western countries and military special ops (governed by specific military orders and code of conduct) in response to this persecution. It is also at this point in this novel that he introduces the character of Brother Half Angel,  a man with commitment to Christ, past military experience, but flawed character when it comes to self control and being obedient to this special ops team who is sent to restore order and be a resource to the Christian seminary. It is his expertise and Daniel's curiosity that uncovers a secret concerning Uncle Ling that is contributing to this persecution and affects the final outcome of the novel.

Roth has portrayed well the issues of the persecuted church but, I feel, at the expense of the development of the characters. While very likeable or very despisable (as in the Boxers), they can appear to be somewhat  two dimensional. This novel would have fared better if this were not the case, but it still makes it one very enjoyable and worthwhile read. It has made me want to continue with the rest of this series as well as investigate his other series of novels. 

I look forward to the next book in this series.
Strongly Recommended. My Rating:


  1. Gee, I didn't know Martin had written this series. I've read the first of his Johnny Ravine series. Martin's prolific and quite understated.

    Good review Pete.

    1. Thanks Ian, I am looking forward to the Johnny Ravine series. Like I have with you, I have found another favourite author!!


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