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The Betrayal Review by Hannah Kessler

Douglas Bond

"It is better to limp on the right way than to run on the wrong." So opens the profound narrative of a man at odds with himself and God, a man who ties his life into that of the very person whom he has loathed since childhood: John Calvin. Douglas Bond, author of several successful historical fiction novels, weaves a superb tapestry of hate, forgiveness, and faithfulness. With many examples of God's ability to change the hearts of man, as well as the power of faith, this book serves as a testimony to the providence of God and seeks to glorify Him.

Set against the backdrop of 16th-century France, The Betrayal follows Jean-Louis Mourin, a fictional schoolmate of John Calvin. Calvin's vastly superior intellect, status, and privileges soon provoke Jean-Louis to jealousy and eventually hatred. As the two boys become men, their lives take drastically different paths. Jean-Louis becomes an apprentice in his harsh father's tannery, and Calvin becomes chaplain of their small town of Noyon. As the Black Death, sweeps through France everyone dear to Jean-Louis falls prey to the epidemic. Tormented by grief, anger, and revulsion, he stows away under the Calvins' carriage as they flee to Paris. While there, he disguises himself and offers his services to Calvin. Upon being accepted, he becomes Calvin's personal attendant. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, as Jean-Louis observes firsthand the critical events of John Calvin's life, such as the writing of the Institutes, the Lausanne debate, and his work in Geneva.

During this time, tensions are rapidly increasing between the church and monarchy. Spies are everywhere. Support for the Reformers and their "heretical" doctrine of sola gratia (salvation by grace alone) is viewed as treason and is punishable by death. Handsome rewards are offered to licensed informers. Driven by greed and the chance for vengeance, Jean-Louis obtains a commission. He then sets out to incriminate Calvin and anyone else he can. Yet, can he bring himself to betray the man who inexplicably awes and fascinates him? Calvin's words torture his soul with guilt, and yet they call to him.

Filled with vivid descriptions, elaborate intrigues, emotional turmoil, godly reverence, sound theology, and overall historical accuracy, this novel is both gripping and introspective. The Betrayal is a rare treat--literarily, intellectually and spiritually. I highly recommend it!

Product review by Hannah Kessler, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2009