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Into the Unbounded Night

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When her village in Albion is sacked by the Roman general Vespasian, young Aislin is left without home and family. Determined to exact revenge, she travels to Rome, a sprawling city of wealth, decadence, and power. A “barbarian” in a “civilized” world, Aislin struggles to comprehend Roman ways. From a precarious hand-to-mouth existence on the streets, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy senator, but their child Faolan is born with a disability that renders him unworthy of life in the eyes of his father and other Romans. Imprisoned for her efforts to topple the Roman regime, Aislin learns of an alternate philosophy from her cellmate, the Judean known today as the apostle St. Paul. As the capital burns in the Great Fire of 64 AD, he bequeaths to her a mission that will take her to Jerusalem. There, Yohanan, son of Zakkai, has been striving to preserve the tradition of Hillel against the Zealots who advocate for a war of independence. Responding to the Judeans’ revolt, the Romans—again under the leadership of Vespasian—besiege Jerusalem, destroying the Second Temple and with it, the brand of Judean monotheism it represents. Yohanan takes on the mission of preserving what can be preserved, and of re-inventing what must be reinvented.

258 pages, Paperback

Published September 1, 2020

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About the author

Mitchell James Kaplan

4 books226 followers
Mitchell James Kaplan is a cum laude graduate of Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize. His first mentor was author William Styron. Following college, he lived in Paris and Southern California. Currently he lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

​Mitchell James Kaplan's 2010 novel, By Fire, By Water, won numerous literary awards both domestically and abroad. Into The Unbounded Night, a novel of first century Rome and the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, will be out in September, 2020 (Regal House). Rhapsody, a novel about Kay Swift and her 1920s Broadway circle, including her lover George Gershwin, will appear in 2021 (Gallery / Simon & Schuster)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
Profile Image for Annette.
766 reviews343 followers
January 25, 2021
Into the Unbounded Night takes us to a time of ancient stones paving the way to the great temples. A time, when different ideologies rub shoulders leading to the birth of Judeo-Christian monotheism. It is also a time when accumulation of wealth and power leads to rebellion and destruction. With Kaplan’s gifted storytelling, the reader is transported into the ancient times of turmoil and history in the making.

The year is 40 C.E., on the island of Britannia, in the village of Albion. Fourteen-year-old Aislin is being raised by her aunt, after an illness left her motherless. Her aunt Muirgheal is a local warrior, “a great warrior and a leader of her people.” A visitor appears at their village warning of invading warriors, warriors “well-armed and extraordinarily disciplined. (…) They come from a place called Roma, and their general is a giant called Vespasian.” When her village is depopulated, after a brutal Roman invasion, Aislin travels to Rome to avenge her people.

Yohanan, son of Zakkai, is a priest-in-training in Jerusalem. When he witnesses injustice from those in power, he accepts punishment for speaking up. But he will not accept the injustice. He leaves Jerusalem behind in search of his home. In Judea, he finds a congregation of Aravites which “mirrors the festivities of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.” He is a Pharisees who tries to preserve traditions against the Zealots’ uncompromising resistance of Romans.

In Rome, after an uprising, Aislin finds herself at a prison-cell which she shares with Paulus – known today as the apostle St. Paul. She admires “his sense of purpose – his absurd conviction that what he has to say (…) will change the world.” She is skeptical of his story, but she finds his compassion and radiance moving. Some aspects of his story confuse her, but his “preoccupation with the well-being of the weak, the crippled, and those who feel shunned” fascinates her. After Rome burns and citizens are misplaced, Paulus entrusts Aislin with a task of delivering something important to Judea.

The story is character driven and with supporting characters, they all are intricately developed and connected by historical events that shape the first century lands conquered by Romans. Bringing such themes as competing visions of a man, Pharisees vs Zealots, leading to the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by Romans. Accumulation of wealth and power by some, pushes others to even deeper poverty, and others even to rebellion. How the Romans are able to control the vast lands they conquer. By offering true cities made of stone and brick, not of wood and mud, thus no need to display skulls at a gate in order to discourage an enemy.

As we get to know the characters better and better, they pull us deeper and deeper into the story. And with the Romans ravaging the villages of Britannia you can feel the tensions and you can feel that it’s just a matter of time when and where they strike again.

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the quality of this story and the writing. And the research that went into crafting such fine book with compelling plot, rich historical background and well-developed characters including some iconic figures St. Paul and Yohanan ben Zakkai.

I’d like to finish with the words which I found profound, “…we must forever hope for a day when respect for life and peace will be universal.”

I highly recommend all books by master storyteller, Mitchell James Kaplan. Previous book By Fire, By Water and upcoming book Rhapsody to be released 3/2/21.

Originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com

After reviewing Into the Unbounded Night, I was captivated by the story and its historical background and how it all came together. That prompted me to ask the author a few questions. His answers to come on 3/1/21 at mysteryandsuspense.com
Profile Image for Jane.
1,539 reviews173 followers
October 15, 2021
Enthralling story of Aislin, a Briton; Yohanan, a Jewish copyist and scholar; Septimus, former Roman soldier turned fresco painter; and Vespasian, General, later emperor and how their lives intermingle. After her village is completely destroyed, Aislin and Septimus travel to Rome with the idea of revenge in her mind. Thinking she has been abandoned by Septimus on purpose, she becomes for a time mistress to an aristocrat after living on the streets. After bearing him a mentally-challenged son, she doesn't want to kill the baby and runs away with the baby. Her life becomes entwined with that of St. Paul with whom she is in prison; she absorbs some of his ideas. Yohanan travels to Judaea where he and Aislin meet and marry. All his life, Yohanan has sought the Temple treasure, which he finally realizes are more precious than mere silver and gold. He finds and preserves it.

The story presented strong characters, which in the course of their lifetimes grew and developed. I was disappointed in this portrayal of Vespasian--his actions towards Aislin and the outcome of his final meeting with Septimus. I wish it could have been the opposite towards the painter. This emperor has always been a favorite of mine. I appreciated the author's treatment of Temple life and ritual. Interesting also was the martyrdom of Stefanos [who we know as Stephen] and Saul's part in it. The New Testament book of Acts does connect Saul with the incident but not to such an extent. Themes of the novel treated the nature of love, innocence, revenge, longing, the value of every life.

There was a note of fantasy: the legend of Azazel, a fallen Angel [Messenger] and some literary license. Roman history and customs were weak e.g., legionnaires should be legionaries. Since soldiers were not permitted to marry, shouldn't Septimus' wife have been a common-law wife?
There was also a pet peeve of mine: two okay's on p. 206 in my copy. I felt odd at the use of It/Its for God all through the novel. Is that mainstream Jewish usage or should it be He/His depending on the part of speech?

Highly recommended. I thank LibraryThing for the ARC they sent me.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 9 books276 followers
July 7, 2020
Mitchell James Kaplan is the gloriously talented writer of this dramatic, intense story of conflicting emperors, slaves, priests and exiles in a first century world whose roots and traditions are increasingly torn apart by the brutal rule of Rome. Men and women search for belief and reason, out of which will emerge a new Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem’s Temple as well as the early beginnings of Christianity. A writer of enormous scope, compassion and poetry, Kaplan has written several of the most compelling characters you will meet in the pages of a book.

INTO THE UNBOUNDED NIGHT sweeps over you like a succession of huge waves. It is truly a major novel.
Profile Image for Annie.
2 reviews14 followers
May 26, 2020
An erudite rendering of a decisive time in history, seen through the eyes of Aislin, a young survivor of the invasion of Britannia by Vespasian. Elegant prose. Great storytelling. Complex characters, some of them iconic (St. Paul, Vespasian, Yohanan Ben Zakkai) who strive for meaning and faith in a world in turmoil. Apocalyptic, with a hint of magic. Poignant and layered. One of those novels that will stay with me.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,440 reviews829 followers
November 5, 2020
I enjoyed the range and perspectives of this book.and thought it was thoughtfully written. I enjoyed learning about the faiths of the main characters and I thought it added depth to the story. It was very well written although I didn’t much care for its use of the present tense. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Profile Image for Bob.
1,858 reviews621 followers
September 4, 2020
Summary: Historical fiction set in the mid-first century AD in the Roman Empire, spanning conquests from Albion (Britannia), Carthage, and Jerusalem, and the center of power in Rome.

Imagine a narrative that connects the characters of Vespasian, Roman general and future emperor, Saul of Tarsus, and Yohanan ben Zakkai, the rabbi who escaped rebellious Jerusalem and established a center that preserved Judaism after the fall of the temple and Jerusalem. Throw in cameos by Stephen the Martyr, Lucanus (Luke the physician), Caiaphas the high priest, and Josephus. Imagine a narrative that knits together the conquest of Britannia, the fires of Rome, Paul in prison, and the rebellion leading to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

This is that narrative.

What ties this together is a young woman of Albion, Aislin, mentored by the warrioress Muirgheal. When the Romans under Vespasian come, Aislin alone survives, raped and then discarded by Vespasian. Aislin vows revenge. With a soldier who chooses anonymous exile to death, she flees Britannia (Rome’s name for Albion) ending up in Rome. While in Rome, she survives on the streets, bears a mentally deficient but lovable son, and ends up in prison with the Apostle Paul for burning Rome. As the flames spread, she and Paul escape, she agrees to carry a special coin to the Christians in Jerusalem as Paul’s emissary, and meets up with Yohanan ben Zakkai, also traveling there. There she remains as Yohanan forms a rabbinic community while failing to temper the brewing rebellion that brings down the wrath of Rome

Somehow, Aislin survives it all.

The narrative offers a glimpse of how Roman, Jewish, and early Christian history interweave. And somehow, it works as the narrative moves back and forth between Aislin, Yohanan, Vespasian, and Paulus (as he is called in the narrative). The strangest part perhaps is the “Messenger” Azazel, rescuer of scapegoats and lost children. We gain a sense of the rival religions of the empire and the rival hopes and visions of the diverse peoples. We glimpse all these through Aislin as well, who never quite embraces anything besides the remnants of her own spirituality, yet is enriched and moves beyond revenge to love a strange child and a mystical rabbi. We also see the brutal exercise of Roman power in colonial conquest and political decadence. The account is bracketed by encounters between Aislin and Vespasian, who discovers that he can only conquer land, but not the human spirit.

I wasn’t sure this would all work, but strong and complex characters (even Vespasian), a first century world the author brings vividly alive and a plot that spans an empire all come together to spin a fascinating tale. Sometimes we find ourselves puzzling at cultures so different from our own. At others we forget that two millenia separate us from these all-too-human people.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Amy Bruno.
364 reviews482 followers
August 31, 2020
Into the Unbounded Night is set around 64 A.D. and tells the story of Aislin and her life after her village is destroyed by the Roman General, Vespasian. She is taken hostage and held by Vespasian, where he treats her horribly. She escapes one day and runs into Septimus. What follows is Aislin's journey to Rome and then Jerusalem, and all of the adventure, danger, and people she meets along the way, including the apostle St. Paul.

"Remember, Aislin, love grows not in the pure soil of forgiveness but from the mud of revenge."

The book focuses mostly on Aislin, Yohanan, Septimus, and Vespasian. Each POV was equally compelling, though I found Vespasian's scenes the most engrossing. I guess I like villains :)

I especially was fascinated with Muirgheal, Aislin's Aunt who was considered the most favored warrior in the land. She needs a book of her own!

Despite the fact that I'm not a very religious person I found Into the Unbounded Night to be an eye-opening read. Kaplan's writing is top notch and there was a bit of magical realism that I loved.

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,306 reviews27 followers
September 4, 2020
In the year 40 C.E. Aislin lives a hardworking but honest life with her aunt Muirgheal.  They live in Albion on what is known as Britannia.  When Albion is conquered by the Roman General Vespasian, Aislin is taken hostage and her aunt dies for her village.  Used by Vespasian and discarded, Aislin vows vengeance.  While wandering, Aislin meets disgraced Roman soldier Septimus.  They become travelling companions and Septimus introduces Aislin to the city of Rome.  Aislin's introduction is brief as she is thrown on the streets and picked up by Pallas, a wealthy patrician who uses Aislin to beget a son.  Aislin delivers a boy, Faolan, who is disabled.  Rather than kill her son, Aislin flees with Faolan.  While raising Faolan on the streets of Rome, Aislin learns of the best and worst of humanity while finding a true partner in Yohanan.
Into the Unbounded Night is a beautifully told story of the lives of several people during the precarious time period of the formation of monotheistic belief systems in the Roman Empire.  I haven't read a lot about this period of time and was very impressed by the historical detail that managed to not derail the storyline and characters.  The story follows six very different characters through this time. I was most drawn to Aislin's story and found it a little difficult to keep all of the characters in line at points.  Aislin was easy for me to relate to despite living so long ago and her life managed to tie together many of the important elements on her own. I was constantly amazed by the ups and downs of her journey, her ability to survive and how she managed to prevail over all those who sought to destroy who she is and the people she came from.  I did enjoy the inclusion of Azazel and wish that story would have been expanded upon. 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
Profile Image for Barry.
862 reviews34 followers
December 19, 2020
An interesting historical novel covering the period from 40 AD to the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD. As a history, it is often fascinating and informative, moving from Britannia to Rome to Jerusalem, and involving Vespasian, Josephus, St. Paul, and others as characters. But as a novel, I often found the story to be, well, a little dull. Apparently this is a minority opinion, but to me, it felt more like an exercise to instruct the reader about the cultures and religious thinking of the time, rather than telling a great dramatic story.
Rounding up from 2.5
Profile Image for Jypsy .
1,524 reviews60 followers
September 7, 2020
Thank you HFVBT for a complimentary copy. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own.

Into The Unbounded Night
By: Mitchell James Kaplan


Into The Unbounded Night highlights a turbulent time in history through various unique perspectives. Aislin, Vespasian, Yohanan and Paulus are characters from different walks of life. They are separated by divergent cultures, beliefs, lifestyles and degrees of power and wealth. Around 64 A.D. Roman rule was brutally oppressive and excessively cruel. Through the characters, we see the differences between Christianity, Judaism and Roman rule. The things people truly value become clearer while their intolerance to things unwanted grows. Aislin is a strong female, and she survives so much in the story. Her growth and development is evident as the story progresses. This is an era I know little about, but after reading this fascinating story, I plan to learn more. Mitchell James Kaplan is insightful, direct and gives his characters distinct voices. Pick up your copy of Into The Unbounded Night, and see what you can learn!
Profile Image for Yvette.
728 reviews25 followers
September 24, 2020
Beginning and ending with the importance of a people's story, Into the Unbounded Night is richly researched and beautifully written, holding the reader enthralled throughout.

"In life there are guidelines, like well-worn paths, but nothing is certain and nothing is forever. A storm may come and wash out part of the trail, or grass may overrun it, and you'll have to find your way. That is when you must not lose courage." Ch.1

From life with her aunt Muirgheal, a renowned Celtic warrior, through the burning of Rome and the siege of Jerusalem, I was enraptured with the story of Aislin and the various men - including the Apostle Paul - whose lives touch hers, sometimes in brutal ways.

With touches of magical realism, but all too grounded in the reality they face in the first century, this is a journey through three distinct lands along with their politics, philosophy, and different faiths. A highly recommended read, with a note that, though much of the brutality happens off page, this is not for the faint hearted.

This review refers to a digital copy I voluntarily received and read. It contains only my own honest opinions. A positive review was not required.
Profile Image for Debbie Viscosi.
314 reviews7 followers
May 27, 2020
Romans are not known for kindness. They were methodical and violent. When the Romans attacked villages in Albion, they killed everyone. In one such village, Vespasian took a young girl hostage as he killed the inhabitants of the village. This young girl vowed vengeance. After being set free, she travels, hoping to find a new place to call home. Her adventures are myriad and show the difficulties of life and poverty during this time. She also experiences the warring factions of the Judeans and the beginnings of Christianity. In time, she crosses paths with the man who changed her life. Will she be able to forgive him or kill him?

This story gives a full and unbiased look at the difficulties of the times. The author has the unique ability to tell this story with such a lyrical quality to his words. You will find yourself immersed in the times and want to follow these wonderful characters forever. Mitchell James Kaplan is a fantastically talented author. This is a must-read!
2 reviews
July 14, 2020
I don't typically read historical fiction, but a friend with an advanced copy recommended I read this. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable read. The characters are compelling and realistic, and I particularly like Septimus and Vespasian. Vespasian does some horrible things, but the author does such a great job of portraying him as a real, flawed, person that you understand him rather than hate him.

The book is also very well balanced on the religious front; I never got the impression that any one group was better than another, and it wasn't preachy at all, which I appreciate in books where religion is involved. You can really tell Mitchell Kaplan did his research for this.

The book is engaging from beginning to end, and I recommend it.
November 23, 2020
This sweeping novel begins among tribes in Brittania, moves through early Rome and ends in Jerusalem. The main characters reflect their vastly different cultures and experience colonization in a primal way even as they search for meaning. In this complex, fertile soil, the seeds of early Judaism and Christianity as well as mystical beliefs of the period play an important role. Into the Unbounded Night is written in a spare, lyrical style and is clearly based on thorough research; it is a moving, even profound, sophisticated entree into a fascinating period. I loved it--and plan to read it again.
Profile Image for Zoe L..
390 reviews14 followers
September 9, 2020
I went into this book expecting a wonderfully written historical fiction, and what I got was so much more. It was just so beautifully written and equal parts engrossing and engaging. It takes a deep dive into the psyche of humans and shows us at our best and our worst. There is a bit of history, a touch of faith, a dash of magical realism, and topping it off with a wonderful cast of characters.

Now, I mentioned the characters already, but I want to just go a little more in depth. We have the four main characters and their POVs and what really makes them each so special is their imperfections. This was not the easiest time period to live through so being morally grey goes hand in hand with survival. And these characters have had to make extremely difficult decisions to not just survive but to thrive. Yet the characters don’t remain stagnant throughout the book, they change and adapt based off of whatever new situation is thrown their way.

I was really excited for this book given the time period it is set in. I honestly don’t have a plethora of knowledge on the time so I couldn’t wait to dive into it and hopefully learn something. But what I was pleasantly surprised with was the style of writing. This truly was a gorgeous book and it didn’t fall into the trap, that some historical fiction books tend to do, and become dry. You will definitely enjoy the read and the characters throughout your read!

You can view my full review & giveaway on my blog! I also post about a lot of different types of books!

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Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews32 followers
September 7, 2020
Into the Unbounded Night takes place in three places; first in a place the people call Albion that is being destroyed by a marauding army that calls the island Brittania. There we meet Aislin, a young girl under the care of her aunt. We are also introduced to Vespasian, the Roman general in charge of one of the legions conquering the land that modern times will know as England. Vespasian is as cruel as they come and he destroys anything he comes in contact with – all to the glory of Rome, of course. Aislin manages to survive him and through her strength and some luck she finds herself in Rome where she is forced into a relationship with a rich Roman – but that does help her acclimate her to the ways of these people who destroyed all she knew.

But her life in Rome is not settled as the son she bears for her patron is disabled and he is most displeased. As she flees to save the life of her child, she is again in a perilous position – especially in a world that worships perfection. Caught up in the chaos as the great fire starts and rages, Aislin finds herself in prison shackled next to a man named Paul; a member of a new religion that has the Emporor all riled up. He has blamed them for all that ails Rome. As she listens to him she learns his story and he gives her a mission for after her release.

Aislin takes this mission very seriously and when reunited with her son she heads to Jeruslalem to do as Paul has asked. Along the way she meets a man named Yohanan, a teacher. The reader has learned a bit of his story already earlier in the book. These four people – Aislin, her son, Yohanan, and Vespasian will all play important roles in the story of Jerusalem and Rome.

I have to admit that it took me a little while to figure out how all of the players fit together in this tale. Rome, in it’s heyday ruled over a mindblowingly large part of the world and kept trying to conquer more peoples. And they weren’t exactly kind rulers – it was Rome’s way or good bye. I will also admit that like a lot of literary fiction sometimes things happen over my head. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy what I am reading, I just don’t always understand all of the nuances of what is going on.

Mr. Kaplan’s writing is just magical. Despite sometimes not completely understanding what was going on, I found myself lost in the world he created. This is a book I am going to have to read again to gather up all I missed the first time because I was so lost in the beautiful words. Then I might be able to sort out the parts that are smarter than I am – or maybe not. Some books are just like that. Doesn’t mean I don’t love them, just means I don’t fully understand them. I read the book in a day and it was a wonderful day of reading

Profile Image for Elysium.
389 reviews53 followers
September 15, 2020
Aislin is a young girl in Albion (Britannia) whose village, and everyone she loves, are killed when Roman general Vespasian attacks her village. She is determined to get vengeance and ends up in Rome. There she manages to get a sort of vengeance and then her road leads to Jerusalem. While there, she meets a teacher called Yohanan.

There are quite a lot of characters and several points of views in the book. But it was interesting to see how the people’s stories intertwined through the book.

I’m not a religious person and honestly don’t know much about anything related to it so I don’t really know how many, apart from few exceptions, of the characters were real people. But even though there is a religious theme in the book, it doesn’t come off as preachy.

I loved the writing style even if I missed the finer points of the religious themes. I loved Kaplan’s previous book By Fire, By Water so I was excited to read this, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Profile Image for Carly Howe.
552 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2020
I typically would not read this type of book- historical fiction set in A.D. 64 in Rome. I received an ARC through a good reads giveaway. I was surprised how much I really enjoyed this story. The backdrop and setting were mesmerizing. The characters were fascinating and well developed. Thank you to the author for the ARC.
161 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2020
Exciting and fascinating tale of coming into identity thru hardship and courage.
Profile Image for Frankie.
834 reviews62 followers
October 5, 2020
There is a lot to like about this, the story has it’s complexities which really hook you and pull you further into the story, I’m not religious at all, but I was certainly swept up with the story, it opens the eyes and makes you think about certain aspects of the story. I’ve not read Mitchell James Kaplan’s work before, but I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to his skilful and mesmerising writing.

I really liked the multiple character point of view, I liked getting to know each individual and learning their story and seeing how each linked with the others. There is a whole host of wonderfully captured character’s; a young woman who has lost everything and who has seen far too much then her tender years should, a scholar who is wise and thoughtful, a former Roman soldier who paints – I know, that’s a new one for me too – and a real villain who you love to hate, and yet oddly enough I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes with the brutal Vespasian, what a horrible creature he is. Once Aislin set’s off on her life-changing journey of discovery we soon get a vivid and enthralling image of the different character’s, each with his/her own story to tell and each entwined the others in some way or another.

Aislin she is a brave and resourceful, she has nothing left after her village is destroyed and she must do all she can to survive, and she must make some difficult choices along the way, Vespasian he really is a horrible man, and a brilliant baddie (I do have a thing for well-written villains) I love the way he is written, like the other character’s he comes alive on the page.

The plot is thrilling, it is a good versus evil style story with the added finding peace and faith element, I particularly liked the added ‘Fantasy’ element with Azazel; the fallen angel/messenger, I think that aspect really gave what is already wonderfully original story a unique edge.
Profile Image for Monica.
605 reviews
October 1, 2020
I won this from Goodreads.
A historical fiction book set 40 C.E. It is well written and mesmerizing. You follow three main characters and see how their lives intertwine. From the Roman Empire, slaves, scholars, and ordinary people, this book will take you on an adventure of the ancient past.

Throughout this book, Aislin's, Faolan's, Vespasian's and Yohanan's lives intertwine in unexpected ways that shed light on colonization and it's discontents.
Profile Image for Beth.
Author 14 books1,431 followers
September 3, 2020
Look no further for riveting historical fiction. This wonderful novel overflows with captivating storytelling and gorgeous (often lyrical) prose. Mitchell James Kaplan is a master at his craft and admired for his meticulous research. His unique way of blending ancient history, lore, and the complex entanglements of his characters makes for a book to be savored. Highly recommended
1 review1 follower
May 24, 2020
Into the Unbounded Night is historical fiction set in the Roman Empire during the New Testament and Jewish second temple era. The author interweaves the historical setting and characters throughout the novel. Into the Unbounded Night's greatest strength as a novel also becomes its greatest flaw. The author, Mitchell James Kaplan, has done his homework, weaving in history, historical characters, and the theologies of Christianity, Judaism, and Roman religion in ways that are often lyrical and lovely. But at the same time by focusing on historical figures: the emperor Vespasian, the Apostle Paul (Paulus), and Yohanan ben Zakkai, among others, we end up with a novel that, though it claims to be centered on the female character Aislin, wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test. All other female characters are flat and even Aislin is not developed as a character as well as she could have been. Just as I became fascinated with her story as she wanders through the woods having escaped from Vespasian’s captivity and meets up with the Roman soldier Septimus, her story cuts off. She shows back up in the story primarily when she can serve as a foil to reveal the temperaments of the male characters. Though the novel in a way seems to seek to shed light on what foreign occupation and colonization do to people, it ultimately gives short shrift to the voices of those very people leaving me longing to hear them. Indeed, the novel amplifies the voices of those who already dominate the historical record. Perhaps this is just the way things are, but I had hoped that a book of historical fiction with touches of the fantastical would do what history does not: let me peek inside of the unheard mind and heart. Alongside these issues, the plot meanders in a way that is not compelling. This could be forgiven had the characters been stronger. Ultimately, though fairly well-written and readable, it falls short of the hopes that the description of the novel engendered in me.
Profile Image for Nikita Wells.
122 reviews15 followers
February 12, 2021
I recieved this book through a Goodreads giveaway and was so excited about winning a book! However, when I started reading, I was horrified at the sexually graphic depictions the author used. Unspeakable gore, and not to mention pagan rites from the beginning of the book. I DID NOT FINISH THIS BOOK, it was far too gross. Ashamed this was labelled as a "Christian" book. This one made it way to the trash can fast, and in shreds. Abominable, and I wouldn't recommend to anyone.
13 reviews
February 18, 2021
A Bit Too Much Scholastically

Okay read. I did learn more about the culture, religion and beliefs of 1st Century AD Britains, Judeans and Romans. But the writing is turgid and unnecessarily complex. The ideas were simple enough but the author dragged the stories using the most obtuse language possible. If you like action then avoid this book. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge, then this book is for you.
Profile Image for Polly Krize.
1,930 reviews39 followers
September 21, 2020
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The story of Aislin, a young survivor of the invasion of Britannia by Vespasian. Discarded as a slave, she meets Septimus a Roman soldier, who guides her to Rome. Despite many characters, this is a fine look at the Rome of the first century A.D.
22 reviews
March 30, 2021
I think the author tried to tell too many stories in a relatively short book. So there were holes in all of them. No consistent storyline. There were facts thrown in without any background or explanation. Add some unbelievable things plus some minor editing problems and you get a book that could be illuminating about the time period but instead is very unsatisfying.
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