You shouldn’t be surprised, I loved this book! But more on that later. First, allow me to share with you the summary of what this book is about. Then I can tell you all EXACTLY why it is so brilliant! P.S. – keep reading until the end for a few words from the author herself!
The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan. Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past. As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?
In the novel, Sofea comes to the land of Canaan, a land where she knows no one, does not speak the language, and is surrounded by strange and unfamiliar customs and rituals all to please a god that she has never seen and can find no idols of anywhere in the house.
Meanwhile, Eitan, a side character from A Light on the Hill, struggles with the demons of his past. As his feelings for Sofea only deepen as they learn more about each other and get to know one another, the dark secrets of his past begin to cast shadows on his newfound happiness.
Still, he and his family try their very best to be the light that Sofea so desperately needs to give her new hope and move her from a place of fear and depression, to a place of refuge and joy. The king of joy that only God can bring.
Danger, traitors, pirates, and murder plots ensue, each bringing their own obstacles to Sofea and Eitan’s path as they try to build a love that transcends language.
Like each of this book’s predecessors, it tells an intriguing story which shines a light on a part of the Bible and Old Testament history that we don’t otherwise often hear about. I think that’s what makes Connilyn Cossette’s books so entertaining, that they are so new and unique compared to other works in the Biblical fiction genre. Unless you are a Biblical scholar, you might not have known about the Cities of Refuge in the Bible, but Connilyn Cossette chose to make them the setting for her series. Time after time, she brings to life otherwise forgotten worlds and passages, and each time she does so, she succeeds with incredible triumph.
This book was deep, hopeful, encouraging, exciting, and it was also entertaining! The things that Sofea so often misunderstood about the Hebrew culture and customs were almost comical, in a sad sort of way. Watching her experience that world and God for the first time was an amazing experience, as was the rest of the book.
I cannot recommend this book (and the previous books by this author) ENOUGH! You should definitely get a copy and consider reading the entire series if you can. You will not be disappointed.
While I did receive a copy of this book for review as a part of being on the book launch team for Shelter of the Most High, all opinions expressed are my own. This did not affect my rating of the book in any way.
BONUS Q&A WITH THE AUTHOR, CONNILYN COSSETTE:
Connilyn Cossette was kind enough to give all of us bloggers on the launch team the opportunity to ask her any questions we would like, in exchange for some general answers we could all share. Being the curious reader I am, I was quick to fire away with questions about the next book in the series, the writing process, and what we can expect to see from her in the future. Here are a few of those questions and answers, JUST FOR YOU!
Is Sofea and Eitan’s story finished, or will we see more of them? The next book, Until the Mountains Fall, opens about 8 years after Shelter of the Most High, so you will definitely see what Eitan and Sofea are up to. I won’t spoil anything about their appearances but I will say that it made me so happy to revisit them and to “see” their love story through the eyes of a grown-up Malakhi (the hero of UTMF).
The cities of refuge in the Old Testament isn’t a topic we hear about a lot in church, how did this play into your research? Did you find it easier or more difficult to portray what life would be like for your characters in such a place?
That is very true. I knew pretty much nothing about them either but there is research out there, albeit sparing, from Christian and also Jewish Rabbinical sources that helped me fill in some gaps which I then just blended with what I know about God and about the plan of salvation that fits so perfectly into the Cities of Refuge pattern. As I began to “flesh out” the City of Kedesh in my mind it honestly became a real place in my head, so it’s not difficult to place myself there and envision what my characters see. When I went to Israel and drove near the place where the actual city once stood (or at least across the valley from it) it was kind of surreal to blend my “fictional” Kedesh with the actual landscape.
How did you come up with the topic for this story? Well, in the beginning it was an off-hand comment by my husband’s best friend that I actually laughed off at first and then began to realize was a completely cool premise! But I can’t really tell you what that comment was because it’s a major spoiler! But I also did some research about the Bronze Age and found out there was a real problem with pirates back then and knew I had to weave them in too. The original plot idea was very different and involved more pirates and even some ancient drug trade (yes, there was such a thing) and ended up being a tangled mess that didn’t make much logical sense, so I am really pleased with how it all came together…eventually.
Do you relate particularly well to any one of the characters in this book? Why or why not? I always find little ways I relate to many of my characters but in Shelter of the Most High I think perhaps I connected the most with Eitan’s struggle with recurring self-condemnation. In order to avoid spoilers I won’t say exactly how he handles these issues but I think for me, and for many other followers of Jesus, I have a habit of bringing up my past sins and beating myself over the head with them, even though His grace is sufficient and I have no need to wallow in condemnation any more. If we are in Covenant with Jesus through his blood then we have been freely forgiven, so we must stop letting the Enemy whisper in our ear that we are not worthy. Eitan goes through the process of trying to “earn” forgiveness for something he had already been given grace for and I am guilty of doing the same thing at times. His journey was a great reminder to me that I am already free, so I need to stop acting like a slave to my past!
Was there anything interesting that happened during the writing of this book (or that made its way into the writing of this book) that the average reader wouldn’t pick up on? The biggest change for me was traveling to Israel. I went from having to rely on the internet and Google Earth for my experiences of the Land to getting the opportunity to see and feel and taste and touch and smell those places for myself. It shifted my understanding of the “smallness” of the country and how close everything in the Bible is in relation to one another and gave me a wealth of sensory detail to layer into my stories. I’d already written Shelter of the Most High when I went there but during editing I was able to tweak and expand due to my firsthand experiences. It was life-changing in many ways.
Is there any particular message (that isn’t obvious) that you would like your readers to get out of this book? As I began writing the Cities of Refuge Series I came to the realization that the places God set up as sanctuaries for those convicted of manslaughter (Joshua 20) were a wonderful picture of the Body of Christ and how the Church should relate to the world. Our congregations should be a haven for the hurting, a place of safety and provision for those who are suffering, a place where the teaching of the Word (Torah) is central, a gathering of redeemed people who appreciate the grace and mercy they’ve been given, and a light on the hill to the weary and heavy laden. Throughout the series you’ll see cities of refuge like Kedesh where these principles are upheld and valued and others that have became more focused on wealth, power, self-righteousness or have slidden into idolatry and compromise. History shows us that these cities of refuge were kind of a blip on the timeline, in fact scholar think that many of the 48 cities designated for the Levites by Moses were never even settled. If the Church wants to have an impact on the culture around us, instead of the other way around, we would do well to pattern our congregations after these places of perfectly balanced justice and mercy.
Shelter of the Most High releases on October 2nd, and you do NOT want to miss it! As another special surprise, my video discussion/vlog review of this book will also be going live on October 2nd as well, to celebrate the official release! Make sure you are subscribed to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss it!
Until next time,