Tuesday 18 July 2017

An Ember In Time by Anna Aquino

In a time where Pastor Jon Stevens feels like he has lost his hope . . .
One Divine Encounter will change his life.
One mistake that started with a simple flower, will begin to unravel history.
And one spark will illuminate the way home.

The Guru's Review: 

I bought this novel in April 2016 and had not read it yet. The author contacted me through my blog to ask me for a review of the sequel, A Marriage In Time. This has been released this month. I agreed but stated I would need to read An Ember In Time first. 

I can honestly say that I am very happy that Anna contacted me. I don't know when I would have read this novel. I have a very large list of novels waiting to be read.

Now having read it, I am in awe at this novel. I agree with one of the Editorial reviews on Amazon who suggested that this novel is destined to be a Classic. This is simply a humbling experience.There are so few novels around where you feel the Spirit in the novel and I felt Him in this one. 

This is the first novel of Aquino's I have read and it won't be the last. I am so looking forward to its sequel, A Marriage In Time and the third novel, A Legacy In Time. These three novels are based on the events surrounding Bathsheba and Uriah (An Ember In Time), King David and his adultery with Bathsheba (A Marriage In Time) and which of his sons to succeed him (A Legacy In Time). This first novel is a very imaginative creation on Aquino's part and so is the description of its sequel. 

I am not one for biblical historical fiction but when an author like Aquino adds a unique twist to it, then I am hooked. Aquino has grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. Two twists here did this for me. The first is time travel. I love time travel novels as the whole idea of it opens up vast scope for plot, action, suspense, speculative imagination and fantasy. The second, in that, going back in time and having the main character inadvertently affect the outcome of the Bible that would have grave and disastrous consequences for God's plan of salvation and everything connected with it does more than pique my interest and curiosity. It engages me totally and I have to see what happens and how this situation is reversed. 

Aquino pulls this off with humour and humility. I love her writing style. Through this, she brings to life the time of King David, the Jewish culture and customs, Uriah's family and Bathsheba's. Most authors are very successful in embedding you in the story through the development of the main character so that you see everything through them and to them you become endeared. I can say that Aquino is the master at this. I have not become so endeared to a character as Jon Stevens for quite a while. This character has so much depth and realism, you finish the novel feeling as though you have known him intimately (platonically) all your life. Aquino is successful as she is writing this character based on her experience as a Pastor. You can feel the depth of her experience from this. They say authors need to write what they know. Aquino is very competent here. More importantly, you experience the love she has put into this character for God, which of course just shows the same love she has for God. Ironic (planned by the author? ) that this novel is set in King David's time and who is attributed out of all the characters of the Bible to have a heart after God than anyone else!

I love reading novels from authors who are also Pastors. I find their novels provide a different aspect of Christian Fiction. I did not know Aquino was a Pastor until I read her Bio from her request for me to review the sequel. So I was more than encouraged to read this novel. Just as a Pastor is masterful at delivering a message in a sermon, I feel this same talent takes on a whole new meaningful aspect when a Pastor uses this to write fiction. I am not saying that an author is any less of an author if they are not a Pastor. A few times, while reading a novel, without realising the author is a Pastor, I start to think, "I wonder if this author is a Pastor? "and find out that they are. 

What is it about the writing of an author who is a Pastor? Firstly I feel the Shepherd side of the Pastor's calling comes to the fore in their novels. Secondly, their experience with dealing with people from this perspective. Thirdly, they see things from God's point of view in all things. Fourth, they need to show us the truth of the situation we are in and point us to Jesus. 

Aquino's humour adds great flavour to this novel and as part of Steven's personality. It adds a lightness to the suspense and seriousness of Steven's dilemma while adding a cohesiveness that works well. I would love to see what type of Pastor would graduate from seminary if all the extra topics and skills that Stevens suggests from some of the humorous experiences he encounters while trying to convince Bethseba to marry Uriah! It might just make them even more relational to their congregation and be well rounded and better adapted to their occupation! You will have to read the novel to see what I mean here! Aquino definitely has a great sense of humour and one that is seasoned by her Pastoral experience! Reading this novel, you cannot but laugh as you relate to Stevens' awkward, but well meaning, attempts to right the wrong he inadvertently caused.

I found this one well-constructed novel. Aquino's research of the biblical time frame has been applied appropriately and expertly, providing a solid foundation for the story. This adds a great measure of authenticity to the backdrop of this novel and makes it easy for the plot to unravel against. 

I get very particular with the depiction of angels. I rejoice when an author adheres to the biblical depiction of them as Messengers (Malak), advisers and warriors. No such problem with Aquino's depiction here. There are examples of these roles in the novel. Initially, where the angel Sergio delivered God's mission to Jon. Then during his time in Khirbet Qeilyafa, Sergio gave him much needed counsel during Jon's many and varied difficult situations where he struggled with the details of his mission. And when the demons attacked Jon, Sergio fought them off in warrior mode. 

The other aspect that I appreciated being true to the angelic Biblical record was that Sergio only acted under the instruction of what God instructed him. Kudos to Aquino for adhering to these principles. She honoured God and showed respect for His Word and creation. 

I do have one concern though. I appreciate that authors take poetic licence with various aspects of a plot and it constructs. In a few other novels, I have found the depiction of angels having technology for various functions. I do not understand why this is associated with angels. In this novel, Sergio uses a machine to transport Stevens through time. He also uses a text-like device (controller) to receive instruction from God. I find this frustrating and annoying. God is sovereign, supernatural, and omnipotent (as well as omniscience and omnipresent). Why would He need these devices for His angels to use? With the attributes and qualities just described, He would be able to give instructions to His angels supernaturally. Just as described in the bible to various human characters. The Bible talks about being translated from one place to another so why does Sergio need a machine to transport Stevens? It could be interpreted that the use of technology by God or His angels undermines the Sovereignty of God. If our God is a supernatural, omnipotent God, He does not need technology for any act on His part or an angel's to act on His instruction or Will. The Biblical depiction of angels in the Bible is totally technology free and they operate in the supernatural power given to them by God.  The use of technology can be left to the human race who needs it! 

I am certain that Aquino's inclusion of technology was not to undermine the Sovereignty of God. If it was, it would contradict all the other God honouring aspects that she has included in this novel and her experience as a Pastor. Despite this, I am not too concerned with this issue as Sergio only uses this technology a few times and it does not detract to any great degree from the main tenets of the plot. Or from my total enjoyment of it. 

I read in the Amazon Editorial Reviews that this novel,
transforms you and reignites the fire and passion of your purpose
As you read you will be led on a journey that is sure to kindle a greater passion for the Lord and His purpose for your life 
I was very excited about this. I wondered while reading when the message behind this would occur. There are bits of it interspersed throughout, but the full message comes when all the plot lines converge leading to Stevens being powerless and at the end of himself. It is here that he has an encounter with Jesus. Aquino's narrative is very powerful and shows an intimate knowledge of what a person is like when they lose their way from God's will and plan for their life. Aquino has depicted powerfully the mercifulness of Jesus, the love and compassion for a broken soul and I feel her account of this is Spirit led. From being in ministry up until a decade ago (not as a Pastor, but as singer/worship leader), I can identify with the dilemma that Aquino has depicted in Stevens. Throughout this narrative and plot line, I felt as if I was Stevens. I cried throughout this section. I felt I was being restored and ministered to by Jesus as Stevens was as depicted by Aquino. I can definitely see the truth in the authors of these Editorial Reviews. 

This section has touched Aquino deeply as well. As much as a Christan author allows themselves to be used by the Spirit to deliver a message in fiction, they are affected too. Such is the ministry of the Spirit! In an email to the author about receiving a review copy of A Marriage In Time, I made the comment how affected I was by the narrative explained above. She replied, 
That scene with Jon in the cave makes me cry still. I bawled when I wrote it, and so many people come back to me that it has that same touch to them. I am so glad it ministered to you.
I can see by this, that Aquino has found her niche as a novelist. This just backs up what I have said in previous reviews and from my Why Christian Fiction? tab on this blog, that I expect from Christian fiction: 
  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 
Aquino ticks all these boxes for me in this novel. It is one fun, uplifting, humbling experience. She has quite a talent for delivering a Spirit filled message without it being preachy or a 'how to' scenario. 

I am very much looking forward to A Marriage In Time and A Legacy Time. Aquino is one author I have added to my favourite list. 

Highly Recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5 

Overall Rating 4.6/5 Stars 


Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet,

A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that An Ember In Time contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award Anna M. Aquino with

The Reality Calling Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Anna Aquino!

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