Tuesday, September 22, 2009




"This breathtaking novel, set in the early years of Israelite nationhood, tells the story of Bat-Shachar, a teenage girl gifted with beauty and intellect, who is languishing in the household of her strict father, a prominent Israelite scholar. Intimidated by Bat-Shachar’s coming of age, her father grows aloof. He scrutinizes her every action and his discipline is humiliating and heavy-handed, driving her from home. In the company of the family’s Canaanite maidservant, Bat-Shachar happens upon pagan rituals and the visions she witnesses shake her to the core of her existence. Soon her path intertwines with that of Tzuriel, a young metalworking apprentice who witnessed his people butchered by marauders, and together they race toward a city of refuge as bloodthirsty enemies relentlessly pursue them." (from Amazon Product Description)


Valerie Farber's day job is technical writing in Jerusalem. Creative writing is her passion. Valerie moved to Israel from Boston in June, 1985. She has recently completed her first book, a historical novel set in the time of the judges (shoftim). For more details about the book, see her website.


I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised in reading Valerie Farber's CITY OF REFUGE. I wasn't sure if a biblical type book was quite my kind of read but it was a really good story. Her writing is very well done and the story moved along nicely. Her descriptions bring the ancient times to life and you can tell Farber did a lot of research on the Biblical times to know all she wrote. If you didn't know better, the story could have almost been written in a different time period in most instances and still held up very well complete with enough twists in the plot to keep anyone engaged just like any mystery or action story might.

CITY OF REFUGE takes place before there was a kingdom in Israel during the period of the Judges. Farber tells of the lives of the Jews as well as the Cannanites. The engaging main female character is Bat Shachar, who is a 16-year-old girl who wants to get out from under the iron fist of her father and have more freedom to do what she wants to do. Her father is a very strict Priest, or Rabbi, who requires his daughter to live by the rules of the Torah. Bat Shachar can be a bit unruly and she takes up with a Canaanite who is a servant and not that good of an influence. Bat Shacher trusts her so much so that she even follows her to a place that her father does not approve of. When her father learns of this, he decides it is time to marry his daughter to one of his pious students, Itamer. Bat Shachar doesn't like Itamer at all and will not be pushed into an arranged marriage.

The main male character is Tzuriel. He and his friend Yerachmiel are learning to work with metal. They want to do this to make weapons to help defend their people from attacks. However, in order to learn the very best way to make good quality steel, the expert Tzuriel tells them that they must go to Gat and try and find out how the enemy makes their iron weapons. Everyone knows they are much better weapons and so this would make sense.

And you can probably see where the story is going, or think you do, as
Bat Shachar and Tzuriel wind up having to leave the city together. An angry mob tries to kill them and so they they must go to a city of refuge. Bat Shachar realizes during this time how much her family and their way of life means to her. It also turns out that her family begins to understand a little of her wanting to be more independent. What happens to Bat Shachar and Tzuriel? Do they wind up together? You will have to read the book to find out but I will tell you this. In reading the book, you will find out so much about the time period, what the lives were like back then and how families and enemies got along...or didn't! I am glad I read this book as it gave me some insight into a time I really didn't know about but in a way that was interesting and in its narrative form, easy to read.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Boy, it seems some things never change, doesn't it?!!! Parents being heavy-handed, young kids running away... I like the idea of learning a lot about this time period; it sounds good!

Ladytink_534 said...

I tend to avoid biblical type books... actually, I'm not sure if I've ever read one! Glad you enjoyed it though :)