Official Book Review

August 25, 2016

For Christians and non-Christians alike, The Holy Bible is a tome full of mystery, riddles, and speculation. As such, the stories contained therein have spawned an entire genre of fictitious tales seeking to explain the unanswered questions of the Christian holy book. Whether it be the story of creation, the location of the Garden of Eden, the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, or the healing power of the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, countless authors have found success speculating The Bible’s timeless lore. The Sword of Goliath, the first book of The Bloodline Chronicles by Anthony Jones, is no different. Drawing on the controversy surrounding the Nephilim, half-angel half-human beings who are briefly mentioned in the sixth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Mr. Jones has crafted a tale that assumes the bloodline of the Nephilim still exists. Although they are unaware, these powerful beings walk the earth as regular humans until being “awakened” by another member of the bloodline. Some are righteous; some are demonic. All are called to be soldiers in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Sword of Goliath focuses itself primarily on a man named Jacob (or Jake) Stanton, who is spending his days in San Quentin Penitentiary for a crime he did not commit. Jake was wrongly accused, unfairly tried, and unreasonably sentenced for the murder of his wife, and he’s just lost his final appeal. As Jake begins to mentally prepare for life inside the walls of San Quentin, he’s assigned a new cell-mate, Stephen Stross. Stross befriends Jake and, in earning Jake’s trust, convinces him that he is a member of the Shaddai. The Shaddai, descendants of the Biblical Nephilim through the bloodline of Seth, are on the hunt for twelve artifacts that will help them to win the final battle over the demonic Grigori; they believe the key to finding one of these powerful artifacts, the sword of Goliath, rests inside the mind of Jake Stanton. After engineering a successful escape from San Quentin, Jake and Stephen begin the quest for the legendary lost sword, but it will not be an easy effort. As escaped convicts, they are on the run from the law; as Shaddai, they are the targets of the Grigori and its evil underlord Zoltar. Jake is going to need every resource imaginable, from skeptical law enforcement agent Sam Jericho; to prophets of the Old Testament; to the hand of God Himself. The Final Battle has begun, not only in this world, but in other unseen dimensions; and Jake Stanton may be the catalyst for victory or the harbinger of doom.

For those who enjoy stories spun out of Biblical speculation, there is much to love about The Sword of Goliath. Foremost is the fact that the cornerstone of this novel is based around a true mystery of the Bible, the fate of the Nephilim. Whereas Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Knox’s The Genesis Secret rely on heavily debunked assertions to support fallacious premises, Anthony Jones contrives this tale around a piece of scripture that, across millennia, has yet to be fully explained or understood. However improbable, the nature of this book still lies within the realm of “possible,” and that alone lends a huge amount of credibility to the author. Also to Mr. Jones’s credit is his ability to extrapolate the ideas of angels and demons, as well as Divine Intervention, through the use of interdimensional worlds. One such world is The Crossing, a Purgatory-like land eerily similar to Dekker’s Other Earth in the Circle series. It is in The Crossing that the Shaddai can communicate with deceased loved ones, Shaddai ancestry (including the prophet Samuel), and even Jesus of Nazareth; The Crossing, as well as other dimensions, serve to both simplify and enhance such Christian ideals as human suffering, unconditional love, and the nature of sin, using both imagery and appropriate narrative. Regarding appropriate narrative, Mr. Jones does the reader a third and final favor: He writes for the appeal of a wide audience. A glaring problem in the Christian Fiction genre is that the characters are often too faithful to be flawed; conversely, secular fiction finds characters so flawed that even a dynamic revelation or redemptive event can’t bring them closer to God. The Sword of Goliath makes no assumptions about the religious background of the reader and instead seeks to tell a good story steeped in the Christian faith while allowing its characters to struggle under the weight of their own humanity.

The Sword of Goliath is a solid story with a great foundation; however, there are a few elements that I found disagreeable, and they all seem to cen  ter on the novel’s two most prominent minor characters, Sam Jericho and Dr. Ruth Springer. These two develop a close relationship as the novel progresses, but their conversations are almost as awkward as two shy seventh graders on a bad blind date. Their verbal communication is always clunky and feels completely forced. Also, Dr. Springer knows way more than she should about the Shaddai and the Grigori. As much of a mystery as the bloodline of the Nephilim is, Springer seems to literally know everything about the two opposing forces, from the hierarchy of each to the fabled twelve instruments, including Goliath’s sword. She dispenses this information at the slightest nudge, and at no point does she stop to question the legitimacy or validity of anything she is saying. What’s worse, though, is that neither does Inspector Jericho. He simply accepts the premise that there are immortal descendants of angels fighting for supreme control of the earth without batting an eyelash. I like Sam Jericho as a character, but when paired with Dr. Springer, the team moves the plot forward in an extremely forced and unfashionable way. That being stated, they are only minor characters, and the majority of the novel is superb and very worthwhile.

My minor plot and character concerns notwithstanding, I can easily rate The Sword of Goliath 3 out of 4 Stars. As soon as I read the final page, I immediately scoured the internet in an attempt to find information on the next installment of The Bloodline Chronicles (alas, I came away empty-handed). The story is fresh, the writing is smooth on the whole, and the main characters are likeable and sympathetic heroes. Anthony Jones has included in this novel everything essential to beginning a traditional high-fantasy saga, albeit with a contemporary, faith-based twist. There’s a little cussing, and the story gets ever-so-slightly steamy at times; but adult fans of Frank Peretti’s Darkness duology, Ted Dekker’s Circle series, and Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles will enjoy what Mr. Jones has brought to the table.

 

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