The Bronze Bow is a fabulous book for many reasons. The first and foremost is that it reminds readers of the political climate during Christ's lifetime. It reminds readers that many if not most of Christ's followers expected him to rid the Holy Land of the Romans. They wanted a fighter. They wanted a prophet who could call down God to exact vengeance on the interlopers. They didn't want to hear about love or sacrifice or mercy. They definitely wanted to hear about justice but they did not understand the justice of which Christ spoke. When the Romans killed the Savior, many of Christ's followers were bitterly disillusioned. Christ had failed them. The Bronze Bow is an accessible YA novel that makes all that real without scaring me off by being too in-depth or scholarly. I am not Kami. I do not thrive on Nibley.
Another reason the book is so great is it clearly warns against the dangers of choosing to become a follower of a fanatic. It is a touchy issue since Christ is one such character and yet Speare was able to warn of the dangers of blind, passionate loyalty to a person and a cause while still maintaining that such loyalty is not wrong--it can just be easily misplaced. For young people who are searching for something to be passionate about, there are many options today. Speare warns in her novel that before you commit yourself you should try to see the object of your passion clearly. You should think about all aspects of the cause you are joining. You should not act without deciding for yourself if your actions help your cause. Blind loyalty can lead down many dark roads. Passionate loyalty to the wrong cause can ruin your life.
And yet, young people want something to be passionate about. Look at the Muslin suicide-bombers. The desire to be such a person is easily understood. Great glory in the hereafter, bravery and honor in this life. It is a beacon to those who do not feel they have a purpose or for those who choose to hate because they have nothing to love. So entirely understandable. So incredibly sad.
Another thing that Speare warns her readers about is labeling. He is rich therefore we have nothing in common and cannot believe in the same cause. He is a Roman therefore he cannot be a son, a lover, a husband, a friend. If he is Roman he is not human. Because my sister cannot interact with others in a normal way she is useless. A burden. Because he saved my life I will follow him blindly until the end of my own. The main character, Daniel, is so real because he displays so many unpleasant teenager traits. He is selfish but thinks he is not. He is loyal but to the wrong cause. He thinks he knows better than anyone else. He will not ask for help. Speare cleverly points out the wrongness in his actions and thinking without being preachy. She doesn't make Christ the person Daniel wants him to be. She simply sets up Rosh's values and actions against those of Christ. Slowly, Daniel was led to question both men's values. Slowly, he gains the experience needed to evalute both men's actions. Slowly, the teenager develops.
I love this book. Yes, it is YA. Yes, Daniel drives the reader nuts periodically. Yes, it has its problems. Overall, however, I can't imagine a better way to approach Christ as a character in a fiction (albeit historical fiction) novel. Bravo Elizabeth.