Book Review: The Key of Rain by Dave Mason, with Mike Feuer (Lionstail Press 2018)
Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner
I was excited to read Mason and Feuer’s new release, The Key of Rain, Book Two of The Age of Prophesy series, after thoroughly enjoying Book One, The Lamp of Darkness. Their series takes stories from Navi, the books of the Prophets, and uses them as a backdrop for a fictional coming-of-age tale.
The Key of Rain picks up where The Lamp of Darkness left off. The entire Northern Kingdom of Israel is in drought because Eliyahu (Elijah) has declared that its people must suffer because they turned to idolatry. King Ahav wants Eliyahu dead.
Meanwhile, Lev, a young Kohen apprenticed to the prophet Uriel, must delay his instruction in order to help Ovadia and his wife, Batya, maintain 100 prophets hiding from Queen Izavel (Jezebel). The queen is waging a campaign to spread idolatry throughout the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and she will not tolerate any obstacles—including prophets loyal to Hashem. By playing his harp at the royal court and Tzidoni temples in Shomron, Lev is able to gain access to valuable information that can be used to protect the prophets and feed them during the drought.
Most novels based on biblical figures go wrong in one of two ways: either they lean very heavily on the literal meanings of the text and treat biblical personages with so much respect that they appear more like caricatures than characters; or they diverge so far from rabbinic understandings of the text and play so creatively with personalities and events that they bear little relation to the source material. All religious significance is lost.
Mason and Feuer avoid these traps by weaving midrash, kabbalah, and archeological details with both biblical and imagined elements to create a compelling, and well-balanced, tapestry. Focusing on Lev as a main character rather than a biblical figure allows readers to have a “regular Joe” they can identify with and who can help us understand the challenges and marvels of the Prophetic period, without compromising on the respect due to personages such as Eliyahu.
Initially, Lev interprets Eliyahu’s actions as severe—overly so. “What of those who refuse to bow to the Baal?” he asks Eliyahu. “Will you let the faithful die along with the idolaters?” (page 87). But Lev’s perspective broadens as his experience grows and it’s nicely counterbalanced by the authors through the opinions of supporting characters.
Lev’s transition from child to adult—sped up by drought and political pressures—rings true. We watch him struggle with tests of faith, with his yetzer hara, and with physical danger at every turn.
The book is entirely free of foul language and on-page sensuality, and the violence is neither graphic nor excessive. However, it alludes to some mature themes (such as the worship of the Ashera and Lev’s emerging feelings towards the opposite sex), and thus is appropriate only for older teens and adults.
The Key to Rain will be greatly appreciated by fans of biblical archeology, students of Navi, and those who enjoy coming-of-age tales.
(Just a note: Readers who have yet to read The Lamp of Darkness should know that digital copies are currently available for free from Mason and Feuer’s website, TheAgeofProphecy.com. While The Key of Rain does stand on its own, it will be far better appreciated if read after the series’s first volume.)