This book is Volume I in a four-volume set chronicling church history from its very beginnings through the 1800s missions movement. Subtitled "History Lives," these historical books intermingle historical essays with fictionalized biographical accounts of key people in church history to bring history to life for young readers (ages 9-14). Volume I, Peril and Peace, covers the period from 3 BC to AD 550. It starts with Jesus and Paul, highlighting the early church fathers (such as Polycarp, Justin, and Origen), and it ends with Jerome, St. Patrick, and Benedict.
In addition to the 13 short stories in this book, there is a detailed timeline of key events, and several short chapters providing deeper insights into key issues specific to this period--issues such as persecution, worship, creeds, and councils, as well as a section summarizing how we got the Bible. At the end of the book is a chapter that summarizes several more important figures in early church history.
And now the part I've been waiting to write in this review: These books are awesome! Although they are targeted for ages 9-14, I don't know of a single adult who would not be educated, moved, and challenged by these incredible stories. Authors Mindy and Brandon Withrow are obviously some of the finest, professional historians. Their passion, attention to truth and detail, and extensive research shows from the first page to the last. I felt confident that I was not reading false information or stories that were based on assumptions or overly fictionalized.
But best of all, Mindy and Brandon are fantastic writers. I have always been a fan of good literature. I have never been a fan of history. These books make me a fan of both! This is writing at its finest. The descriptive writing is captivating and leaps off the page like a surround-sound theater. I could smell the salt water and could almost feel my own hair and clothes dripping as I read the account of Paul's shipwreck. I could hear the rattles of the wagon and the hooves of the horses as Polycarp was driven away in hiding--almost as if I were in the wagon with him, hiding under the blanket. The character descriptions and personalities are painted vividly and established solidly. Emotions are fully captured, making me smile, cry, laugh, ache, and cheer. I wanted to leap to my feet and get on board with these passionate men of faith. I wanted to walk to the gallows with them (and I'm really only a middle-aged wife and homeschooling mother of four!). And the good writing does not stop there. Even the dialogue is brilliant, effective, and pleasingly realistic, always reflecting the different personalities. It was easy to put myself in the shoes of the people in these stories.
Knowing that much of the information was based on the actual journals and letters of those involved, I was so deeply moved by the passion and commitment of these early Christians. By comparison, people in the world today largely know nothing about how to live like these men lived: in a constant state of prayer, worship, meditation, faith, love, self-discipline, and service. Since reading this book, my prayer has been for God to make me like these men--and for God to help me teach my children to be like these men. Oh, to have such faith! Peril and Peace and the other three books in the series are a blessing and an inspiration, and that is an understatement. I won't even loan them out! I'll tell others where to buy their own! Hint: Visit the website, and soon!