Wednesday 13 November 2013
Reign of Silence by Tony Martin
A Supernatural Tale of Ancient Sin
Reign of Silence is the story of Joshua Nix, a young pastor who comes to serve a church in the small county seat town of St. Helena, Alabama. Events there – which seem to be precipitated by his fascination with the supernatural – cause his life and his rational worldview to be changed forever.
After the mysterious disappearance of her parents, Meredith Dubose, last surviving member of an aristocratic Southern family, experiences … psychological trauma from unresolved grief? A true “haunting” in her ancestral home? A demonic siege? As Joshua seeks to minister to Meredith, he finds himself obsessing over her and her plight – causing strain on his marriage and his relationship to his church. Joshua ultimately learns the horrific truth of the supernatural events and a shattering truth about himself.
Events begin innocuously enough, with Meredith, still grieving over her parents, noticing subtle changes in the atmosphere of her house. Distant whispered voices, shadowy figures half-glimpsed … she doubts her reason, her reality. Introduced to Joshua by her best friend, she sees in him a counselor, a comforter, perhaps something else. And Joshua, caught unawares by her innocent charms, finds himself more involved than he - or his wife Bethany – would like.
Manifestations intensify, with the turning point being an apparent transient possession of Meredith by some evil entity. Joshua finds himself consulting with a paranormal expert, “Precious” McRae, who flaunts the conventions of the stereotypical “ghost hunter” as popularized by television reality shows by approaching the situation from a Christian context – with unexpected and terrifying results. Joshua learns of perverse events in Meredith’s familial past and his providential connection to her and her ancestors. From the first contact with the paranormal to the final paroxysm, Joshua, Meredith, and the others in the story grapple with forces beyond their experience or beliefs.
A very good debut novel by Tony Martin. This is a different perspective on the bible verse of Exodus 20:5,
"You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me".
Usually this decree is manifested in the lives of those of the third and fourth generations but in this novel, it ends in the third or fourth generations. The beginning of this particular sin is beginning to manifest in the main character, but he is kept in check by his wife and an elder of the church. At first I wondered why the author included this subplot concerning the main character but as you progress towards the end, it all became clear and what a twist that was!! Very nicely done!!
This novel is different from another angle as well. In Something Stirs by Thomas Smith and Adverse Possession by Jess Hanna, the house is haunted by demons, and both these Christian authors portray demonic activity and its devastating effects on the occupants of the house very well and yes, very scary. In Reign of Silence, Martin has the haunting not by demons but by the spirits of the ancestors of Merediths family who are the subject of the Exodus 20:5 verse. It is through Meredith becoming a Christian and Joshua already a Christian and using the Word of God (and even the words of the hymn A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther) that this curse from Exodus is broken and one of the ancestors is freed, the other not as he rejects the forgiveness of God while Meredith and Joshua are also freed as well.
I loved Martin's use of the biblical aspect of spiritual warfare here. It was used well and not preachy. It blended in well with the plot. It was good to see how this also encouraged the other main members to take their walk with God more seriously.
I have only one criticism. I found it a bit difficult having the Pastor and other Christian characters portrayed by the author as being very ignorant about what these manifestations in the house and what Meredith and Christine experienced then Joshua and the others encountered could be. The demonic or supernatural seemed to be the last conclusion they arrived at. I was expecting the author to portray them with a bit more savviness about this activity being supernatural and demonic until proved otherwise (in this case earth bound human spirits). However, I did enjoy the progression of these characters in how they came to the conclusion that this was supernatural and had to be dealt with God's way and using the Bible.
Another thing, Martin did well was portray the culture and attitudes of the southern life of America. There were instances where you knew you were in the American South by the language, the food, the description of the culture, even when this author described the history of Meredith family in the 1800s and 1900s. That added credibility to the story and characters.
I did chuckle at the usage of Y'all which is typical of the American South! I just cannot see us here in Australia saying that but then we say some equally unique words and terms!
The author also described the frustration of being a pastor well, the church politics and congregational expectations well. All this fitted in nicely to the plot. I wonder if Martin's real life experience shows here?
Martin tied up all the loose ends very well in the ending. It enabled me to leave this story with fond memories of the plot and characters. That is one sign of a talented writer.
This has become one of my favourite Christian horror novels.
I look forward to more of this author's work.
Highly Recommended. My Rating: