Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

‘An adventure story wrapped in historical details,’ writes reviewer of ‘The Fragment’

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Today I’m featuring three wonderful reviews of The Fragment, from Judith Barnes, Mary Esque, and Beckie Burnham. These reviews are reprinted with permission from the authors.

The Fragment, by Davis Bunn

Judith Barnes, on Goodreads

Enter the world of 1923. The war is over, and the influenza has eased. Find twenty-three year old Muriel Ross, a researcher at the Smithsonian. She’s concerned that she will remain an observer on the sidelines of her life.

The outlook changes when Senator Thomas Bryan secures her assistance and expertise in Late Roman and early Byzantine antiquities, especially reliquaries. Travel with them to Paris and visit the designer boutique of Madame Coco Chanel. Witness as the Ottoman Empire begins to fall. All the action is focused toward the recovery of a reliquary containing the True Cross.

Davis Bunn has penned an adventure story wrapped in historical details and seasoned with strong accents of Christian faith. The characters are believable. The plot moves along at an understandable pace. History comes alive in this totally enjoyable novel.

While this is a great piece of fiction, I can see using it in a Christian study group. It is rich with discussion points. It’s a natural selection for book groups.

The Fragment, by Davis Bunn

Mary Esque, on Goodreads

From Chanel in Paris to the Orient Express, Davis Bunn’s latest novel set in the 1920s is full of all the things that I have come to expect from his writing – mystery and action with solid faith themes. It was short and easy to read but still engaging. Muriel’s quest for the reliquary is a wonderful story that I will enjoy sharing with my family and friends.

What Davis is so gifted at doing as a writer is transporting you to the places he writes about. I didn’t merely sit on my sofa and read about Muriel in Chanel. It felt as if I was really there. His descriptions are so vivid that is as if I stepped through a door and into Muriel’s world. The other thing I really love about Davis’s writing is that he has such keen insight into people and culture. His characters have depth to them, and they often feel like real people and not just characters. His descriptions of the cultures and political climates of the time are well researched and historically accurate. While he writes fiction, it rings true to what really happened.

I was also challenged by Muriel’s perception. As a photographer, she has keen insight into people. She saw what was written on people’s faces when others did not. She saw faith, despair, longing, distrust, and hope on the faces of those she saw through the camera lens. It made me think about how often I walk through life without ever seeing who is around me. I always find myself challenged to grow after reading one of Davis’s novels. 5 Stars

The Fragment, by Davis Bunn

Beckie Burnham, By the Book blog

The Fragment is an international suspense novel that clearly expresses the wonder of God while keep its readers on the edge of their seats. Centuries after Constantine’s mother, Helena, embarked on a quest to find the cross of Jesus (you can read my review of The Pilgrim HERE), a small group endures danger to retrieve one fragment of that cross. The culture and politics of the world in 1923 serves as a backdrop to this novel. The Fragment is Bunn at his best, and I highly recommend it.

Muriel Ross, aged 23, feels her dreams have come true as she wanders the streets of Paris photographing the people she encounters. She is traveling with a US Senator intent of retrieving ancient artifacts. Muriel is an expert employed with the Smithsonian and is crucial to his quest. But Muriel is unaware of the stakes involved — intrigue, danger and betrayal.

The Fragment is written with short chapters keeping the story fresh and fast-paced. The action is only interrupted by the sacred moments Muriel encounters. I loved the suspense, but the moments that Muriel is swept up in her encounters with God were truly special.

Plot takes center stage, but the few main characters are developed enough to get a sense of their thoughts, dreams, struggles and doubts. Muriel is an interesting heroine, at once daring and reflective. Her faith is challenged, but remains firm.

For fans of history, The Fragment has it all — a great sense of place and time and well-researched details of the political atmosphere of Europe and the Middle East of the 1920s. Throughout The Fragment, Bunn weaves a faith message that never wavers. Not all the characters are believers, but those that are rely heavily on God’s promises in the midst of trials and tests.

Although the action is concluded in The Fragment, I sense that Bunn is not done with Muriel Ross. I hope that I am right. I would love more books like The Fragment.

We can’t force another’s spiritual journey

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Today I’m featuring three fabulous reviews of The Fragment, from readers Laura Ozinga, Nancy Lohr, and Judy Crewdson. Love your insights, ladies!

Quote from THE FRAGMENT by Davis Bunn

Laura Ozinga, on her blog:

With The Fragment, Davis Bunn has yet again woven a story of intrigue and reconciliation.  Set against a backdrop of a collapsing Ottoman Empire and the end of the Great War, young Muriel is sent to France and later to Constantinople to use her talents as a photographer and antiquities researcher to identify a reliquary believed to hold a remnant of the cross of Christ.

Muriel, with the help of U.S. Senator Thomas Bryan and French diplomat Charles Fouchet, sets out to uncover mysteries held long secret due to the silence of time.

With governments changing hands and political tides ever changing in 1920s Europe and Southwest Asia, will Muriel and her new friends be able to piece together 2,000 years of history before new powers once again hide away the past?

This book served as a reminder to me that we can’t force another’s spiritual journey.  We can pray, and we can be examples, but ultimately, the choice to follow Jesus is in the hands of each person.

Whether or not the True Cross was actually split into reliquaries and divided among the early churches doesn’t really matter. This is a work of fiction, after all.  Yet, the idea of the cross still existing is oddly comforting.  Relics don’t save souls, but the idea of see what it is that brought about the blood of Savior is a unique perspective.  Salvation came to us on that cross, and all of God’s promises since Adam and Eve were forced out of Eden for their disobedience came to fruition the day Jesus overcame the cross.  Hallelujah!

As always, Bunn creates believable, well-rounded characters who draw in the reader into an adventure of suspense and spiritual discovery.

Quote from THE FRAGMENT by Davis Bunn

Nancy Lohr, on Amazon:

Davis Bunn is an award-winning author who has appeared on a number of bestseller lists over the course of his career. The Fragment will remind you just how he earned his reputation.

Post-WWI is the backdrop for this historical thriller that opens with young Muriel Ross jumping at the opportunity to travel to Paris with U.S. Senator Tom Bryan, her father’s good friend. The senator is hoping to purchase an antique he’s been seeking for years. Muriel thinks she will be photographing the Parisians in natural settings, but soon her real mission is revealed as her skills as a Smithsonian researcher are called on to document the authenticity of an artifact she never thought she would see.

She interacts with ambassadors, priests, and one French veteran of war, and not all are to be trusted. Political intrigue, potential theft, and personal safety drive the plot. Muriel’s knowledge of the artifacts and the stories they hide adds another layer to the book.

Bunn’s reputation is bolstered by this newest addition to his body of work. 5 Stars

Quote from THE FRAGMENT by Davis Bunn

Judy Crewdson, on Amazon

Set after WWI, this book brought out many things for me.

One: it gave a beautiful picture of the people of France after the war and Influenza epidemic had ravaged the country.

Two: through Muriel’s pictures, she captivated the people, their hopes for better, and their struggle to live.

Three: The weaving of her faith throughout the story, especially with Charles, was direct and meaningful. She tried to get him to see that faith in Christ would help him find his way after the tragic deaths of his family, but alas, he never did find that peace.

I think what fascinated me the most was her ability to decipher what was real and what was a copy of the True Cross. Her observations and techniques were meticulous in finding the real True Cross. The book did not drag on like I thought it would, at first, but flowed smoothly throughout. I will read it again, and in fact, I read it twice just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Well done! 5 Stars

The Fragment: ‘A world of intrigue, romance, adventure, and faith’

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

The Fragment, my new historical suspense (post WW I) has been out less than a week, and the reviews are flowing in. Here are three reviews from Deb Haggerty, Rachel Helms, and Eddie Gilley.

The Fragment, by Davis Bunn

Deb Haggerty, on Goodreads

The Fragment opens in the year 1923. The world is recovering from the privations of the Great War. Muriel Ross, a researcher at the Smithsonian, has had a dream come true. She is to accompany Sen. Thomas Bryan to Paris!

Once in Paris, Muriel falls in love with the people. A photographer of some great skill, she photographs people in all walks of life—struck by the joy she sees in their faces, despite the ordeals of the war.

Sen. Bryan, however, is there on another task—and he hopes Muriel will be the key person he needs to realize his dream.

Wearing a gown designed and fitted by none other than Coco Chanel herself, Muriel meets the Prime Minister of France. She impresses him with her knowledge and demeanor, so she (and the senator) are taken to the Cathedral of Notre Dame where she is allowed to photograph a reliquary holding, tradition states, a piece of the True Cross.

So begins their adventure—from Paris via Orient Express to Constantinople. Muriel finds herself stretched and intrigued and overwhelmed by her experiences. Will they attain their quest? Atatürk is besieging Constantinople … battles rage … alliances shift. The result …?

Muriel Ross is a well-written, very likable character. Beset by doubts and wonderings about her destiny, she nonetheless retains her strong faith. The romantic interest (every story has to have one, correct?) is less believable.

The Fragment by Davis Bunn

Charles Fouchet, an aide to a French official, accompanies them on their quest. Charles has lost a wife and child to the influenza epidemic and, apparently, has lost his faith as well. Given the descriptions, I had a hard time believing Muriel would find him attractive.

The history of the area—of Paris after the war, of the legends of the Cross, of Constantinople prior to Atatürk—is very detailed, but, I’m afraid, most readers will skip the history to get to the story.

Unfortunately, the story without the history is quite slim. I, personally, was enthralled by the history but found the presentation of the historical facts contrived, especially toward the denouement. Four stars—not for The Fragment, but for the historical education and the heroine.

Rachel Helms, on her blog

The Fragment. What a fabulous book. The way the author writes enables you to dive straight into that era; I could almost hear the music that would be playing.  Muriel is an engaging protagonist, whose new discoveries each day aren’t just related to the mystery of who to trust – her spiritual and emotional growth is involved throughout the whole story.

The potential of the story is astonishing – could this really have happened? Piece by piece, Bunn stacks the puzzle so that you believe it. It’s enough to make you want to dig into history, learn everything you can, about the story, the fragment, is it real or not real?

I enjoyed this author’s writing style, the descriptive characteristics of scenery, setting, people, and emotions. Both the story and characters were well written; I finished the book in one night, because I couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend this book for all of the above, giving it five stars.

Eddie Gilley, on his blog

Davis Bunn has done it again. That seems to be the way that most of my reviews begin of his books. However, it remains true. Every time I read one of his books, I am always amazed and entertained.

The Fragment is a stand-alone story in many ways, but to fully grasp the importance of The Fragment you need to read his other book, The Pilgrim, which was released in July. You can read my review of that book here. The reason I say it can stand alone is that if you didn’t read the first book, you still get enough of the story in the second book for the plot to make perfect sense.

The reader is transported back in time in The Fragment and we are introduced both to a historical period and some great new characters. My only experience in Paris was a layover in the airport but I feel as if I have been there after reading this book.

The other section of the story happens in old Constantinople or Istanbul for the modern reader and the setting is the time when the nation of Turkey is being born.

The Fragment by Davis Bunn

Having been to Istanbul many times and toured some of the sites mentioned in the book, I can tell you that Bunn has done a marvelous job of describing the architecture and ethos of that wonderful city. You will know exactly what it looks like as you read the pages of this book.

The story is compelling and draws the reader into a world of intrigue, romance, adventure, and faith. It is not only believable but it makes you want to get to know the people involved in a deeper way. The historical side is accurate, the settings are true, and the characters are developed in the typical excellence style of Davis Bunn.

After getting started reading this work, I found myself reading non-stop. I didn’t want to put my iPad down. I read during football games and basketball games over the weekend. My only regret was reaching the last page.

Perhaps there is another story in there that will link the ancient characters of the Pilgrim through the period characters of The Fragment and connect to the characters we met in The Patmos Deception!

Reviewers of ‘The Fragment’: Political intrigue and spiritual quest in a great read — 5 Stars

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

On February 19, 2016, my new historical novel, The Fragment, releases. Here are three early reviews of the book, from Sherry Arni, Dave Milbrandt, and Anne Rightler.

The Fragment by Davis Bunn

Sherry Arni, on Goodreads:

Against the backdrop of post-World War I Europe and the crumbling Ottoman Empire, Davis Bunn weaves a story of elegance, intrigue, strength, and faith as 23-year-old Muriel Ross embarks on a quest she only gradually comes to understand, along with U. S. Senator Thomas Bryan and mysterious French diplomat Charles Fouchet, a young man deeply wounded by the war and its aftermath.

A reliquary containing a fragment of the True Cross and deepening crisis in the Ottoman Empire pull these characters from Paris to Constantinople in a dangerous journey.

Davis Bunn’s characters, as always, are well-drawn, believable, and real. The story pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go until the last page. The Fragment, which ties in to the story of the Empress Helena in The Pilgrim, is a great read. 5 Stars

Dave Milbrandt, on Goodreads

Bunn’s previous book, The Pilgrim, provides an interpretation of Helena’s discovery of the True Cross of Christ. In The Fragment, we travel to Europe in 1923, where American researcher Muriel Ross is pulled into risky, yet spiritually rewarding search for a piece of this most auspicious of relics.

Having both taught history and written my own tale about a piece of the True Cross, I can tell you first hand that Bunn’s attention to historical accuracy is spot-on. But, where others might have fun taking a more mystical approach, Bunn travels the higher road and focuses on characters being changed from the inside.

Bunn’s writing is always poetic and never pretentious, leaving me enchanted and, to be honest, a shade envious. His details about life in 1920s Paris and Constantinople both ring true and, at times, make the reader crack a smile.

The book is a quick read, and well worth the investment of your time. In The Fragment, it’s clear Davis Bunn has mastered the art of weaving history and story together in a seamless fashion. 5 Stars

The Fragment quote 11 - reliquary of the True Cross

Anne Rightler, on Goodreads

The Fragment, by Davis Bunn, is a marvelous post-WWI novel that will delight readers of historical fiction.

Bunn gives a splendid glimpse of Paris and Constantinople from the perspective of Smithsonian researcher and photographer, Muriel Ross. She has been chosen by a family friend who is a U.S. Senator to accompany him to Europe to photograph a piece of the True Cross.

While in Paris, she meets Charles, a young man from the French embassy and realizes all may not be as it was originally told to her.

  • Can she trust the Senator?
  • Can she trust Charles?
  • Just why was she chosen for this project?
  • Where does her faith in Christ fit into all that is happening around her?

Bunn details the history of this post-WWI era in an interesting and intriguing manner. As he notes regarding Constantinople–the names were spiced by centuries of tales. The characters are beguiling, believable, and likable.

Despite the ordeals, threats, and disappointments, Muriel knows there is a promise of hope. The Fragment, a thrilling tale of a piece of the Cross and its impact on those seeking it. Don’t miss this newest book by Davis Bunn. 5 Stars

You Could Win Both Books in the Legends of the Realm Fantasy Series!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Merchant of Alyss Like to WinMerchant of Alyss, book 2 in my Legends of the Realm epic fantasy series, is releasing today, January 5. What an exciting way to kick off 2016!

This series is published under my pen name, Thomas Locke. (Here’s an explanation of why I’m using a pseudonym).

I’m giving away copies of BOTH BOOKS in the series throughout January. My first giveaway is today and tomorrow on my @TLockeBooks Facebook page. Here’s the direct link to the contest: http://on.fb.me/1Rd5hkD

How to enter:

Go to http://on.fb.me/1Rd5hkD (it’ll be the first post on my page) and like the picture. Get a bonus entry by leaving a comment. That’s it!

I’ll announce 5 winners – who will each get a 2-pack of books – on my @TLockeBooks Facebook page  Wednesday, January 6 after 6PM PST. Be sure to stop by the page that evening to see if you won.

Here is a link to the Official Rules: http://statictab.com/jbsttgr

Would you help me promote the giveaway?

Here’s a tweet-length update I’d love for you to share Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan 5 and 6):

You could win EMISSARY and MERCHANT OF ALYSS. Enter at http://on.fb.me/1Rd5hkD by 1/6 at 6PM PST.

Reviewers are Saying…

Early reviews of Merchant of Alyss are pouring in. Here are excerpts from several reader-reviewers (click their name to read their full review):

Redd Becker:
“What fun to share in an honorable quest with characters I’d like to know; as real and vibrant as friends. Dragons, witches, elves, ancient spells and lore entwine in an adventure that spun me into their space and time. A test of endurance, the purity of love and loyalty meshed in an Ursula Le Guin-type adventure.” 5 Stars

Sue Stevens:
“What does it mean to love, to be loyal, to be a true friend, to seek one’s purpose in life? Through a complex but spellbinding plot, Locke explores these truly real and human concepts in the realm of fantasy. So while there is plenty of action and fantastical scenes that unfold almost cinematographically in your mind, there is depth here too.”

Judith Barnes:
“Locke’s writing captivates the reader. The landscape descriptions are vivid, and the action scenes move the story along with clarity. I particularly enjoyed the storyline involving the dragons.” 5 Stars

Natalie Walters:
“… My genre of choice is not fantasy but as of late I’ve found myself drawn into the world created by authors who captivate my imagination like no other. Thomas Locke is one of those authors. I was pulled in by Hyam’s struggle to overcome his new handicap (no spoilers here!) and the challenge to save not only his wife but his home from the threat of potential war. Mr. Locke pours enough detail into Hyam’s companions that they are no mere secondary sidekicks but rather characters who leap from the page begging me to ask, “What’s their story?” Thankfully, Mr. Locke provides.”

How to Use ‘The Pilgrim’ as a Teaching Tool

Friday, December 4th, 2015

The Pilgrim by Davis BunnIn her review of The Pilgrim, Cindy Anderson — a self-described older adult, avid reader, and former homeschooling parent — examines the novel from a variety of perspectives. I particularly like Cindy’s tips for how teachers can create a unit study of The Pilgrim that covers the Bible, geography, history, and language arts. Well done, Cindy!

Cindy Anderson, on her blog:

The Pilgrim, by Davis Bunn, is a thought provoking narrative that deals with acceptance, forgiveness, and faith. While the book is a work of fiction, and therefore should not be viewed with a mind toward theological debates, these three aforementioned aspects of life are some that we all, in our own way, battle with daily. Sometimes the battle goes on for years depending on the extent of the damage done and our ability to overcome circumstances beyond our control.

As an older adult, I can relate well with the characters and several of their plights. Being able to empathize with a character allows the reader to better identify with the subject matter, and therefore determine whether or not they themselves need to deal with similar issues in their own life.

The author does a very good job of helping the reader realize that knowing one ought to forgive someone and being able to do so do not always go hand in hand, at least not immediately. Even though the main characters in The Pilgrim are Christians, they are shown to not be perfect and to struggle with the events in their lives that have hurt them deeply and permanently changed their futures.

While true Christians are told to forgive, they must realize that forgetting can be much more difficult, and often seems impossible. Reliving over and over again the event(s) that caused the pain is what tends to make forgiving so difficult.

The characters in this book were not immune to the consequences of rehashing events that could not be changed but which must be dealt with and endured. Remorse, self-doubt, self-pity, and the persistent “what if” question is shown to do nothing to further the characters healing process or their spiritual growth.

Each character in this book, beginning with Helena, works through the process of accepting his or her new set of circumstances, with coming to terms with their need to forgive those who were seen to have caused them pain, including God in Anthony’s case, and has their faith tested to the nth degree.

While only those with a very good knowledge of history would be able to discern whether or not the events and geographical descriptions are accurate, almost anyone who reads this book will be able to understand the turmoil that the actions of others, or life occurrences, can cause in one’s life making the storyline much more believable because of the reader’s ability to identify with one or more of the characters within its pages.

As an avid reader, I enjoyed The Pilgrim and was personally challenged to follow the examples of its characters, a task that’s almost always easier said, or in this case written about, than done.

How to use The Pilgrim as a teaching tool

As a former homeschooling parent, I can easily see this book being used as a unit study covering Bible, geography, history, and language arts.

Advanced students could also use it to study sociology and some areas of psychology. The student can research the various historical events mentioned, trace the journey and learn about the different cities and cultures of the area, not to mention the cuisine for those who enjoy learning and executing that subject matter, and look into the lives of the different characters mentioned such as Constantine and his mother Helena to determine how much of what they’ve read in this book is true and how much has been added by the author. That exercise alone would be an excellent way to learn “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

To end their unit study, the student would write a book report and/or essay(s) based on their research of the subject matter. There is enough material here to structure into either a one semester study or a full year study as determined by the parent/teacher.

Whatever your reason for reading The Pilgrim, I have no doubt that you will find it to be not only an interesting and enjoyable read but also one that will challenge and enlighten you. It will help you to deal with your own need to forgive and move on or possibly better understand someone you know who is having a difficult time forgiving and accepting their new normal.

In the event that the latter is the case, this book would be an excellent gift choice for that friend or acquaintance and may lead to fruitful discussions whereby you can help and encourage them to move forward and past their circumstances.

The Fragment by Davis BunnComing Next: The Fragment

This followup to The Pilgrim releases February 19, 2016. Here’s a preview:

It’s 1923, and a resilient Paris is starting to recover from the ravages of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Enter Muriel Ross, an amateur photographer tasked with documenting the antiques that her employer, U.S. Senator Tom Bryan, has traveled to France to acquire.

Although she’s exhilarated to have escaped her parents and the confines of their stifling Virginia home, Muriel has lingering questions about why the senator has chosen her for this grand adventure. Nevertheless, she blossoms in her new surroundings, soaking up Parisian culture and capturing the sights and sounds of Paris on her camera.

But events take a dangerous turn when she discovers that the senator is on a mission far more momentous—and potentially deadly—than a mere shopping trip.

At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Senator Bryan asks Muriel to photograph an astonishing artifact: a piece of the True Cross, discovered by Empress Helena—a historical figure familiar to readers of The Pilgrim.

When rumors surface that another fragment has been unearthed, Muriel becomes enmeshed in a covert international alliance dedicated to authenticating the fragment—and protecting it from those who will stop at nothing to steal and discredit it.

Click here to pre-order The Fragment from your favorite online bookseller.

Readers Learn About Forgiveness, Courage from ‘The Pilgrim’

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Today I’m featuring reader reviews of The Pilgrim from Dennis Brooke and Mary Esque.

The Fragment, a follow-up book to The Pilgrim, releases February 19, 2016. While both novels are stand-alone books, the themes are loosely tied together. You might consider getting both of them as a gift for someone who loves historical fiction.

The Pilgrim by Davis BunnDennis Brooke, on Goodreads:

For three centuries Roman emperors did their best to crush the movement started by the disciples of a Jewish preacher they had executed as a common criminal. In The Pilgrim Davis Bunn tells the tale of the woman and her son who made that movement the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Bunn uses historical fact, legend, and masterful storytelling to weave a story about Helena, the spurned wife of one Roman Emperor and the mother of a future one, and her quest to find the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. Through this story and her example, I also learned something about forgiveness—and my personal journey.

Davis’ research and master of the craft made me feel like I was witnessing the early days of the church and a turning point in its history. I’ve done research on this place and era for my own book and Davis’ descriptions are spot on.

You might read The Pilgrim for the great tale, the characters, and what you learn about this important time in history. You’ll remember it for what it teaches you about yourself.

Mary Esque, on Goodreads

The Pilgrim is another fine example of the masterful storytelling we have come to know and love from Davis Bunn. Rich in detail and rooted in historical fact, Bunn weaves a lovely, engaging tale about an era of church history that is not very well known. It is a powerful story about faith and forgiveness, one that I found personally challenging.

In a world of faithlessness, it takes a lot of courage for Helena to step and go on the pilgrimage that she embarked upon. It took even more courage to continue on that journey in spite of all the obstacles that she faced. I found myself asking would I have persevered in such a daunting task if I had faced the same challenges.

As I considered the answer to that question, I realized how very similar our world is to Helena’s world. Both are full of faithlessness and have powerful opponents who would seek to destroy believers or at the very least silence them. I was reminded and encouraged that God is still at work and He prevails despite any and all opposition. His plans and purposes will not be thwarted. Helena reminds me that God delights in doing the most impossible of miracles in the hearts of those who would truly seek him. That is why I love this book.

Helena Encouraged Early Christians that Their Persecution was Not in Vain

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The Pilgrim by Davis BunnToday I’m featuring four delightful reader reviews of The Pilgrim from:

  1. Amy Nowak
  2. Kevin Denis
  3. Lindsay Franklin
  4. Mark Buzard

Amy Nowak’s blog:

Are you interested in female strength, courage, and virtue?

Would you like to learn about a woman who enjoyed high stature but was thrust down hard from her throne?

Why she picked herself up?

And what made her follow a dangerous road with men she did not know to seek an impossible treasure?

The Pilgrim artfully tells the story of how the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, believed God, sought to fulfill his vision, and thereby encouraged early Christians that their persecution was not in vain.

Enemies ordered to kill her are hampered. Soldiers ordered to protect her become supporters and friends. Yet as her following increases, so does her humility. There is brokenness, healing, miracles, and a bit of romance too.

I recommend The Pilgrim for anyone interested in early church history, but especially for young women who seek a role model of virtue during times of despair.

The Pilgrim Quote 7

Kevin Denis, on Amazon:

“I believe in miracles . . .”

The gospel song written by John W. Peterson kept running through my mind as I neared the conclusion of Davis Bunn’s latest historical novel, The Pilgrim, and for good reason:

The journey of Helena, mother of Constantine, as a pilgrim to Jerusalem after being divorced without cause and disgraced as a result, is nothing short of miraculous.

After Helena is exiled by her husband, she travels to meet her son. While on her way she is visited by God in a vision and instructed to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her journey is perilous with threats of death from Roman authority in Caeserea and the surrounding region. God’s hand is upon her, however, as she is joined by others on the way to Jerusalem.

The story casts Helena as the central character; however, three others – a young soldier, an experienced sergeant, and a bishop/pastor who no longer has a church – are as important to the story in their own way as Helena is.

The Pilgrim is neither a long novel nor a quick read, and Davis Bunn successfully proves that fiction doesn’t have to be without meaning. As fiction The Pilgrim is entertaining; however, the book doesn’t shy away from asking some deep questions:

  • Am I burdened with doubt?
  • Have I failed my Lord in any way?
  • Do I have a reason to continue living, a purpose for my life?

As the characters in the book come to understand, we will find the answers to our questions when we seek those answers from the only One who can truly provide them.

I believe readers will be blessed and encouraged by The Pilgrim. It is the best historical novel I’ve read this year, well worth the 5-Star rating I am giving it.

Lindsay Franklin’s blog:

I hadn’t really studied the history (and legend) surrounding Helena before, as most of my studies about this era in church history have been centered on her son, Constantine. But after reading The Pilgrim, I know I’ll be doing further research into the life of Helena.

Bunn does a great job of fleshing out her character as she deals with heartbreak and loss while she works to fulfill the calling she received directly from God. I enjoyed taking the journey with this woman of faith and courage.

Bunn does an equally great job creating an interesting cast of characters to surround Helena on her journey. As I said, I know little about Helena’s historical pilgrimage, and from what I understand, it’s pretty difficult to sift history from legend. So I’m not sure if any of Helena’s traveling companions are historical figures or if they’re wholly based upon Bunn’s research into the era and people who may have existed at that time. Either way, I know I enjoyed the inner journeys of these supporting characters, particularly the commander Anthony.

Bunn is often noted for his meticulous attention to historical detail, and he brings the fourth century alive with the ease befitting an author of his experience and acclaim.

Bottom Line: With overarching themes of grace, redemption, and the kind of faith that forces a person to her knees, Christians and history buffs interested in this time period should check out The Pilgrim.

Mark Buzard’s blog:

Davis Bunn is an excellent author who writes all types of novels and never disappoints. However, I wasn’t so sure of this book when it came in the mail. It isn’t a very long book, coming in at only 176 pages, and it is a very unassuming book in appearance. Armed with the knowledge that Bunn is a great author, I started reading it. And I couldn’t put it down.

I either had forgotten Helena was a real person, or never learned about her. Regardless, as I read it, I wondered if she was a real person. I Googled “Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine,” and sure enough. Just as the book said, she had led her famous son to Christ, and she had also taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and legend says she found the cross Jesus was crucified on. With that knowledge, the book became even more interesting to me.

It is historical fiction, so many of the events and characters in the book come from the author’s imagination, but he takes the reader on a fascinating journey from Caeserea to Jerusalem. The journey is filled with all sorts of interesting and miraculous events, and after finishing the book, it seemed to me the book was longer than just 176 pages. He packs a lot into those few pages.

It is an interesting and entertaining read, but there is also a great message in the book:

That there is always forgiveness, even we turn our backs on Jesus and do things that seem beyond forgiveness.

Although the people in the book that repented were fictional, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities that there were real life Christians who turned their back on their faith to avoid torture and death for them and their families.

The Pilgrim Quote 6

I would highly recommend this book. Davis Bunn can put this short but packed novel up against the best historical fiction there is and be proud of this latest work. It does not disappoint. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

To What Pilgrimage is God Calling You?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnI’m excited for the release of my new historical novel, The Pilgrim, on Friday, July 17. In these two reader reviews, Judith Ingram and Debbie Phillips beautifully reflect on their own journeys as pilgrims.

Judith Ingram, on Goodreads

Davis Bunn’s historical novel, The Pilgrim, reads like a poem—lyrical and layered with spiritual meaning. The plot moves slowly, allowing the reader to savor the characters’ subtle introspections and heart changes that are the real story.

The title at first seems straightforward, “the pilgrim” being the empress mother of Constantine, recently divorced and shamed, on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As her journey progresses, however, the troubled young Roman soldier assigned to accompany her reveals himself to be a pilgrim, also, on a journey to recover his lost faith.

By the end of the novel, I realized that I, too, had become a pilgrim, following their journey in faith, waiting for God to act and recognizing His movement in factual church history, which Bunn artfully embellishes with fictional details.

I recommend The Pilgrim to readers who enjoy a thoughtful read that is rooted in historical fact and finished off with vivid descriptions and piercing truths that will linger long after the book is laid aside.

The Pilgrim Quote 9

Debbie Phillips, on her blog

Wow, what a book. This is a GREAT historical fiction novel by a favorite author, Davis Bunn. A wonderful, touching tale about Helena, the mother of Constantine; her companions; and her pilgrimage to fulfill the call of God on her life and to walk in the steps that Christ walked while on his way to Calvary. Constantine, her son, has found the Lord and is beginning to change the world. Helena has been given a noble quest, through a vision from the Lord.

Oh, what wonderful characters. Oh what glorious descriptions. A quest that would lead the characters not just to Jerusalem, but to a deep spiritual place that helps them to find a reason to live, a way to forgive themselves for their failings and their past, and a way to join together to make the world a better place, especially for the Christians under Roman persecution.

I love how Bunn weaves a tale and brings me along and helps me to travel with each character on their journey. I felt with each character. I empathized with them. I wished that I could join them on the journey. I wish that I could go now and travel the Via Dolorosa.

This book helped me on my journey to forgive myself; and forgive others who have wounded me in the past. This is a difficult thing for me to do. It is something I have struggled with for the past 3 years. I have not finished my quest. I have not fully forgiven, but I am making progress and this book was one tool that Lord has used on my path to forgiveness.

I have for you two of my favorite quotes from the book…

The Pilgrim Quote 5

“She had to forgive herself.

On one level, it was ludicrous. What had she done to deserve her fate? She had every right to be hurt, wounded, angry and even to seek vengeance.

On the other, she knew the truth of this matter. She did not need anyone to be hard on her. She was harder on herself than anyone else could possibly be. Nothing she did was ever good enough. She had spent an entire lifetime striving to do better, to rise further, to be more. Which, of course, was one reason why she remained so upset with her husband. Because he had both failed to live up to her expectations and dragged her down as well.” pg 63

“Helena sat apart and argued with herself. Personal forgiveness meant accepting that she was flawed. Imperfect. Destined to miss the mark, time and again. She doubted whether she was able to actually, honestly, take that step.” pg 64

“I have a world of reasons to worry. I know I am frail. What I want is to look beyond all that.”
Slowly, Macarius turned back. His good eye gleamed as he observed her in silence.

“I want to be ready to serve at God’s command. And I can’t do this if I let fear and regret and anger dominate my life. I want to turn from all that. I want to focus on God. But I don’t know if I can.”

Macarius took her hand and he had the previous night. “Let us pray on this. And keep praying. And trust God both to answer and to give you the strength to hear.” pg 73

I completed this book and find myself inspired, hope filled, forgiven and more ready to forgive others, more aware of this time period, and deeply grateful for the opportunity to read and review it.

The Mending of Lives: Key Focus of ‘The Pilgrim’

Friday, July 10th, 2015

The Pilgrim By Davis BunnI’m touched by the reader reviews of The Pilgrim that are coming in. Today, you’ll hear from:

  • Anne Rightler
  • Jared Beiswenger
  • Eddie Gilley
  • Jodelle Svenhard

Please click the link next to each reviewer’s name to read his or her full review.

Anne Rightler, on Goodreads

Not knowing what lay ahead her intent was to walk the path of Christ’s grief and suffering. Helena, rejected wife of a Roman emperor, mother of Constantine the Great, only knew it was the will of God for her to take this path.

Davis Bunn’s masterful historical novel, The Pilgrim, brings readers a glimpse in the life of a woman, now revered as a saint in some religious faiths…a woman who heard from God and would not be deterred. Helena admits to those she meets she has failed God more often than she wants to recall and is told God wants her to know and share in others’ suffering.

She finds solace in servitude; the Empress giving freely that others may live and see Christ in her. The story is replete with characters in need of her healing balm. Broken people who needed to know the forgiveness of Christ in their souls and in their body. Broken people like the readers may be, in need of seeing God at work in their own lives.

Bunn writes of hope and healing and the mending of lives.

Jared Beiswenger, on Goodreads

“…the book has a solid Biblical message throughout. I think the themes will most resonate with those who have suffered great loss in their lives. I can’t relate closely myself, but nonetheless, I was emotionally invested by the climax. The Pilgrim also sparked my interest in the history of the Roman Empire and the early Church. After reading I was inspired to research the true stories behind the novel.”

Eddie Gilley, on his blog

There is drama, action, character development, and the gospel woven intricately within the story lines… There are moral messages of peace and reconciliation…”

The Pilgrim Quote 6

Jodelle Svenhard, on Goodreads

The Pilgrim is one of those books that “picks up” around word two.

Effervescent with historical characters you swear you studied in college, but suddenly you find they have emotions and lives and are not remotely similar to the gaudy figureheads you took for granted on the white pages of that dorm-room textbook. They live and breath before you as if someone found a way for them to “string theory” through history and sit by your side. And, indeed, someone did. The author, Davis Bunn, is the spellbinder.

“Sit,” however, is something this book rarely does. The characters charge, banter, ponder, blunder and bluster…. The life of a pilgrim is never dull… At least, not this Pilgrim.

Ha. what an unassuming name. About an unassuming individual…. in an unassuming world… But, it cannot remain unassuming, there is too much warmth. Embers from a forgotten fire that blazed through the pages of history so brightly that even dusty canvas, slovenly habits and our modern digitalized age cannot starved it completely cold or still.

Davis Bunn has found that fire, fueled it with words and faith. In The Pilgrim an Empress, a long buried kingdom and one of the most famous Generals in the world LIVE again.

Enjoy meeting them! I did.