Saturday, June 13, 2015

REVIEW: Empire's End - Jerry B. Jenkins

***Disclaimer: I received this book via Worthy Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Any thoughts and opinions are my own.***

Jerry B. Jenkins’s new novel is filled with adventure, drama, historic people and places, and even romance. Empire’s End tells the story of a man who single- handedly turned the Roman Empire on-end. It will be the heart-stopping story of the year! Only a few snapshots of Paul’s life are revealed in the Bible. In this fictional account, Jenkins tells of a devout Jewish scholar, who after only three years in the Arabian wilderness, emerges as the greatest Christian theologian in history. This novel explains how, after supervising the death of Jesus’s disciples, Paul would be moved to effectively conquer the Roman Empire with a message about a Jewish man named Jesus. You’ll be captured by the shocking “thorn in the flesh” that burdened Paul’s heart. Empire’s End will cause you to rethink whether Paul ever experienced the love of a woman or the embrace of a child. Read on.

On a star rating system I would give this book three stars. I was really excited to be receiving this book for review because I have loved Jerry B. Jenkins' past work and I've always been interested in Saul/Paul. This book was really not what I expected. 
The beginning of the book starts out with Saul's encounter with Jesus on the road in Damascus. I expected a little more elaboration on that encounter but received little more than what it says in the Bible. I wanted to feel as if I had been on that road with Saul when he was blinded and fell from his horse. Instead I felt as if I was just re-reading it from the Bible. From there we read of Saul's trip into the desert. This part of the book was actually one of my favorites. I loved the part about him being lowered down the wall in a basket and I loved seeing that Paul had a bit of humor about him during his basket ride. The trip he and his stallion made was also fascinating because without God that journey would have quite literally been impossible. Shortly after he sets up his own space in the camp is when things started falling apart for me. 
I know that this is a fictional telling of Paul's life. But I expected it to kind of paint me the same picture that the Bible paints of Paul. He's a spunky guy with a real zeal for spreading the Gospel. This man I met in Empire's End was not that guy. To me he seemed weak, as if he were living up to the meaning of Paul- "small". He didn't resemble that same guy I've learned about in Acts for years and years of my life. 
I did thoroughly enjoy his time out in the wilderness with God. Even though his conversations with God could get a bit exhausting (parts of conversation looked as if they were copied and pasted directly from the Bible), it was awe-inspiring to think about what God had done in Saul/Paul's life. He took a man who was persecuting Christians and changed him to be a mouthpiece for The Way. God changed his heart and used his unique past to tell others about Jesus Christ. It's a humbling thing to think about. Saul was an evil man and yet God forgave everything he'd done. As a Christian, those times of Paul in the wilderness made me think about how lucky I am to have a relationship with God. I think that was about the only positive thing I got out of this book. 
I was also a little bothered by Paul's relationship with Taryn and how that whole situation played out. It was a little too much to think that God changed Paul's heart, sent him into the desert to a camp where Stephen's wife and child just so happened to be living, let Paul fall in love with Stephen's (the same Stephen he helped stone) widow, and then just in the nick of time saves Paul from death all while letting the rest of his believers in the camp die horrible deaths. Oh, but conveniently allowing Taryn and her son to be captured by the General instead of being killed. It was too convenient to me. I know that God works in mysterious ways and did allow tragedies to happen in the Bible but this just didn't sit right with me. Oh, and Paul's letter that he wrote to Taryn where he quoted the Beatitudes didn't work for me either. This made it seem like that was just something Paul came up with on his own to show his love for her instead of something divinely inspired by God. 
The rest of the characters left much to be desired as well. This book feels half-written to me. It feels as if Jerry dreamed up a little filler and then just lifted everything else straight from the Bible. 
The book loses it's pacing shortly after Paul leaves the camp on his journey back to Damascus. And the book also does not end with the fall of the Roman Empire which left a bad taste in my mouth because I was expecting a lot more action than what there was. It starts to get tedious and boring towards the end and I skimmed the last few pages just so I could be done with it. 
It wasn't a bad book but it wasn't a good book either so I feel like three stars is fair. Some people will really love it and some people will be like me and delve way too far into it. I would label this one with a Read At Your Own Risk
I do thank Jerry B. Jenkins and Worthy Publishing for the opportunity to review this book! 

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