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The Merciful Eye: Stories from the Middle Ages Review by Kim KargboChristine Farenhorst
Christian Focus Publications
Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire
IV20 1TW Scotland, UK
The Merciful Eye is a collection of four stories from the Middle Ages, mostly the 1500s. Each story contains references to historical events, but the characters and story lines are fictitious. The stories portray with accuracy the culture, belief system, lifestyle, worldview, and times of those living during this period. After reading these stories, the reader has entered the world of castles, chivalry, treachery, indulgences, honor, and corruption and has come out finding redemption. The stories depict characters struggling with the "way things were" and finding the redemptive power of the Gospel--often through their coming in contact with the ideologies and heroes of the Reformation or martyrs of the faith. These are not pat Christian stories, however, with easy, predictable Christian fiction story lines. They are powerful images of God's propensity to make all things new.
In the first story, "The Merciful Eye," a selfish aspiring printer leaves a path of heartache in his quest for material gain. Through the death of his first wife and the unexpected love he later found in her sister, the layers of his heart are gradually peeled back to reveal the true ugliness within. Through the quest of his wife, as she struggles to redeem her dead sister's soul from Purgatory and unexpectedly uncovers the blatant corruption of the church, and through risky encounters with the Huguenots in Paris, they find true freedom in Christ.
In "Walk Only with the Virtuous," a wealthy count loses his beloved wife in childbirth while delivering a hunchbacked son. His rejection of the son starts the boy on a painful journey of discovering his true worth and forgiveness.
In "From Dead Works" a young woman and her servants, returning from a pilgrimage to Rome in an effort to free her dead mother from Purgatory, encounter danger, intrigue, deception, and trouble. Helped by a mysterious stranger, they hear the message of the Gospel and find true freedom.
In "A Heart that Always Feels the Blood," two very different brothers live out their commitment to their country in different ways, yet in a unified front. An eventual imprisonment following a revolt against a corrupt king places their lives, and the life of a young woman they both hold dear, in certain peril. Their lives are spared through an unknown ultimate sacrifice. Yet upon gaining their freedom, it appears that the life of one of them is over. Redemption comes as a heart surrenders to God's call.
These stories are riveting and intense. The Middle Ages, in all their gore and glory, are truly not for the faint of heart. The book is recommended for students over 13 years of age, and I would concur with that recommendation. The last story in particular is not graphic, but it does contain ideas that would not be appropriate for younger children. For any middle or high school student studying the Middle Ages, this book offers fabulous insights to the time period, and all with a redemptive message. I was riveted by the stories and can't wait to let my teenagers read them.