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This novel of Roman-occupied Palestine, circa 15 A.D., is a sharp and engaging read. It does not, despite its setting, foreshadow the events of the life of Jesus. Instead, it focuses on Ezera, a teenager with an ordinary, troubled family and dead-end life, who wanted nothing to do with politics and treachery. The threats of a mysterious stranger and the ensuing wrath of the occupying Roman forces push him into increasingly desperate schemes to keep his village safe.
Despite a few linguistic anachronisms, easily overlooked, the historical setting is firm and well established. The action is constant, grim and gripping. The outcomes of the teenagers’ plots to help each other and the town only increases the pathos of life under Roman rule, with its constant and shocking brutality. For anyone with an appetite for realistic historical fiction of the period, I recommend this book.