Slavery. I have to bring up the slavery issue because it was a big thing for me to wrap my thinking around, and I know it will be for others as well. When we think of slavery, we automatically think of the American experience, a part of our history that we wish had never happened. Yet slavery has existed in many forms in cultures all over the world at various times. It is mentioned with some specific rules in the Old Testament and also addressed in the New Testament. Teachers in the Greek and Roman cultures were slaves. At times so were doctors and lawyers. I don’t believe that God is ever saying that it is perfectly acceptable for one person to own another or to treat another person like property. Perhaps it was more to the point that it would exist anyway because the way people were, so here are some rules to protect the slaves. In Exodus 21, it states that the slaves were to be freed in the year of Jubilee. That corresponds to the Queens Jubilee in NIBAC. But, if the slave wanted to stay with his master, his ear would be pieced and a ring put in it to signify that he was a free-will slave for life. A bond servant, bonded by that mark of ownership. In like manner kee, who could have been freed at any time she liked, chose rather to be a slave for life and get an Owner’s Mark to show she belonged to Vahn. Of course, in her case, this is symbolic for her wedding vows as well.
There are several verses in the Both Testaments that are usually translated servant. A more accurate translation is bond-servant, which is really what kee is. Paul calls himself a bond-servant, or slave, of Jesus Christ in the opening verses of many of his letters to the churches.
We serve either God or Mammon, as it says in the King James Version, so while we do have free will, we will end up serving someone. I am reminded of the Bob Dylan song: “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” (“Gotta Serve Somebody” 1979). True freedom is found when we willingly submit to the will of God and allow Him to be the Lord of our lives. One of the gems that this novel contains is coming to terms with what Lordship means.
There are other very deep themes in NIBAC. The whole relationship of marriage and our relationship as the Bride of Christ. A parent’s love for his/her children and God’s love as a father. Friendship and the concepts of loyalty, even willingness to lay down one’s life for a friend. The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Bringing honor—or shame-- to the name of the Lord. Free will choices versus being forced to serve or act.
But I don’t want to leave prospective readers with the idea that this is a heavy novel that will weigh you down. First and foremost, it is an entertaining adventure full of intrigue, mystery, even humor. I don’t want to spoil it, but there are some pretty humorous episodes at the expense of the Duke’s pride. I have to admit, I laughed at his discomfort, but it was hard not to. Mrs. Hokstad described those episodes vividly enough that I could imagine them in a movie. There are some playful scenes when kee is really getting into her role as the nasty runaway, Captain Shil pretends to be a cruel uncaring soldier taking her back by orders, and the healer acts as a cold disinterested traveling companion. But then there were many scenes that had me turning pages quickly to see if the trio would get out of their predicaments or end up in jail or worse. Would kee gain the confidences of someone who knew the whereabouts of the Duke’s son? Would anyone die from the sting of the deadly scorpions? Would they ever find the baby of the other slave who died? Would King Pendo gain control of Latoph in the war he started?
If you wish to read more about the CFRB book for February, I urge you to visit the main site at cfrblog.blogspot.com, where David Brollier has gone in-depth with different essays each day Sunday through Saturday. On that site, as well as here in the side panel, there is a blogroll with other reviewers who have posted either reiews, interviews, essays, or excerpts from the book, some more than once, such as I have. As alway, I urge you to take a look at the beautifully designed website belonging to Caprice Hokstae, http://www.latoph.com/. She has all kinds of goodies there.