Review: “The Bronze Bow” by Elizabeth Speare

For the love of books

Undeniably, Christianity changed the course of history.  It is because of the impact of this religion and the resonating qualities of its principles that hundreds of books have been penned about the life of Jesus Christ, the mysterious figure responsible for the initiation of all dogmas rooted in this new way of living.  These publications are not limited, however, to non-fiction; fiction also has its share of historical novels that feature  Christ as the cornerstone of their plots.

The most famous of these are Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ, The Big Fisherman, and The Robe, which all introduce the reader to the life and teachings of an extraordinary being.

However, another contemporary writer decided to write about the environment surrounding one of history’s most famous personae. Elizabeth Speare deviated from her usual concentration on American history by reverting to the far past of the Roman Empire, giving major attention to the province of Palestine during the times of Jesus Christ. It is here that The Bronze Bow originates, its storyline not centered on Jesus Christ but the repercussions of his mission. Christianity slowly touches the tortured conscience of Daniel, a young Jew whose passionate desire to survive is surpassed only by his fervent hatred of the Romans.

Determined to exact vengeance on the military force that has enslaved his country and destroyed his family, Daniel’s Zealot ties are put to the test when responsibility catches up to him.  Called back to the home he deserted as a child, Daniel now must put his dreams of revolution aside in order to care for his troubled younger sister.  Nevertheless, establishing his reputation as a talented blacksmith or creating a new home for his only remaining family does not interfere with Daniel’s pursuit of independence.  How much, though, is Daniel willing to sacrifice for a path of futile hatred and revenge?

First of all, Speare’s descriptions of Christ are quiet and gentle, stirring the most controversial of his doctrines with tête-à-tête conversations by the fire or occasional confrontations.  For Daniel, fighting against the Romans is the only way to avenge his parents’ unjust demise and ease his guilt. However, Christ speaks to Daniel about “loving thy enemies” and repaying in kind.  One of the most powerful ways that the author explains Christ’s stance on vengeance and justice is when Jesus tells Daniel not to return hatred for love.  Daniel has a difficult time to relinquish his grudge and learn how to forgive, a trial that he undergoes during the entire course of the story.

The Bronze Bow portrays a contemplative Christ, one whose words are deep and whose actions are purposeful.  Speare touches on how Christ makes an impression on Jewish society and has profound effects on the characters’ interpretation of life.  The Bronze  have action and adventure as well as romance in the midst of its dramatic layers, but it mostly is about Daniel’s maturity and how he balances his feelings and his impulsive reactions.  However, The Bronze Bow has many other characters that demand to be noticed, such as brave Thacia and Marcus, a Roman centurion who secretly falls in love with Daniel’s meek sister.

There are many bittersweet moments throughout the novel, but at its heart is the powerful transformation of its main characters and their mentalities.  Somehow, Speare connects the New Testament to her historical landscapes in a way that is not superficial or mild.  She binds strength to the light that shines forth from Christ.  Daniel’s thoughts change and yield to the compassion and mercy melded into Christ’s persuasive arguments, and eventually, he becomes a true follower.  However, the greatest lesson that The Bronze Bow presents is that hope and faith come from unselfish love and friendship.

Original review: Part 7: The  legacy of Elizabeth Speare; Part 8: The legacy of Elizabeth Speare; Part 9: The legacy of Elizabeth Speare, Examiner.com

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