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Literature / The Mark of the Lion

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Hadassah, with an ominous backdrop.

Trilogy of Christian Historical Fiction novels published in the 1990s by Francine Rivers. They are set mostly in Rome during the first Jewish-Roman War, circa A.D. 70.

The first two novels are A Voice in the Wind and An Echo in the Darkness. They form a cohesive story arc following the story of Hadassah, a young Judeo-Christian girl who is sold into slavery, and Marcus Valerian, a wealthy Roman aristocrat determined to get the most out of life. They slowly fall in love but are torn by their wildly different social classes and worldviews, since Hadassah is a steadfast, selfless Christian and Marcus is dedicated to the Roman philosophies of hedonism and paganism. The third novel, As Sure as the Dawn, focuses on Atretes, the high chief of a Germanic tribe who is captured and forced to be a gladiator, and is more like a spin-off than a direct continuation of the first two novels. The primary link between the first two novels and the third is Julia Valerian, Marcus’ hedonistic younger sister who, in her pursuit of control over her own life, strikes up an affair with Atretes.

Complex character arcs, historical and Biblical exposition, action, and intrigue all wind up to form a beautifully-crafted fictional testament to how Love Redeems.

Each installment’s official page on the author’s website can be found here, here, and here.

These novels contain examples of the following tropes:

  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: All major gay characters are presented as one side or the other of this. It’s worth noting that in this case it’s at least somewhat Truth in Television, since this was almost the only form of legal/socially acceptable homosexuality for men in ancient Rome.
  • All Gays are Promiscuous: Mostly played straight (but then, who in ancient Rome isn’t?). Averted with Prometheus, but mostly because he doesn’t want to be gay.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: This is defintiely true of Julia, who finds her lovers’ worldliness glamorous and doesn’t seem to realize the consequences of taking lovers who flaunt the rules and don’t shy away from underhanded (or worse) ways of dealing with any unpleasantness.
  • All Take and No Give: Julia tends towards this in many of her relationships, though it’s most prominent (and destructive) in her affair with Atretes.
  • Ancient Rome: In all its glory. And decadence, and corruption…
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Marcus to Hadassah, more than once. Also Alexander to Hadassah, and Julia to Atretes.
  • Arranged Marriage: Julia’s first, to an older man who is kindly enough but has absolutely nothing in common with her.
  • Ascended Extra: A minor case with Hadassah's father who was the son of the Widow of Nain that Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospel of Luke.
  • Attempted Rape / Near-Rape Experience / Dude, She's Like in a Coma / Beautiful Dreamer: Yes, there really is one incident which combines all four of these tropes: midway through the first book, Hadassah passes out in Marcus’ arms. As he sits beside her sleeping form, he begins to be overwhelmed by his feelings for her and comes within an inch of raping her, only shaken out of it when she begins to wake up and panics.
  • Back from the Dead:
  • Bait-and-Switch Sentiment: Alexander tries to convince Hadassah to leave Rome with him, declaring passionate love for her; she responds by admitting she loves him too, and then crushes him by listing all the things she loves about him—in a completely platonic manner.
    Alexander: What would you say if I told you I love you? Because I do! Hadassah, I love you! Doesn't that make a difference?
    Hadassah: I love you too, Alexander…I'll always love you for your kindness to me, for your compassion to countless others, for your hunger to know truth…
    Alexander: I wasn't speaking of brotherly love.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Marcus towards Julia at least until she betrays Hadassah at the end of the first book.
  • Big Brother Worship: In Julia’s eyes, Marcus is the embodiment of all things wise, worldly, and wonderful.
  • Blue Blood: Lots; among the main characters are Marcus, Julia, and their parents.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Hadassah struggles with this throughout the first book in regards to Marcus.
  • The Casanova: Marcus, who is apparently quite excellent at seducing his family’s female servants with a mere glance.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Arria to Marcus, when she suspects he might be falling for Hadassah.
  • Code Name: Hadassah goes by the name Rapha (Hebrew for “healer”) in book two because she is supposed to be dead. Also a Meaningful Name because Hadassah is working as a physician’s assistant, and quickly gains a reputation for her “healing touch”, which she attributes to the power of God.
  • The Corrupter: Unintentionally, Marcus plays this role in Julia’s life, with some (less accidental) help from Octavia, Gaius, and especially Calabah.
  • Curiosity Causes Conversion: In a roundabout way, Marcus’ confusion and curiosity about Hadassah’s Incorruptible Pure Pureness led to his eventual conversion to Christianity.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Julia’s older brother strongly objects to her second marriage to a man who is known to be a rake and deeply in debt, and whom he suspects (rightly) to be violent and abusive. Her third marriage, which is more cohabitation for convenience than anything, appalls her whole family, since the man is known to be a boor and keeps on a catamite.
  • Decadent Court: The entire Roman upper crust, pretty much.
  • Destructive Romance: Julia goes through at least two of these: the first man she falls in love with turns out to be brutally abusive; the second gives her a baby she really doesn't want and the STD that eventually kills her, before abandoning her and leaving her totally disillusioned. The various affairs she had in between certainly didn’t help her slide towards total cynicism or excruciating death by syphilis.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Julia, in Marcus’ arms at the end of book two.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Julia in the second book acquires a wasting, eventually fatal disease that is mentioned to be the result of her careless promiscuity in the first book, but it is never diagnosed with a name.
  • Divorce Requires Death: Julia murders her second husband in order to escape his abuse. She also escapes her loveless, un-divorceable first husband when he dies in an accident.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Averted with Hadassah, who never seizes any of her opportunities to take revenge on Julia despite the latter’s often horrible treatment of her.
  • Domestic Abuse: Julia’s second husband attacks her with a bullwhip at one point, among other things.
  • Double Standard: Atretes makes no secret of the fact that he’s slept around plenty, he comments to Rizaph that if he’d known when he met her that she once spent the night with a man she was not married to in order to get money for food, he would have killed her for immorality. When he is reunited with his tribe, they attempt to kill Rizpah simply for having (monogamously) had more than one husband in her lifetime, something for which they would never consider condemning a man.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Julia has this on Atretes.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Those who get one, anyways.
  • Fish out of Water: Both Hadassah and Atretes in Rome; Hadassah is a small-town Jewish girl completely unaccustomed to the violence and decadence; Atretes is a comparatively primitive tribesman who flounders in all the political and social machinations (and originally doesn’t even speak the language). To a lesser degree, Julia earlier on is a Wide-Eyed Idealist out of her depth dealing with Calabah, Gaius, and their friends, who are very canny and manipulative.
  • Gayngst: Prometheus suffers a scene of this.
  • Gladiator Games
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted. When Julia gets pregnant with Atretes’ child, she immediately determines to have an abortion despite that her family would be horrified and that Hadassah begs her to do otherwise.
  • Gratuitous German: In the third book, though it doesn’t resemble modern German much since this is less than a century A.D.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Atretes can and will get angry about anything. Anything.
  • Happily Married: Phoebe and Decemius. It’s implied that Marcus and Hadassah eventually end up this way with Babies Ever After.
  • Healing Hands: Hadassah gains a reputation for having these in book two; she attributes the miraculousness of her touch to her faith and God’s power.
  • Historical Domain Character: Emperor Vespasian, John the Apostle.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Atretes, who on a good day thinks women are the scum of the earth and on a bad one, well... yikes.
  • Heroic BSoD: After her husband dies, Phoebe spends book two completely paralyzed and unable to communicate save by way of a code she worked out with her servant.
    • After he thinks Hadassah to be dead at the end of book one, Marcus spends book two so emotionally and spiritually conflicted that he is unable to run the family business like he’s supposed to.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Alexander never has a chance with Hadassah; even when he confesses his love, she mistakes it for platonic affirmation.
    • Genderflipped with Tabitha, who falls in love with Marcus and hopes he’ll propose to her. Marcus is too busy pining for Hadassah to give her any attention.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Julia, in regards to her (many) choices for sexual partners.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: Julia’s stolid first husband—to her extreme dismay, and Marcus'.
  • I Owe You My Life: Rashid pledges undying loyalty to Hadassah after she rescues him when his former master leaves him to die.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Hadassah.
  • Interclass Romance: Marcus and Hadassah; Julia and Atretes.
  • It's Personal: Julia, at the end of book one, sends Hadassah to the lions because she feels like Hadassah “betrayed” Marcus by refusing to marry him. Marcus does not take the same view.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Marcus when he falls for Hadassah.
  • Love Hungry: Julia.
  • Love Martyr: Hadassah behaves this way in a platonic manner towards Julia.
  • Love Redeems: The major theme of the series.
  • Made a Slave: Hadassah and Atretes, each kidnapped from their respective homeland at the beginning of the series. Hadassah is made a lady’s maid for Julia Valerian; Atretes is fettered to the gladiatorial arena.
  • Never Bareheaded / Please Keep Your Hat On: Hadassah invokes this trope as of the beginning of book two, wearing a veil at all times to hide her maimed face Alexander says it doesn’t bother her personally that much, but other people tend to react with visible discomfort and horror if she ever lifts her veil.
  • Pals with Jesus: Played straight, and played with for Rule of Drama / Truth in Television. Aside from John the Apostle, who is this trope in the most literal way possible, most of the Christians in the book hear directly from God at least once in the novels. The title of the first book (“A Voice in the Wind”) is a reference to the voice of God as described in 1 Kings 19, and represents Hadassah’s struggle with hearing God clearly in her slavery.
  • Papa Wolf: Rashid, while not literally her father, acts in this capacity for Hadassah when Marcus rediscovers her identity.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Marcus misguidedly thinks this is the best way to deal with Julia after she sends Hadassah to the lions.
  • Poison Is Evil: In the first book, Julia poisons her abusive husband to be rid of him. It's tempting to count this as an inversion since he was such a vicious brute, but considering that its opened the door for her to do worse things afterwards, it could still count as a straight example. It pretty much depends on how you weigh the picture as a whole, since it’s pretty ugly no matter what.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Atretes, the fiercely patriotic Germanic tribesman who seems to think almost every problem is best solved with yelling and a sword, which makes him something of a Fish out of Water in the social and political intrigue of Rome.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Calabah, though the “psycho” is subtle early on.
  • Resurrected Romance: After living through a bookful of angst to discover that Hadassah actually survived the arena, Marcus promptly throws out another Anguished Declaration of Love and asks for a Relationship Upgrade.
  • Riches to Rags: Julia’s sybaritic, impulsive lifestyle in the first books leaves her completely penniless in the second, unable to keep on any servants or even hire a doctor to treat the STD she picked up.
  • Scars are Forever: Hadassah is brutally disfigured after being mauled by lions in the arena at the end of the first book. This is a periodic source of angst throughout the second.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Alexander leaves for Britain at the end of the second book, since he Did Not Get the Girl.
  • Secret Relationship: Julia and Atretes
  • Serial Spouse: Julia, despite her young age, who goes through three husbands and multiple lovers in the first book.
  • Sexless Marriage: Julia’s third husband, who is gay, marries her by common law for societal convenience.
  • Show Some Leg: Julia is forced to do some heavy-duty flirting with one of her husband’s business partners to make him more receptive to giving them leniency on a debt.
  • STD Immunity: Played straight with Marcus, Calabah, and many other promiscuous characters; averted with Julia, who dies quite young of one.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Julia’s abusive husband attempts to beat her, but it is actually Hadassah who takes the punishment when she throws herself over her mistress’ body. This is what leads to the Attempted Rape, etc., scene described above.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Marcus severs all his ties to his Big Brother Instinct and disowns his sister completely after Julia sends Hadassah to the arena at the end of the first book.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Julia poisons her abusive second husband and impassionately watches him die.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Heaps of it between Marcus and Hadassah, and some between other pairings too, though not really the kind you get excited about.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Julia, very early on—unlike those around her, she is sexually uninitiated and unaccustomed to violence (she imagines the arena will be glamorous, and is sickened at her first attendance of the games), and has no concept of the complexities of business and politics. She grows out of this rather quickly as she tries to follow in her idol’s footsteps–though she never quite gains the social adeptness of her more worldly friends.
  • Wretched Hive: the Roman Empire in general is portrayed as this, with special mention given to Ephesus.

Alternative Title(s): The Mark Of The Lion Series