Bodie and Brock Thoene have set the standard in historical fiction with their exquisite attention to history and engaging plots and characters, so I was thrilled to read their newest novel. The Gathering Storm is the first novel in the Zion Diaries series, but it stands alone.
The Gathering Storm introduces the Bittick family, missionaries serving in Germany before World War II. Young Loralai comes of age in the early days of Nazi Germany, torn between an adolescent crush on Eben Golah, a mysterious older man, and her affection for Varrick Kepler, a Jewish classmate. Loralai marries Varrick to help him escape Germany. In Belgium, their safety is again threatened by the German invasion in May 1940. Loralai escapes to England, where she finds new purpose in helping Jewish refugees.
The Thoenes’ attention to historical accuracy shines. The scenes where Loralai’s family flee Belgium by car, by foot, and by boat are thrilling and emotional. I was also struck by the plight of the Jewish refugees, who escaped tyranny in continental Europe only to find a surprising amount of prejudice in Britain. Those who love fiction set in World War II will find much to enjoy in this novel. However, there is a plot element which is mystical/supernatural. I found this element intriguing and based on biblical truths, but if you like your historical fiction straight, this might not appeal to you.
I’m very much looking forward to the next novels in this series.