Catherine McNiel's Reviews > Gods and Kings

Gods and Kings by Lynn Austin
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Jun 17, 2011

it was ok

I read this book because I was offered a free copy and because a friend recommended it to me.

On the plus side, I agree with my friend that the author writes with more complexity than the marketing for her books would lead one to believe (if such a thing can be determined from reading one book). And I found the plot to be compelling enough that I was eager to get back to the book when I had to put it down.

However, the dialogue was wooden and the characters were two dimensional at best. But my main dislike went much deeper.

From the first page to the last Austin writes a story about characters that lived in an actual and historical ancient culture. However, she appears to know almost nothing about how this culture viewed the world, themselves, society, and faith. The things she had her characters say, think and do were so entirely the sorts of things people in her own modern day, western, individualized culture would say, think, and do. At times this was merely distracting, but frequently it made the book read like a parody.

A few examples:

When reflecting on her arranged marriage, a woman reflects that she did not pursue her own desires and dreams but allowed herself to be led by her father's wishes. She reflects that this needs to change. She is asked by a man, regarding her upcoming arranged marriage, if she "ever wanted something enough to fight for it" and the implication is strongly that she has a sad, sorry, weakness she must overcome in this area. And it is stated at one point that it is royalty and a few other segments of society that have their roles cut out for them regardless of their own choosing.

Where can I even begin?!? In a society such as this one (and all non-Western, non-modern, non-individualist societies) EVERYONE (not just women, not just people of a certain societal level) follows the path that their place in society by birth dictates to them. To do otherwise is nearly beyond imagining, holds no positive or healthy associations, and is very literally the very definition of sin. To do so would bring trouble and ruin to the entire society. I could go on and on but instead I'll continue.

The description of religion and the role it plays in a person and in society!!!! In both big (the King says "religion belongs in the temple, not in the streets and certainly not in the government") and smaller ways (people talking about if they believe in God, or their "faith" or wondering if God really exists and how we can know when we don't see him, and talking about their faith become an "empty ritual" and dozens of other examples found on every page of dialogue) Austin again makes a parody of the book by entirely not understanding the ancient view of the sacred and inserting our own modern, western view. There was NO sacred/secular distinction during this time and in this sort of society. This was NOT how God/religion was viewed or spoken of or thought of nor was this the purpose of it. Not at all.

Here are a few other ridiculous quotes:

"yet he hesitated, his rational mind refusing to believe in a supernatural answer."

"Can you prove any of this? I can't rest the fate of my nation of a superstition. I have to believe in things that can be proved in a tangible way." (A distinction of the modern/western worldview, not the ancient worldview)

"I don't have the proof you are asking for. I believe it by faith." (NOT the ancient definition of faith!!!!)

Again, I could go on and on and on. Yes, this how we think in this hemisphere at this time. I wonder if Austin was truly unaware of the cultural lenses she wrote with (and did not write with) or if she was aware but was speaking to her readers by using the thoughts and definitions that they would have. Either way, I'm dissapointed.
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02/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Ebookwormy i love your perspective! you saw things in this book that I didn't. Thanks for writing the review!


message 2: by MAP (new) - rated it 2 stars

MAP YES! YES YES YES YES YES!


Elsa I was thinking the same thing the whole way through the book. I think Austin is trying to make the book more relevant to modrrn Western readers and that takes away fro te story as far as i'm concerned. And the woodeness of the characters! I rolled my eyes at the dialog so many times


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