Wednesday 29 August 2018

Gods They Had Never Known by Julie Helms

Gods They Had Never Known 

They will enhance your lives,

expand your fortunes,

better your health,

destroy your soul. 

The Guardians look down from their mountaintop to the valley of men below—and they desire the women they see. Abandoning their rightful home, they commence their plan to infiltrate mankind amicably but with disastrous consequences.

Haven, a young man of strong faith, lives in the pleasant valley that is now under invasion. A blind prophet has been warning the people for years, but Haven seems to be the only one listening. The Guardians, who look like men--but are not-- exchange forbidden knowledge for the use of the mortal women. The people love the new technologies and how they improve their lives, turning a blind eye to the monstrosities that are born of these unions. As violence and depravity increase in the valley, Haven desperately tries to warn the people—and the woman he loves—that judgement is coming, putting himself in the crosshairs of both the Guardians and their malevolent offspring.

In this epic retelling of 1 Enoch: Book of the Watchers and Genesis 6:1-4, experience the plunge into chaos when the divine order of creation is violated, leading to idolatry, corruption, and the threat of extermination.

The Guru's Review: 

I volunteered to review this novel when Julie Helms asked for advice in a Facebook group how to publish her debut work and offered free electronic copies for review. For me, this was a no-brainer as the topic concerning fallen angels and the Nephilim is a favourite genre of mine. 

Straight up, I will say that for a debut novel, this is very impressive! It does not read like one. It is well constructed and has a natural flow. No peaks and troughs. It would not surprise me if future readers read this in one sitting or over the course of one day. I got frustrated when I could only read this on my train journey to and from work and on my lunch breaks. I was so engrossed in each sitting that many times, I nearly missed my train destination or was late back from work!

Helms has a solid command of the English language and is an asset to this novel (as it should be for any novel) but this command does not obstruct your reading, it aids in being a launching pad for the novel, you just sit back and let the story take you on a very enjoyable journey.

What impressed me
 was the fact that Helms has adhered to the Biblical account of the Nephilim and has borrowed from the extra-biblical text of the Book of Enoch. This latter book gives a much more detailed account of the fallen angels and the Nephilim than what has been included in the Bible. This former book was not included in the latter due to it not meeting canonical criteria, one of these being that there were many different versions of it compared to other books of the bible that have few versions of themselves and these books have adhered to exact copying of these books. However, one of the main reasons for the Book of Enoch rejection from Canon is that it contains a lot of false doctrine or conflicts with various doctrines of Scripture. Go here for a specific list of these.

These reasons alone are enough to still polarize Christians today. There are two camps, those who will only accept the books of the Bible (due to them meeting the canonical criteria as stated above and are Scriptural) and those who also accept the Book of Enoch as 
having some historical or theological interest although not inspired by God as the books in Bible have been. However, this book is regarded as canonical by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Helms is not the only author to have based their fiction on Biblical texts and the Book of Enoch. Many other Christian authors have done so and some secular authors have either ignored the Biblical account, referenced it only, or used poetic licence from the content of the Book of Enoch only.

Helms has adhered to both and built her story around this content. I must say that I found the complete product very convincing. In some of fallen angels/Nephilim novels both secular and Christian, the authors have not expounded much on the finer details of why the Nephilim were created or the agenda of the fallen angels, but this novel does and its inclusion not only adds depth to the plot but sets the stage for the spiritual elements of this novel and the judgement that the Bible has outlined for the fallen angels. And it is the reason for these inclusions that is one of the motivations for Helms writing this novel. 

I decided to contact the author to let her know that I loved it. In the conversation that followed, we talked about her motivation for writing it and this reinforced my previous decision to review this novel. It seems that there is so much ignorance, denial, rejection and controversy among the Church about the very topic of the Nephilim; who they are, how they were created, will they and how they will return, the origin of demons, God's judgement of the fallen angels, etc. When Helms would talk about the ins and outs of these two topics or teach it in her Bible classes very few were aware of what the Bible says about fallen angels and Nephilim. And Churches of today (no matter what denomination) do not instruct or educate their congregations in these issues. It is either too hard, too controversial, or will affect the reputation of the Pastor or the Church or affect church adherence for this to be expounded upon (there are many more reasons!). We have both had some negative and severe warnings from Church authorities about these topics. In my case, it affected the relationships between my fellow Christians. Being a heretic and being led astray by false doctrine are just two of the accusations I have had to deal with, albeit from those who know nothing or very little about these topics!  Helms' motivation to write this novel was to expound on the facts as outlined in the Bible and to present supporting accounts that do support the biblical account (as in the Book of Enoch despite it being considered to contain false doctrine regarding other topics it contains).

And it is against this plot construction and motivation that Helms has successfully created a novel that not only entertains but educates about fallen angels, Nephilim, both of their origins, the origins of demons, spiritual warfare, God's judgement, resting on God's promises, taking a stand for God and  remaining faithful when dire circumstances occur including to the point of death. I applaud Helms for this as one cannot expound on the issues surrounding fallen angels and the Nephilim without showing the spiritual side of it concerning what God and the Bible have to say about it. That is a responsibility of all Christians in our witness to others that we present all the facts backed up with the spiritual side and especially this latter element. Helms is very successful here.

How does Helm show this in this novel? She uses a character called the Teller, a blind prophet, to represent the voice of God and to instruct, educate, encourage and confront the evilness of not only the fallen angels and Nephilim but any person who has been deceived and then participated in their demonic and nefarious schemes to lead the community away from God and become spiritually oppressed as a result. Enter one of the main characters, Haven, who has a strong faith in God and who is led by the truth as spoken by the Teller and encouraged by Haven's father to always listen to what this Teller has to say. He becomes quite the evangelist in alerting members of his community who the Guardians really are and what the agenda is even evoking anger from others death threats from both the demons and the fallen angels (Guardians in this novel).

As a response to this Helms introduces angelic warfare where members of the Heavenly Host are engaged to protect Haven and Rachel against these threats. This is together with Rachel calling on the name of God (Shalliyt, in this novel) where she came under demonic attack while asleep. These Heavenly Host also resist the temptation from the Guardians to join them in their rebellion against Shalliyt. I applaud Helms for portraying these Host as they are depicted in the Bible. So many other Christian authors and secular ones as well depict angels as either more than or less than what they Biblically are. In some cases, they are given more autonomy and independence than what the Bible depicts them as having. Sometimes poetic licence can be very misleading and inappropriate, but that is not ok if the author knows they will have to give an account to God of their actions. 

Helms has depicted the Guardians as tall (all over 7 feet tall) handsome, muscular, ever so polite, gentlemanly like with decorum and intelligence. Young women fall for them without question and so do their parents who give them over to the Guardians in marriage in exchange for knowledge and practices in metallurgy, technology, fashion, and the dark arts of astronomy and the supernatural and weaponry resulting in profitable financial and economic community. But unknown to the community at the time, all this comes with a heavy and destructive price. It is here that Helms very competently shows the finer details of the interaction between the Guardians and the human population that seems to be missing in other novels of this genre and in this one it results in a very plausible and credible account. So is the progressive destructiveness of the consequences of this union between Guardians and the human population resulting in the decay on all levels of the established community: spiritual, financial, moral, ethical, marital, and on all levels of personal relationships. This results in one last warning announced by the Teller of Shalliyt's coming judgement if people do not repent and abandon their sinful ways and return to a relationship with Shalliyt.

This leads to an action-packed and suspenseful ending albeit a fast one at that.  

I can imagine the author having some very difficult decisions to make in how to depict the violence and sexual promiscuity/fornication of the Guardians and Nephilim with the human population of women. Even more so how to depict what the Bible and the Book of Enoch say about them corrupting sexually various animal species resulting in hybrid offspring. However, Helms must have realised there was no need for any gratuitous descriptions of such so she has kept it to a minimum and played it safe. There is only one scene where the detail is slightly more but again, this stays within the no graffic/gratuitous boundaries she set. This scene is necessary to allow a character to see exactly who the Guardians are, what is their agenda and for her to have nothing to do with them on any level. It also acted to further consolidate in Haven that he must alert his community of this spiritual and physical threat to their very livelihood.

Helms has been more graphic in depicting the violence between the Nephilim towards each other and the human population, but it is not enough to detract from the themes of the novel or included just to add action and suspense to the plot. There is more than enough of the intricacies of its themes for that to be necessary at all. It does, however, show just what the Bible and the Book of Enoch mention concerning their behaviour. In both Helms depiction of the mixing of the genes of the Guardians with humans and of animals, their offspring were more violent, destructive, erratic and immoral than their individual parent species and this just adds more to the reason for Shalliyt's decision to exact His judgement on this community just as he had done in the Bible concerning Noah and his Ark. Just goes to show that when you cross a boundary set by God, it always ends in a no-win situation. In this case, it shows why God created each species to reproduce after their own kind and only within their own kind. If mankind or other created beings act in defiance and rebellion against God and cross this boundary to mock Him, then this is the result. Elimination or a permanent and eternal punishment. God is Sovereign and will not be mocked.

Helms has been very graphic and specific in depicting how it may have been for the first demons to possess spiritually and physically a willing human. I do not know of all the specifics for this to happen (I know enough of how it does happen in today's society) so to say that how Helms depicted it is total adherence to actual practices or if there is any poetic licence used, I would have to do more research or ask the author. However, this depiction shows how easy it is for the undiscerning or vulnerable members of society to be lured into the false promises from these demons. What Helms depicted here is very occultic and definitely, a crossing of yet another boundary and one warned by God, in the Bible, to not have anything to do with this. Yet again, and not surprisingly, the consequences will lead to the spiritual bondage of those involved unless they see the truth of this sinful/occultic lifestyle and repent of it and be restored to God. Again, I can see Christians being polarized by the depiction of who these demons are compared to other depictions in other novels based on what those authors (and certain Churches for that matter) consider to be the true origin of demons and who they are.

I can also see this novel will polarize readers from both of the Christian groups mentioned earlier in this review or even maybe those from a non-Christian background. However, if any reader decides to read the Biblical accounts of the fallen angels and Nephilim and the Book of Enoch and other accounts from Christian apologists and scholars, then I am sure that such polarization and criticism/scepticism would be alleviated and the reader then convinced of the Biblical account.

My prayer for this novel is that the Spirit of God will use this to do just that in the reader. For the Christian reader, to show them the veracity of the Biblical account and for the non-Christian, the same but to show them who God is, His love for them, His gift of salvation and redemption and be drawn to Him to accept this.  

I highly recommend this novel. Read it for what it is and with an open mind. Research the Bible and the Book of Enoch and other reputable Christian resources that support and further expound on this subject.

The way the novel ended, at first I wondered why it was left undone then realised that it could be set up for a sequel. I am hoping that this is the case. If not, then this is my only gripe about this novel.

I am looking forward to more from this author. Julie Helms has such a promising future.

Highly Recommended.

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

The two classifications below are based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland: 

Spiritual Level 4/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.6/5
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