The Last Temple
This Christian/historical novel, the third volume of a trilogy, is very well researched. Having not read either of the first two volumes, I came at this cold, but the book does okay as a standalone. The story is basically about the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD; however, it is told through a circuitous route, using a fictional Roman named Vitas as the protagonist. Vitas gets himself into and out of enough difficult situations to keep the plot moving, along with some interesting twists and turns along the way.
Vitas is the stereotypical hard-bitten Roman soldier who, at the end, accepts Christianity – as is the case in every Roman/Christian story I’ve seen. No surprise there. The fact that Vitas was already married to a Christian at the beginning of the novel makes that development anticlimactic. By then, of course, Vitas’ story has been subsumed by the story of both the temple’s fall and the survival of Judeo-Christian belief without the Temple through Christ who became the “last temple.”
In the delicate balance between showing and telling, there were times when I thought that the telling was a bit heavy and often interrupted the flow. Sometimes the preaching bordered on anti-Semitism. There were a few technical lapses as well, such as when Vitas was crucified and then let his head hang “only a few feet from the ground” (a physical impossibility unless he’s Plastic Man), and another when he “smiled sardonically to himself” (I’d like to see how even Plastic Man could do that).
While the book overall is a decent read, in a crowded field it does not stand out.