Valley of Decision

Valley of DecisionValley of Decision by Lynne Gentry
Series: The Carthage Chronicles
Genres: Historical
Published by Howard Books on September 22, 2015
Pages: 400
Also in this series: Healer of Carthage, Return to Exile
Also by this author: Healer of Carthage, Return to Exile

 

Despite returning to third-century Carthage to rescue her husband Cyprian, Lisbeth made the choice to leave him behind for good to save her daughter Maggie’s life. Over the next thirteen years, Lisbeth devotes herself to her work and raising Maggie, her final tie to Cyprian. Maggie, however, is tired of Lisbeth’s hovering, and in an act of rebellion, decides to return to the third century in order to bring her father back. Lisbeth is left with no choice but to follow. With Maggie’s return to Carthage, chaos reigns. Her grandmother is on trial for murder, and a failed attempt to save her sparks a riot that almost destroys the entire city. The new proconsul of Carthage will only be satisfied with the death of the rebellion’s instigator. Will Lisbeth arrive in time to save her daughter from her unwise decision and the dangers of Rome?

Many twists, turns and riveting action characterize this conclusion to The Carthage Chronicles.

Many twists, turns and riveting action characterize this conclusion to The Carthage Chronicles. Though years have passed for Lisbeth and Maggie, in Carthage it has been only a short time since they disappeared. Once again, the story sweeps readers into third-century Carthage in all its opulent, yet ruinous, glory. Lynne excels at displaying these characteristics throughout the story, again skillfully highlighting the jarring discrepancy between the common people and Roman elite. The glaring difference this time is that sickness is spreading, and it is no respecter of persons, targeting both the elite and common. Meanwhile, there is a new proconsul, and he is out for blood to squash the support of the well-loved former solicitor, Cyprian, and the beloved healer, Magdalena. Though there are several characters to keep up with, it never feels overwhelming while reading. They are all dynamic and add greatly to the story. There are a couple of secondary characters, both new and returning, that I really came to admire and appreciate their roles.

That being said, there were a couple of things that kept me from truly engaging in this story as I had the previous two books. I really struggled in the beginning to feel hooked. One reason is the pacing, especially with the beginning. A lot of time is spent on Lisbeth and her father traveling back to Tunisia in order to go back to Carthage after Maggie. We know even before starting that Lisbeth will make it back to Carthage. The time spent getting to that point felt unnecessary. Secondly, while I really enjoyed the historical details and the exciting moments of the story, I found the storyline overall to be predictable. Several plot elements from the second book felt repeated. Though a lot of action is happening, the pace feels slower because many of the characters had already been through something similar in the first book.

I really struggled in the beginning to feel hooked.

I also found it odd that the modern characters insisted on using lingo and euphemisms from the present day. I understood that all of the characters were supposed to be speaking Latin. I’m sure Latin has lingo and euphemisms, but it just felt jarring that the characters kept using them in these settings, knowing that the Carthage characters wouldn’t understand the term behind it. This is mostly seen in Maggie’s character and is probably a device to show her youth, but it does feel overdone.

Despite the couple of qualms I had with the story, the overall message is quite beautiful. I think the ending does a wonderful job in driving it home, that God is always with you in the darkest times. Cyprian has come to a point in his faith that He fully trusts God no matter what. His character is truly inspirational, and I appreciated that Lynne doesn’t change history in regards to the real-life Cyprian. It makes for a heart-wrenching end and certainly isn’t the typical happily-ever-after, but it is so moving, and ultimately triumphant. Although I did know what was coming in some respects, I was surprised at the decision that Lisbeth made in the end – a decision that turned out to be needed and perfect for the end of Lisbeth’s tale.

While I really enjoyed the historical details and the exciting moments of the story, I found the storyline overall to be predictable.

I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read the Carthage Chronicles. From the intriguing detail of time travel, the engaging historical details to the remarkably inspiring characters, Valley of Decision is a satisfying conclusion. If you’re looking for a compelling story about the early years of Christianity, this is a good series to pick up.

–Beth


When you read historical fiction, you run the risk of knowing how the story will turn out ahead of time – simply because you know how history turned out. And yet, you can’t help but read the novel or series anyway because the author writes this particular version of events in such a compelling way.  Such is the case with The Carthage Chronicles by Lynne Gentry, a time travel romance series set in the third century A.D.

Lynne Gentry writes such vivid characters and settings that leap off the page and take shape around you.

The book I’m reviewing here today – Valley of Decision – is the third and final installment in the series and the one made most poignant by knowing a little about the history of early Christianity.  Nevertheless I plunged ahead, riveted by Gentry’s story-crafting, unable to put the book down… albeit with a supply of tissues close at hand.  Another reviewer on Goodreads said, “This book will pull you in, shred your heart, and put it back together whole and new again!”  Yes. I absolutely echo that statement.

I alternated between tears streaming down my face and laughing and cheering and then back to the tears. At one point, I did the laughing and cheering through the tears

Although…my heart is still a little sore.  Perhaps my “whole and new again” experience will come after a bit more recovery time for my tender emotions 🙂

Lynne Gentry writes such vivid characters and settings that leap off the page and take shape around you.  This is why my emotions were so engaged as I read, why I alternated between tears streaming down my face and laughing and cheering and then back to the tears. At one point, I did the laughing and cheering through the tears! Readers will experience the struggle of a mother letting go as her little girl turns 18 and then watch the struggle of a daughter learning to mature.  But perhaps the most heart-tugging (read: tissue-needing) aspect of the story goes back to what I said at the beginning of this review and involves Cyprian – the man Lisbeth loves, the man she married on her first journey through time, the father of her daughter, the bishop of Carthage during a time of great tumult for Christians in the region.

You will be moved not only by Lisbeth and Cyprian’s story, but also by the greater story their lives are telling.

Keep a box of tissues handy but do NOT miss this read! If you are a fan of the Outlander series, you need to read The Carthage Chronicles (and you will want to start with book 1, Healer of Carthage, or you might be unnecessarily lost).  If, like me, you’ve really tried to like Outlander but failed, The Carthage Chronicles will redeem your faith in time travel books! Lynne Gentry’s writing voice is exceptional, her characters engaging, her story heartfelt.  You will be moved not only by Lisbeth and Cyprian’s story, but also by the greater story their lives are telling.

–Carrie

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