Authors: Bodie & Brock Thoene
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
History, suspense, romance, tragedy, and edification. This is what you will get out of the Zion Covenant Series. I’ve rarely read a series with such drama and suspense, and so well written, as this one. Though not every book was perfect, and I found a few to be lacking compared to the others, this is a series that teaches and entertains like few others. The scope is breathtaking, and the development engaging. These are books worth the time and emotional investment to read.
To begin, and especially for those who have not read my previous posts on the series, The Zion Covenant Series covers the timespan between WWI and the start of WWII. Almost all of the events take place somewhere in Europe. Through the lives of many different people, you are taken across Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, England, a brief glimpse of America, and Israel, along with a couple of other countries I am sure I have forgotten.
While the books take place in the real world, circling real events, I would be remiss if I did not mention the world-building. It is not as though you are given some two-dimensional character and placed into a scene with no context. The historical context is built into multiple facets of the writing, from scene description, language, and dress, to name a couple. It is a very well-written piece of historical fiction. Especially in the first few books, you get a decent perspective of the scope of the world while at the same time being fully immersed in the specific character you are with. The attention to detail is appreciated.
As mentioned above, the plot follows events leading up to and during WWII. There are, however, other subplots as well, and you get to engage with characters that are either composites of real people or are the real players of this great war itself. The composite characters provided the writers with more freedom to engage the purely fictional characters than they could with historical people. I found this way of storytelling a great way to learn the history of these events and viscerally empathize with the real people who are brought to life through these characters.
In the beginning, you follow the lives of one family, and specifically one woman in that family, and the people whose lives she touches. This is how you get brought around the world and participate in world events. The story surrounding each character not only drives the plot but helps the reader understand how events happening in a specific place affected the whole world. Along the way, I was reminded that events play out the same way today. Events happening on the other side of the world can affect my own little corner of it and vice versa. By having multiple “subplots” woven into the grand, and fixed, narrative of history, I learned more about the lives of these long-gone people, myself, and the people of the world today.
Particular lives affected me strongly throughout the series. The ones that touched me the most involved those that demonstrated the helplessness of the Jewish people. It would be difficult to say that any life was left untouched by the wars of Europe. There are the lives of the people living under the start of tyranny, the lives of persecuted Christians standing up for their faith, the “neutrals” who just wanted to be left alone and live their lives, and the covert operators trying to make a quiet different, often giving up their lives for many more. But the plight of the Jews hits home the most. Country after country kicked these people out of places they had lived in for centuries and were either left without a country or systematically killed. They were unwanted by everyone, and everyone blamed them for their plight of existing.
What was most amazing about the plot is that the writers managed to weave suspense throughout. You find yourself rooting for people wouldn’t expect, or those you know will only lead to sorrow, and still be surprised by the outcomes of various people. You find yourself sympathizing with people you wouldn’t expect as well as they struggle with the reality that they are on the wrong side. You’ll be amazed at the heroic efforts of those trying to save a few, the amazing cruelty of the Nazis, and the willful ignorance and apathy of the rest of the world. You really get into the hearts and minds of people, unlike reading a history textbook or even most other historical fiction. This series is just as much about the real history as the characters these stories involve. The history moves the plot. And that is the amazing thing. I knew only a little about WWII before starting the series, and I knew many of the significant events of world history that led to it. But this book still keeps you guessing until the end, even when you know how it all plays out.
As a brief note, the writing style is mostly smooth. It is mostly written from a third-person omniscient perspective. On occasion, it is a little difficult to tell which character you are taking the perspective of. Overall, the transitions are smooth and allow you to get into the character’s head, enabling you to take part in historical events.
I have only a couple of real complaints about the series. The first six books are amazing. They flowed well together, and each book followed up with the same few characters. You could feel the drama, the tragedy, and the hope through the connected narrative. This was less true with the last three books, and the narrative was a lot more disjointed. The authors introduced about a dozen new characters. This was primarily, I think, to help glean the perspective of events in new parts of the world, namely France at the start of WWII. However, it gave the story a bit of choppy ending, though still dramatic. Some character storylines were left hanging. And while the authors wrapped up a good number of the character plots, the ending felt hurried.
My understanding is that these books were “director’s cuts” and that there a couple of other companion books in addition to these nine. These last couple of books did not make the series any less worth reading, or the information any less helpful, but I found them quite distinct from the first six books, which was disappointing to me. I struggle to say how much I would want them to change, though, as there were some new characters I grew to love. I just would have preferred some sense of completion for them all, even if they all would not have received the happy ending that I love!
Overall, the series is fantastic. It is well written and well researched. I am glad that I have read it and I think it would be enjoyable for a variety of people. If you like history, suspense, a little romance, adventure, and a great story, these are the books for you. You’ll get a little of everything, including believable characters, in the Zion Covenant Series, and you’ll learn a lot along the way. I hope you will pick these books up and, as I was, be edified by them in your enjoyment along the way.
Blessings to you and yours,
~Madelyn Rose Craig