Such is the case with Chronicles of the Kings, a biblical history novel series by Lynn Austin. The five books in the series are:
Gods and Kings
Song of Redemption
The Strength of His Hand
Faith of my Fathers
Among the Gods
I originally picked up Gods and Kings because the blurb I had read about the series said it was about Hezekiah, who is tied for first place with Josiah as my favorite Old Testament king. Gods and Kings begins with the story of the evil, Molech-worshiping king of Judah, Ahaz. As the series progresses, we also walk through the reigns of Ahaz’s righteous son Hezekiah, who sets out to restore Judah both materially and spiritually after Ahaz’s idolatry, and its consequences, have ravaged the land. Hezekiah’s son Manasseh then takes the throne, bringing new meaning to the words polytheism and debauchery. Along the way, we meet with the kings’ contemporaries, Isaiah, Eliakim, Micah, and other biblical as well as fictional characters.
I could insert the obligatory gushing here about how well crafted the stories were and how Ms. Austin’s writing turned me into the literary equivalent of a chain smoker, but there were two things about this series that eclipsed how artfully it was written.
First, Ms. Austin did her homework. And she did it extremely well. As someone who had to research biblical culture, geography, customs, etc., myself for my own book, it is blindingly obvious that the books in the Chronicles of the Kings series were well and thoroughly researched. I can only imagine the hours Ms. Austin must have spent in the biblical text, commentaries, and extrabiblical historical sources. From details about dress to architecture to meals, Ms. Austin was attentive to the minor tidbits that helped me “see” what was happening and feel like I was part of the story.
On a more “macro” level, Ms. Austin’s description of Assyrian warfare, atrocities, and sweep to tyrannical domination over the Middle East gave me a clearer picture of the way events transpired that supported and even clarified the biblical text for me. If you have ever wondered why God used the Assyrians as an arm of judgment against Judah and Israel, or if you have ever wondered why God commanded that nations similar to Assyria be wiped off the face of the earth, you’ll understand after reading Chronicles of the Kings. Normally, I would never recommend that people go to a novel for clarity on details in God’s word, but Ms. Austin’s research is that good.
Finally, and most importantly, Ms. Austin gets the theology right, and in a way that is applicable to believers on this side of the cross. Her characters come to the realization that salvation is through grace, not through the works of empty ritual. That anything we put before God, even our own ideas of who God is, is an idol. That any sinner, no matter how despicable, can repent and experience God’s forgiveness. And on, and on, and on. I rarely read Christian fiction because I have found so much poor and even heretical theology in so many books in this genre. But somewhere around the middle of this series, I nearly came to tears as I realized that Ms. Austin was going to stay true to God’s word and not let me down by stooping to ear tickling or apostasy. And for that, I sincerely thank her.
All of the books in the series are available through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and CBD. The Kindle, Nook, and e-version of the first book in the series, Gods and Kings, is currently free at these sites. You may also, as I did, be able to find Chronicles of the Kings at your local library.
I highly recommend the Chronicles of the Kings series. I can’t say enough good things about it.