At a Glance
- Author: Katherine Barger
- Published: Nov. 2, 2020 / Anaiah Press
- Award: 2021 Illumination Book Awards Bronze Medalist (YA Fiction)
- Synopsis: 2090—Nyssa Ardelone, who has spent the past seven years training to become a Dream Interpreter, is ready to graduate and begin her service to the president. When her mentor deliberately misinterprets a dream, Nyssa uncovers political conspiracy— and secrets about her past.
This novel is the first in the Exile Trilogy, which is “inspired by the lives of Daniel and Nehemiah, the Babylonian exile of the Jews, and their ultimate return to Jerusalem.”
Two aspects of the premise intrigued me:
- The existence of a Bible-inspired series for a teen audience, since I think books of this genre are often for a younger audience
- The fact that the series is futuristic (and arguably dystopic— depending on whether or not something based on real events can be considered dystopic), rather than historic. This was definitely an interesting twist!
It took me a little while to realize that “inspired” is not the same thing as a retelling. From what I could see, there wasn’t a lot of overt correspondence between the book of Daniel and Fortune Falls. While I definitely picked up on some parallels between the two, I was surprised by how unfamiliar the story felt. This wasn’t an instance where I could say, “Oh, because I’m familiar with the Bible story, I know that (blank) happens next.”
I was expecting more of a retelling, which caused me to have some mixed feelings while I was reading.
Now that I’m finished with the book and reflecting on it, however, I appreciate that the parallels are hidden. For me, this certainly invites discussion— for book clubs or even youth groups (As an aside, I really would like for youth groups to provide more instruction via fiction. The Lord speaks to me so much through story and Jesus taught in parables about the Kingdom of Heaven).
In previous posts, I’ve discussed the importance of books that provoke wonder about the Bible. Obviously, there are a lot of differences between the biblical account and the novel, due to the very different settings. However, having finished the novel, I am interested in rereading the book of Daniel— to better understand the parallels I noticed, and to see if there were other themes/ commonalities I missed. Even reflecting now, I can think of at least one element that I think pretty closely paralleled the biblical account, which I missed while reading.
I honestly think the book merits reflection; the challenge is slowing down to stop and think about it while reading. I devoured this delicious book in a day, which is why I’m doing post-reading reflections.
I’m going to try and keep this unspoiler-y, but I thought it would be interesting to research names from the story, as I’m confident that they are significant. I googled these and hope name meanings can fall under “common knowledge” without reference. I can tell other readers are also googling these, based on related searches 🙂
- Interestingly, Nyssa can mean either “beginning” (Greek) or “end” (Latin). I think the biblical name may have to do with “testing” or a goal; Also a possible reference to Gregory of Nyssa
- Meaning “sheaf of grain”; also, the name of a biblical commander
- As I suspected, means wisdom
- Means “treasurer” or “clever”
- Watchful / guardian
- Biblical judge; “one who cuts down”
- Thaddeus, Zeb, Asaph
- A courageous heart
- Gift of Jehovah
- These are all Bible characters— Thaddeus aka Jude
- Someone else who I will not name here
- Dark warrior
As mentioned, I zipped through the book. Fewer than 12 hours passed from the time I received the digital copy in my inbox to the time I emailed Katie to let her know how much I enjoyed it.
Yes, indeedy. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But the question I found myself asking was “Is it ‘Christian’ enough?”, which sounds like a weird, self-righteous question. BUT, I was asking it because the Lord has recently impressed on me the importance of promoting books that are rich in truth and edifying for believers, not just “clean.” My point is so much “overt Christianity” as it is TRUTH. So, perhaps a better would be, “Is it truth-full enough?”
And my answer is, “Yes!” While the book was different than I had expected because it wasn’t a retelling, it actually conveys multiple layers of meaning.
There’s the surface-level narrative that deals with faith, and there is also the layer of meaning that parallels the book of Daniel.
This is a thought-provoking book! For Christians who are familiar with the account of Daniel, it is an invitation to reread Scripture with fresh eyes. (But without having the plot of the novel spoiled, since the parallels are fairly hidden.) For those who haven’t read Daniel, the surface-level meaning is still great. And, I think that this could inspire interest in Daniel.
I really like that the book is accessible to Christians and non-Christians, alike. Although non-Christians are not my target audience, I think books that are accessible to non-Christians, as well, can be evangelistic 🙂