Counted With the Stars
Bethany House Publishers, ©2016
Had Yahweh been calling to me? Without words? Had he guided my steps to be among his people? To be set free from bondage and to follow him into the wilderness for some purpose I did not yet understand? Perhaps even the dream that had plagued me after the Nile turned red, when the gods themselves bled, was a message that Yahweh would destroy their power.
My heart contracted as I imagined the possibilities. Did Yahweh, the Almighty Creator, hear me? An Egyptian slave? Even though I had refused to surrender to him?
I dipped my toes back into the cool, rich waters of the Nile with another foray into the world of ancient Egypt! The biblical tale of Moses and the Exodus is lush with meaning to be gleaned about our Redeemer, so it’s not surprising to me that it has inspired more than one novel. Counted With the Stars is written from a fresh perspective; the protagonist is an Egyptian (rather than a Hebrew) fearful for herself and her people as the plagues unfold.
Kiya, the main character, grew up with riches but was sold into slavery when her family becomes unexpectedly destitute. She forms a close friendship with a fellow Hebrew slave, who tells her the stories of their people and Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 15.) Eventually Kiya flees Egypt with the Hebrews and must decide if she will surrender her life to the same God who decimated her homeland.
There were some issues; in my mind there was a strong disconnect between the first and second halves of the book. Excellent characters, who had been built up and fleshed out, disappear without a satisfying ending when Kiya leaves Egypt . New characters (particularly a villain) pop up out of nowhere and seem cliché by comparison. I also thought the romantic arc between Kiya and her Hebrew love interest was unrealistic and their dialog too contemporary. “Eben” spends most of the book glaring at Kiya and treating her with contempt and for some reason she continues to find him all the more appealing. Eben’s behavior is explained to be due to his father being murdered by Egyptians, but I still don’t understand Kiya’s attraction.
Cossette does an excellent job expounding on the plagues and miracles of God; I especially found her interpretation of the parting of the Red Sea interesting. She imagines the strong east wind God sends to divide the waters (Exodus 14:21) to be very cold, and it freezes the waters on each side of the dry ground into the walls on their right and left. One of my favorite things about Biblical fiction is how it has me constantly reaching for my Bible to reread passages; to me, Exodus 15:8, which speaks of the water being “gathered together…the depths congealed” doesn’t suggest icy walls, but I don’t think it is firmly exclusive of it. Cossette makes it very clear the parting is a miracle of God and not simply a natural phenomenon!
All in all, I think Counted With the Stars earned itself a solid 3/5 rating. Parting thought—are you tired of Biblical Christian fiction? Are there any genres you are really interested in seeing me review? I recently purchased a mystery, which is supposed to be like a Christian version of Agatha Christie. I also may be getting started on some speculative works. What do you want to see most? Suspense, legal, mystery, apocalyptic? Something else?