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Author: Randall Ingermanson 
Publisher: Zondervan 
Pages: 333

An accident has resulted in Rivka Meyers and her husband, Ari, being transported back to first century AD Rome.  In the third book of the _City of God__ series, the couple is confronted with the fact that Jerusalem will be destroyed. It is AD 62 and Rivka's knowledge of history reminds her that Rome will destroy Jerusalem and a prophet will warn the people of The Way (as Christians at that time) to flee the city.  Is Rivka that prophet?  If she is that prophet, will the people listen to her?  Things go from bad to worse, when the Jewish zealots demand that Ari help build weapons.  Ari has to decide whether he should join these zealots or leave fellow Jews vastly outmatched against the Roman army, the most powerful, most dominant army in the world at that time.

Today, most people's are as familiar with the history of the Christian church of the first century after the resurrection of Christ as someone in a plane viewing bits and pieces of the land below.  Even many seminary students' perspective could be likened to someone looking down at the landscape from a helicopter with a closer view, but not too much detail.  Retribution is like watching the early history of the Christian church from a ringside seat.  Ingermanson does a wonderful job of making the reader feel like they are in the middle of everything that goes on. The faces of the people are clearly visible, their thoughts and feelings clearly revealed. The author gives readers up-close views of crucifixions with descriptions far more detailed than are usually presented. The disgust Jews had for the Roman governors who came into Jerusalem is palpable. 

The biggest strength of this series is also one of its biggest weaknesses.  The reader gets to see the events up close but sometimes that can make the big picture not as clear. Sometimes the characters are confusing, Many have similar names.  Sometimes even the events sound similar so things can be hard to follow at times. A glossary of Hebrew terms and festivals as well as a list of descriptions of key historical characters does help clarify things.  Ingermanson also educates his readers about the the key historical figures of this time.

Like history itself, not all the plot threads in historical fiction books are neatly resolved by the end of the book.  One example in this book is the obvious hatred and distrust between the Jews and Romans, which one could argue lasted well past the fall of the Roman Empire. Some lesser some plot threads in Retribution could have been resolved in this book but unfortunately were not.  Resolution was hinted for a few matters but not enough for the reader to definitely know how going to end.  Other plot threads were just left hanging. However, because the book is part of a series, it is likely that some of these threads will be picked up in the next volume.

Randall Ingermanson is extremely underrated as an author and not nearly as popular as he should be.  Peretti, Lawhead, Tolkien, and CS Lewis are all very popular and very well known fiction writers, as they deserve to be because they have written/wrote great books for a number of years.  One of the biggest reasons that I give so much praise to Ingermanson is the fact that he makes the reader feel like he or she is are right in the middle of the events of the first century. Retribution Is highly enjoyable but that doesn't mean that it could be considered great literature on the level of Tolkien and CS Lewis, but those are men that would in my thoughts receive 4.5 or 5.

Rev. Burton Wray 11/14/2004


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