Book Review: In Search of Honor

Page-turner |ˈpāj ˌtərnər|
noun informal

An exciting book.

The French Revolution.

What do you think of when I say that?

For most people who have not read In Search of Honor, that merely reminds you of names like Napoleon Bonaparte, Marquis de Lafayette, or Marie Antoinette. For others, it conjures up images of French people running around Paris with scythes and getting their heads cut off by guillotines. And for some, it merely is a civil war that occurred in the late 1700s and was inspired by the daring of American patriots a few years earlier.

But for me, and for anyone who has read In Search of Honor, it means a lot more than that.

I see townspeople whispering rumors on the streets. I see selfish aristocrats snubbing hard-working yeomen. I see heated debates and speeches in wayside pubs. I see riots led by new-found celebrities. I see the homes of wealthy families ravaged by blood-thirsty mobs. I see the stalwart Bastille, torn down brick by brick. I see the heads of kings and queens tossed around by victorious revolutionists.

In Search of Honor is written from the point of view of a boy barely younger than myself, who is left to take care of himself and feed his depressed mother in colonial Paris. The art he sells is masterful, but it reflects his heart – emotionless and stony. He is bitter against people who left him fatherless. He is ready for revenge – so when the spark of the Revolution is lit, he is swept up in its wake.

An unfortunate turn of events land him in the Bastille, famed for its colossal walls from which no prisoner could escape. Then he and friends do find a way out, and the youth leaves an old man – a Christian, whose words and precious Book haunt him while he joins in the growing upheaval. But the boy is pulled deeper by manipulative friends and at the peak of the revolution, he feels that he has reached his lowest.

“…I washed myself… but the stench of death stayed with me. Though my hand had not actually performed the murders, I knew that the rage I felt against the Comte’s son could well have killed him. As I sat alone that night in my darkened shop, I realized for the first time how much I’d become like those who cheered at executions.” -Donna Lynn Hess, In Search of Honor

I shall be mean and leave you on a cliff-hanger, for a book review is to give only a taste of the book, am I correct?

Not only does this excerpt let you share in the terrible confusion and guilt that this youth felt, but it gives you a taste of Donna Lynn Hess’s skillful writing. Although she does not describe quite as vividly as other authors, she delves so deep into her character’s mind that you think you are not yourself, but the boy of which she writes.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. It brings rehearsed names and dates to a more personal level, because although it is mainly about a person that did not live, it shows how a common person would have survived through and reacted to famous historical events. And that, to a history lover like myself, is fascinating.

In Search of Honor isn’t just historical fiction. It approaches Christianity, and the peace that comes with following Christ, in a beautiful new way which makes you wonder why you didn’t see it in that light before. The book itself is an emotional ride following the thought process of a confused and bitter-hearted teenager. This was in a time when most people only latched onto the thoughts and ideas of loud-voiced men, when images of those men were practically worshipped, and the God of the Bible was forgotten. But He did not disappear because He was forgotten.

Hess’s book is full of wisdom and rashness, suspense and surprise, revenge and forgiveness. Her main character may have not been the hero of the story, but the book proves to be profound without the added distraction. It is, simply speaking, a magnificent read.

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