Here is my review of David Kitz’s book, The Soldier Who Killed a King.
Summary (from Amazon):
A stunning story of Holy Week through the eyes of a Roman centurion
Watch the triumphal entry of the donkey-riding king through the eyes of Marcus Longinus, the centurion charged with keeping the streets from erupting into open rebellion.
Look behind the scenes at the political plotting of King Herod, known as the scheming Fox for his ruthless shrewdness.
Get a front-row seat to the confrontation between the Jewish high priest Caiaphas and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
Understand as never before the horror of the decision to save a brutal terrorist in order to condemn the peaceful Jew to death.
If you’ve heard the story of Passion Week so often it’s become stale, now is the time to rediscover the terrible events leading from Jesus’s humble ride into the city to his crucifixion. The Soldier Who Killed a King will stun you afresh with how completely Christ’s resurrection changed history, one life at a time.
What I liked:
I love the idea of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection told through the eyes of a Roman soldier. The setting in this book is alive and a vital character throughout the story. While I would have to do a little research to see how accurate the story portrayed the city, I enjoyed wandering through ancient Jerusalem.
The characters were not one-dimensional archetypes, but fleshed out human beings caught in extraordinary circumstances. While not all of their reactions played well into who they were (more on that in the next section), they did not strike me as forced.
The crucifixion and resurrection scenes contained emotional depth and gravitas. Holy Week is important to me, and both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus anchor everything that I am. David did not disappoint in his story here.
What I did not like:
The writing could use some polishing. There was an overemphasis on dialogue tags, explanations of actions and thoughts, and writing that jolted me out of the story.
“You, you, and you!” I stabbed my index finger in the direction of the most dressed and prepared-looking soldiers. “Strap on your swords and follow me. Now!”
Then, addressing the other soldiers, I announced, “The rest of you….” (pg 130)
This is probably a preference of mine, but I like it when the author trusts the reader. Minimize the explanation, the direction, and show me what’s going on in the scene. Trust me to understand the little details without actually telling me the little details.
At times, the actions of the characters didn’t strike me as fitting in the time period or with who the characters were. They felt too modern, too western-culture-minded. The same could be said for the timeframe of each chapter. The addition of the day, time, and Month again threw me out of the story’s setting and into a modern setting. This is also probably just a preference rather than a strike against the author.
The overall accuracy of historical characters and events left a lot to be desired. The Roman hierarchy, the neglect of the Sadducees completely, who did what and when (Herod’s soldiers crowning Jesus, priests taking soldiers captive, etc.), all distracted from the story rather than add to it.
The Soldier Who Killed A King is a promising book that offers much to like, though it does have some flaws that can distract. It’s a great read for Holy Week, to add to the reader’s mindset for arguably the most important week in Christianity.
Full disclosure: I received a paperback copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I thank Mr. Kitz for allowing me to read this story, it has given me much to reflect on for Holy Week, and every week beyond it.
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