Friday, April 29, 2016

From the Dark to the Dawn, by Alicia Willis

I thought about reviewing this book on the blog last summer, but I'm so glad I waited. For one thing, it had to be a secret that I had even read it until Carrie-Grace (also known as Junior B. around here) got it for a gift from a friend. For another, she loved it so much that I thought it would be cool to host her own words about the book on the blog. 

Today I'm handing over the blog to Carrie-Grace. Hope you all enjoy! 

Rome has always fascinated me. Once when I was a tiny thing, I wrote a story about a Roman soldier at Jesus’ crucifixion. I still love that story, and someday in the future I hope to pull it out again. As far as reading books go, I think my fascination with Rome first started in the form of Pearl Maiden by H. Rider. Haggard. It continued this year through two other books, the first one being the lovely Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

That was a cool read, yes. But the second book. *inserts drumroll*

From the Dark to the Dawn totally edged out all the previous books on my favorites list. *sends them off to Lady B for comfort* A classic tale combined with copious research and tight plotting make this one of the best books I’ve seen by a modern author.

The Book
In the final battle between Queen Boudicca’s Iceni warriors and the Roman soldiers, the Romans capture a boy and his chieftain father in the aftermath of the battle, forcing them to take the long trek to Rome as slaves. Only Philip is the wrong sort of boy to enslave, and his poor Roman captors would have done well to leave him alone. In his anger at their cruelty, Philip vows that his slavery will not last forever and that one day he will destroy Rome’s tyranny. When he and his father arrive in Rome, a Roman lord, Marcus, decides to buy Philip as his personal attendant. The tension between the two quickly escalates as Marcus determines to break Philip, and Philip determines that he won’t be broken. But when Philip beats up Thallus, the brother of Marcus’s fiancĂ©e, his master surprises him by his leniency. Thallus retaliates by challenging Marcus to pit Philip against one of his Goth slaves in a wrestling match. Philip’s indulgence from Marcus depends only on his ability to win, and soon he rises quickly in the favor of his master and of his master’s friends.

But his prosperity is not to last. His enemy, Thallus, dares Marcus that his slave will not kneel before him, and immediately Marcus commands Philip to do so. When Philip refuses, Marcus administers a harsh whipping with his own hands. Determined now more than ever to free himself, Philip runs away, stealing his master’s purse and cape as he leaves. But he cannot allude Marcus forever, and in his desperation, he seeks refuge with a Jewish bread maker—a follower of the Christ God. At first Philip scoffs at the man’s beliefs, but when Marcus finds him and sentences him to a life of disgrace, he visits the Jew again and surrenders to his God.

His life of Christianity will not be easy. Even as he seeks to witness to his master, Marcus increasingly hardens himself against the message of the Gospel. And he is determined to crush Philip’s newfound faith no matter what it takes.

Will the darkness in Rome ever give way to light?

My Thoughts
First of all, the amount of research behind this book was incredible. All the little details from the togas to the culinas *pins Gold Star on you if you recognize those* pull the reader into the setting and make the book come alive. These must have taken years to find, because Alicia effortlessly weaves the setting into the plot, making it a part of the story. You can tell how much she loves her time period and her characters. Everything is well thought out, and the plotting is very tight.

And then her character arcs. *happiness* My personal favorite was Marcus’s. I have an unfortunate weakness for villains, and his story arc satisfied me completely. My favorite part was [Scene Near the Middle of the Book]. Mmm, yes. You must read that bit. I think Alicia did well in not portraying Marcus simply as a heartless villain—she made him sympathetic to the reader, especially in his family relationships.

One of the things I loved about Philip was his passion for Christ after his conversion. He served the Lord tirelessly in sharing the gospel and in serving in the Roman church. His courage in the face of persecution always amazes me every time I read it. Even his weaknesses before his conversion became his greatest strengths after his conversion.

Beric was a wonderful father. A gentle man, yet strong in his leadership. He helped Philip in his transition from a chieftain’s son to a slave and supported and rebuked him whenever necessary. And Daniel was nice too, along with Cleotas and Moriah. *hugs all the charries*

But Thallus. A villain in the truest sense of the word. Do not like him, peoples. He is not at all worth your time. *shudders and hands you dark chocolate instead*

One of my favorite parts about these characters is how they were true to life. After their conversions, they didn’t act perfectly—they still struggled with purity and courage for Christ under Roman persecution. Sometimes they’d misunderstand each other or lose their tempers during stressful moments. They provided an accurate portrayal of the sanctification process which I loved.

In conclusion, peoples, three profound, thought-out words. Ready?

Read This Book.

That’s it.

And I hope you’re blessed by the reading of it. ^_^

Carrie-Grace McConkey is a homeschooled teen living in Michigan. Memorizing Scripture is one of her passions, and she also enjoys inductive Bible study, using many of the tools she's learned from participating in the National Bible Bee. Her interests include sketching, writing, scrapbooking, and Cinderella.


  1. Ah, this is so good! Loved your review, CG. I love that book, and I'm glad you do, too. I want to get a real copy to sit beside Grace Triumphant someday. :D Well done. <3

    1. Aw, thank-you, Kaleigh. <3 Oh, you totally should! :D

  2. Lovely post, CG! Now I want to read it :) *heads off to the library website *

    1. Thanks, Katherine! Yes, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. xD

  3. Ooh, I think I own an e-copy of this book, Carrie-Grace, and I'd love to read it by and by. Your review has made me want to pick it up! Truth is I LOVE historical fiction novels set in Ancient Rome - they were my first literary love, in a way ;).

    Actually, for several years now I've been writing a novel set in Ancient Rome during the time of Emperor Nero - Schuyler may have told you about it? It's titled "The Crown of Life", and it is kind of my pet novel, I just love all the Roman stuff, the history and detail and almost legend-like feel to the times. Can't wait to finish it and share it with you!

    Some other fantastic historical novels set in Ancient Roman times - "The Robe" by Lloyd C. Douglas is a brilliant historical novel set in Ancient Rome about the soldier at the crucifixion of Christ, and it is written with so much detail! It gave me my first introduction to pellas, togas, daggers and Roman culture ;).

    "Twice Freed" by Patricia St. John and "The Bronze Bow" by Elizabeth George Speare and "Ben Hur" by Lew Wallace are a few other wonderful Ancient Roman stories =).

    1. Thank-you for your lovely comment, Joy! You would love this book.
      If you ever need a beta reader for your Roman story, I'd be more than happy to offer my services. ;) It sounds so cool!
      I've listened to the Focus on the Family of "Benhur", but I've never read the book. :) Oh, and "Twice Freed" is so good! I read it a couple years ago and really want to read it again sometime.
      I've heard of "The Robe" and it sounds really interesting. I think Schuyler owns it, but she hasn't read it yet. =)

  4. Sounds like a great book! Thanks for this review, CG. I need to check it out, because at the mention of falling for villains I was hooked. (wasntme)

    1. Were you? (wasntme) If you read it, you'll have to tell me what you think!! :)

  5. A friend shared this review with me today and it blessed me incredibly. Thank you, dear readers, for encouraging me to keep writing. I've been considering giving up being an author, but I'm super motivated to keep going now! Thank you! God is good!

  6. Thank-you so much, Alicia! :) I'm so glad it was an encouragement--we love your books and can't wait to see what future ones come out.


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