A Roman princess and a Roman soldier live through some of the most pivotal moments in Christianity in this richly imagined novel.
This latest from Rush (Earthquake Weather, 2013, etc.) appears to have been inspired by two Catholic saints: Veronica, who in Catholic tradition is said to have given Jesus her veil to wipe his head when he was on the road to the cross, and Longinus, said to have used his lance to pierce Jesus’ side as he hung there. When the young princess Veronica’s widowed mother dies, the girl is sent to live with her Roman senator uncle and cousin. The cousin, Claudia, marries and moves away with her new husband, Pontius Pilate. Veronica’s uncle finds his life in danger when his friend Sejanus is killed by the emperor’s allies, and she and her uncle have to quickly flee Rome. Thus begins an epic journey filled with battles and skirmishes, a pirate attack, much swashbuckling, and plenty of familiar biblical allusions. Raised to worship many gods, Veronica one day learns of a controversial young rabbi who believes in a single God and is spreading a message of love and hope; some insist he’s a charlatan. Veronica is focused on trying to stay alive, and the rabbi’s message may be helping her quest. The book has many characters, and while there are copious footnotes along the way, they are both a help and a hindrance, necessary explanations that occasionally distract from the novel’s flow. Veronica crosses paths with so many famous characters—including Caligula, Joseph of Arimathea, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and Longinus—that she sometimes risks coming off as a biblical Forrest Gump who happens to pop up at critical junctures in history. The book would benefit from better editing to correct frequent typos and grammatical errors, particularly in the punctuation of dialogue. Still, these are terrific what-if moments for readers who wonder what it was like when, say, Jesus fed thousands with just a few fishes and loaves. It’s easy to get swept along with the often familiar storyline in this satisfying tale.
A big, bold biblical saga to fire the Christian imagination.