Can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Will Liyam's thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he's come to love? Journey to ancient Shechem with Connilyn Cossette!
It is a beautiful thing when characters from books and figments from other imaginary worlds can impact us so much, that by the time we turn the last page and close the cover, it feels more like we're saying goodbye to a dearly loved friend than "just another story." That's how I felt after finishing Like Flames in the Night, Book #4 in the Cities of Refuge series by Connilyn Cossette.
The Cities of Refuge series by Connilyn Cossette centers around the life of Moriyah (a fictional character who first appeared in Wings of the Wind, Book #3 of Cossette's Out From Egypt trilogy) as she flees to a City of Refuge after being accused of manslaughter. The subsequent books follow Moriyah's family, as they live within God's refuge cities and learn about God's protection and forgiveness for themselves.
The overall series arc is beautiful, but I think what made it even more beautiful, was the closing with a verse from Exodus as a theme. This series began with Moriyah and the Out From Egypt series, an Exodus retelling, and brought us all the way to the book of Joshua. That lovely callback to the Israelite's time wandering in the desert brought Like Flames in the Night and the journeys of these characters full-circle. To say that this was a satisfying end to the series would be an understatement.
Focusing solely on this book, Like Flames in the Night was mainly about Tirzah, Moriyah's youngest daughter. Tirzah is feisty, headstrong, and brave. Sometimes, she is a little bit too brave for her own good, but I can't get more into detail on that without giving away spoilers. ;)
Liyam was my FAVORITE kind of male lead character! His tragic backstory made for some amazing moments of intrigue, character development, and of course, an unlikely romance between the two strong-willed characters.
My favorite part about each of the Cities of Refuge books is the element of suspense in all of them, as the Hebrew people fight for their lives and, in this case, their land. Add to that recipe a dash of Tirzah, a female spy, and you've got a recipe for adventure that not even Moriyah could have made up on her own!
I will definitely be adding Tirzah to my list of favorite strong female characters in Biblical fiction. I enjoyed how shrewd she was as she carried out her mission, often thinking quickly and on her feet. The first-person point-of-view worked exceptionally well here to give us an insight into what she was thinking and plotting. I also loved how bold and passionate she was about her convictions. The lessons she learned about God's faithfulness, his care, and his protection were lessons that I could easily apply to my own life.
Finally, I have to give a shout-out to the character of Alanah, whom I was SO happy to see return in this book! I always wondered what happened to her after her adventures with Moriyah in Wings of the Wind (Out From Egypt #3). I was not disappointed!
This series made me laugh out loud, gasp in fear, and cry happy tears. I would highly recommend the Cities of Refuge series and Like Flames in the Night to all Biblical fiction buffs.
*Disclaimer: I received a copy for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own
If you all can't get enough of Connilyn Cossette's books, the Cities of Refuge, or you just want to hear more of my thoughts about Tirzah, Liyam, and the gang, check out THIS video where I rank my favorite Connilyn Cossette books in order, in honor of release week:
It was a fun one, for sure!
BONUS CONTENT: Q&A with Connilyn Cossette!
What inspired the idea for this story? When I was in Israel a couple of years ago we went to a place called the Ayalon Institute. It was actually a kibbutz (like a co-op farm) that contained an entire underground bullet factory hidden from the British and the Arabs before the 1948 war. They secretly crawled down ladders beneath a commercial laundry room because it was noisy and could cover up the sound of the bullet making machines and many of the people who lived and worked on the kibbutz had no idea what was going on under their feet! Over a number of years, this group of young people managed to make thousands and thousands of bullets and ship them out through covert means, like in milk trucks. Without their sacrifice and ingenuity, the nation of Israel might have been lost when the Arabs attacked en mass. I was enthralled by the stories of miracles that happened during this time and how these young people, men AND women stood up for their people so courageously. I was inspired by this short visit to the underground bunker to write about brave men and women who put their lives on the line for the nation of Israel, both in ancient times and in modern ones. So as you will see as you read, there are a number of places where I talk about covert operations and secret weapons-making and those were directly inspired by that tour of the Ayalon Institute. Malakhi and Eitan would have loved everything about it. Look it up, it’s fascinating!
Why Cities of Refuge? Why not another story? The easy answer is that because I was just fascinated. Once I started to do some reading about the cities of refuge, which I really didn’t know much about, I saw the beautiful way that they foreshadowed Jesus our Messiah who is the perfect balance of grace and justice for his people and I just wanted to delve into those characteristics of God so I thought that the cities of refuge was a perfect vehicle to do so! Besides, I’d just fallen in love with Moryiah in Wings of the Wind and felt she needed a story too. Who knew what would come of it all when I was struggling over whether to brand that poor girl’s face!
What was writing the Cities of Refuge series like? Emotionally and intellectually? Wow, that is a tough question because it really has been a few years since I started and I have been through a lot of life in the meantime. I have been through two cross country moves since then and my kids are now teenagers! I will say that there were times when it was a struggle and I really had to force myself to write because I was fighting against my doubts, fighting against my overwhelming schedule, and fighting my own perfectionism, but it is so cool to look back at these four books and realize that through all those struggles God did something extraordinary with my very human, imperfect efforts. He has led me on an amazing journey that taught me how to be a better writer, how to be a better storyteller, and how to dig deeper into my own wounds in order to make a book connect with readers on a deeper level. And being able to write about how God displayed his perfect balance of grace and justice through the Cities of Refuge has been a privilege.
Has your relationship with God changed at all through writing these stories? If so, could you share an example? I would say that my faith is so much more real now. All the study of history and culture and archaeology that I have done has given me such confirmation that His hand has worked through history in such an intimate way, tying all the billions of threads together from Genesis to Revelation. The fact that he has led me on such a personal path of discovery just reminds me how much he wants me to love him with my heart, my soul, AND my mind. And the Cities of Refuge series, in particular, has illuminated his grace so clearly in my own life, especially looking backward and seeing how he led me lovingly to himself, even when I was so rebellious and self-centered that I could not look past my own nose, and called me to write stories that glorify his Name.
Do you seek out a spiritual theme for each book before you draft, crafting the plot around it? Or does it come to you later as you edit and weave in a theme? That really is different with every book. There are times when I know going in exactly what the spiritual theme is going to be; like with Until the Mountains Fall which was about a prodigal daughter. But there are times when it takes me almost the entire writing of the book to really figure out what it is the characters are trying to say and what it is the Lord is weaving into my story. And there are times when I may know the spiritual journey of one of the main characters but not the other and it untangles itself as I learn who the characters are together, what their wounds are, what their goals are, etc. There have actually been times when I thought it was one spiritual theme and then it completely surprised me by turning into another by the time I was done.
How does it feel saying goodbye to characters you’ve been with for so long? It is really so bittersweet because I feel like these people are part of my family and I know them inside and out. So it kind of feels like I’m abandoning them in some way. But they’re always there waiting for me and maybe someday I’ll have a chance to come back and revisit them. And then again I’m also really excited to find new characters and discover their journeys and now that I’m writing this new series I’m having a great time creating a whole new set of people, discovering what makes them tick, and finding all sorts of disastrous and dangerous situations to put them into peril and complicated situations to mess with their heads. I’m kinda evil like that ;)
If you guys are convinced to check out this amazing series, then you better get yourself a copy! Like Flames in the Night is available in-store and online now! https://buff.ly/39HnW4m #amreading #BiblicalFiction #citiesofrefuge
Happy reading, everyone!