Balthazar, a notorious thief and murderer, escapes Herod’s prison along with two other criminals disguised as “wise men.” In their attempt to hide from Herod’s troops they stumble into a lowly manger in Bethlehem, where they impose themselves upon a carpenter, his wife, and their newly born son. Then, when they learn that Herod’s troops are killing all of the babies in Bethlehem, Balthazar leads his motley group of now six people on a wild series of adventures and close escapes as they try to find their way to Egypt and safety. Joining Herod’s forces in chasing them are 10,000 Romans led by a young Pontius Pilate.
This is a technically well written, typo-free, and engaging story. My only complaints are the numerous anachronisms and blatant historical errors, which often kicked me out of the “suspending of disbelief” mode. The silliness of the Magus and his 10,000-year-old religion is also difficult to stomach, and yet, in spite of those drawbacks, I found myself continually drawn into the story wanting to find out what happened next.
The characterizations are well-drawn, and the author’s depiction of Herod is so delicious that it alone is worth the price of the book and the time spent reading it. A recommended read if one can overlook the above-mentioned negatives.