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In Old Testament Judah, Hezekiah is born the second son of the weak and idolatrous King Ahaz. His father's sacri-fice of Hezekiah's older brother puts him next in line for the throne at a time when tragedy dogs the royal house and kingdom as the iron rule of the Assyrians chokes the life from Judah.

Hezekiah's father finds no salvation in a favor he seeks from a host of gods, so Hezekiah must choose: serve his father's gods or listen to the prophets and return the kingdom to the worship of Yahweh? The former is politically safe and the latter fraught with risk, but regaining the blessing of Yahweh may be the kingdom's only chance for survival.

Austin brings this biblical account to vivid life in her well-researched fictionalization of the life of one of Judah's most fascinating kings. But the scope of the book leaves little room for deep characterization, and Austin often resorts to telling and summarizing events and perspectives. (Feb., 320 pp., $12.99)
Reviewed by: 
Jill Elizabeth Nelson