Like most young Galilean men, Daniel resents the Romans who occupy Palestine. His hatred runs deep because his father was crucified for trying to rescue his uncle from an unjust imprisonment. Traumatized by the incident, Daniel’s sister Leah never leaves the house she shares with their grandmother. Daniel, formerly apprenticed to a cruel blacksmith, has joined a band of mountain zealots fighting for independence from Rome.
Daniel never believes he could miss life in the village, until he encounters Joel and Thacia, twin brother and sister, who bring news from home and, more importantly, friendship. Through them, he is reunited with a fellow apprentice called Simon the Zealot. Although Simon has a promising blacksmith business of his own now, he abandons everything to throw in his lot with a mysterious preacher from Nazareth, whose words both trouble and attract Daniel. Could this Jesus be the military leader he and his friends have been awaiting? Daniel feels compelled to follow this gentle yet firm man, but is he prepared to let go of the anger that has defined him for so long?
In this, another of Elizabeth Speare’s historical novels for young people, the reader enters into the struggle between good and evil in the heart and mind of a young man. Daniel wants to do what is right. However, the reality of daily life and the kindness of others challenge his notion of what really is “right”. Hard work in Simon’s shop and the responsibilities of caring for his fragile sister foster in Daniel a sense of his human dignity. Eventually, his encounter with a great love teaches him that his true enemy is not Rome, but his own inability to forgive.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.