I’ve said in previous writings how much of a fan I am of Matthew Stover‘s work, be it his Star Wars novels or his original material. He has this blend of story depth and kick-ass adventures that always has me coming back for more.
So today, I’m looking into one of his earlier works, Jericho Moon.
The story is a sequel to Stover’s first novel, Iron Dawn. We follow the ongoing adventures of Barra, an ax-wielding mercenary with a foul mouth and equally foul temper. With companions like Kheperu the cynical old Egyptian, Leucas the gentle giant Greek, and Graegduz the wolf, she takes on a job to rescue Agaz, Prince of Jebusi, whose people are under attack by the Habiru–otherwise known as the Israelites. Set after the Flight from Egypt, the Israelites are propelled to conquer and destroy, lest Yahweh‘s wrath fall upon them, and the only thing standing between them and the fall of Jebusi is a band of quick-witted and battle-hungry mercenaries.
Because of the era that this story takes place in, I have to praise Stover for doing his research on all the customs, languages, and beliefs befit the Bronze Age. The reader doesn’t have to even grasp the difference between Canaanite and Phoenician dialects–the mere mention is enough. And just like in Heroes Die, Stover gives you the full effect of being on an ancient battleground and all the misery it entails.
This story also succeeds in providing a colorful cast, from the bitter-tongued and passionate Barra, the noble but despondent Agaz, and the deeply-conflicted Joshua ben Nun. Some of these characters have a background in both history and the Old Testament, while others are more extrapolated from what your typical prince, mercenary, or high priest would be.
Woven throughout this story is a recurring theme in Stover’s works: the interaction between gods and mortals. Gods are not portrayed too kindly, given how much bloodshed They demand, while those who aren’t afraid to challenge blind faith in Them are usually the heroes. Faith is not considered a failing, but depends on the believer. Arrogant men like Eleazar and Melchizedek use their faith to accrue more power, while more humble individuals like Leucas and Sarah respect the Powers they serve.
Jericho Moon is a stirring tale of battle, romance, and intrigue, all as sharp and compelling as Barra’s ax.
Bibliography: Stover, Matthew Woodring. Jericho Moon. New York: Penguin Group, 1998.