The Bronze Bow | Elizabeth George Speare
Awards: Newbery Medal
Set in the culture of ancient Rome in the first century, young Daniel lives for only one thing; vengeance for his parent’s death and the freedom of the Jewish people from the yolk under the Roman Empire. For five years, young Daniel has worked with the outlaw Rosh on the mountain above his village of Ketzah. Dreams of freedom for the Jewish people and a fierce devotion to Rosh color his every waking moment. But an unexpected encounter with two old friends and news of a powerful teacher—a carpenter from Nazareth—coax Daniel from his shell of sullen determination. After his grandmother’s death, Daniel must give up the freedom of the mountain to care for his sister Leah, and learns to question everything he thought he knew about true friendship, the coming of the promised Kingdom, and freedom for the Jews. How can he keep his vow of vengeance when so many things pull at him? The Bronze Bow masterfully draws the reader into an ancient time, into an ancient culture, and breathes new life on the questions of love, loyalty, and life’s purpose.
Mild violent scene of fighting. Slavery. Death. Illness.
Growing up in a Christian family, the familiarity of the Biblical stories sometimes makes those stories lose their meaning. The Bronze Bow is a powerful reminder that the Bible is not simply a religious text, but a history book. Whatever you think about the man Jesus, here you meet him anew in his historical setting. I have a particular dislike for fiction books that are written merely to preach. The Bronze Bow soars as a shining example of well imagined, flawlessly executed historical fiction. The characters of Daniel, Joel, Malthase (Joel’s twin sister), Leah, Simon the Zealot, and Jesus, step off the page with Speare’s simple and beautiful writing.
As the protagonist Daniel walks through a turning point in his life, we see him struggling with deep life questions that never have easy answers. Readers who have wrestled with similar questions will feel an immediate kinship with Daniel and his little band of zealots, ready to overthrow the Roman army, and their disillusionment when reality knocks them flat on their backs. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for scowling, surly young men, like Daniel. The only thing that makes him more likable is the fact that he is a blacksmith. His single minded drive for vengeance may be off-putting for some, but give him a try.
I highly recommend this book. It’s great fun. Be you stout atheist or evangelical Christian, staunch Catholic or devout Jew, The Bronze Bow is a masterfully crafted story that everyone can enjoy.
ps. other books by Elizabeth George Speare: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver, and Calico Captive.