In ancient Israel, at the crossroads of the great trading routes, a man named Benaiah is searching for a fresh start in life. He has joined a band of soldiers led by a warlord named David, seeking to bury the past that refuses to leave him. Their ragged army is disgruntled and full of reckless men. Some are loyal to David, but others are only with him for the promise of captured wealth.
While the ruthless and increasingly mad King Saul marches hopelessly against the powerful Philistines, loyal son Jonathan in tow, the land of the Hebrew tribes has never been more despondent-and more in need of rescue. Over the course of ten days, from snowy mountain passes to sword-wracked battlefields, Benaiah and his fellow mercenaries must call upon every skill they have to survive and establish the throne for David-if they don't kill each other first.
Cliff Graham's debut novel, Day of War, is a unique addition to the Biblical Fiction genre and I found much to like in this retelling of David's battles alongside his fierce and faithful warriors. I was particularly enamoured with Cliff's portrayal of the charismatic and conflicted David, as he and his rag tag army of mercenaries roamed and fought in ancient Israel. Jonathan is also drawn with intelligence and insight and while they do not cross paths in the time frame of this story, their abiding friendship is evidenced well. Benaiah, who carries much of the story, reflects the staunch, career warrior who comes to realise he betrayed his wife with his dedication to the fight. Cliff has a gift for characterisation and there is plenty of opportunity to display it with the numerous main players from Benaiah to David, Jonathan to Saul, Keth, Garab, Eliam and Josheb. Earthy conversations, bloody battles and gallows humour are thankfully all present reflecting the lot of a warrior rather than sanitizing a story that is unquestionably gruesome as well as heroic. Check out the Biblical books of Samuel or Chronicles and you will get the picture. While there are fearsome battles, wrestling with lions and suicidal missions, Cliff includes the frailties and fears of these men adding excellent texture and depth to the tale. On occasion, the descriptive prose was overdone and some scenes too drawn out, but I expect to see some tightening of the plot and language as Cliff continues to hone his craft in the remaining four novels. Men will thrive on these books but women, do not discount them! Anyone who loves a gritty and authentic read will be hooked by Cliff's stories and his marvelous characterisation and hopefully will venture back to the Scriptures which inspired Cliff to pen the adventures and failures of David and his Mighty Men.
PS. I think the cover art is brilliant :) And be on the lookout for the movie in due course.
With thanks to Zondervan for my review copy
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