Whispered secrets about her parents’ past take on new urgency for Chariline as she pays one last visit to the land of her forefathers, the ancient kingdom of Cush.
Raised as an orphan by her aunt, Chariline has only been told a few pieces of her parents’ tragic love story. Her beautiful dark skin is proof that her father was Cushite, but she knows nothing else. While visiting her grandfather before his retirement as the Roman official in the queen’s court, Chariline overhears that her father is still alive, and discovering his identity becomes her obsession. Both her grandfather and the queen have reasons for keeping this secret, however, and forbid her quest. So when her only clues lead to Rome, Chariline sneaks on the ship of a merchant trusted by friends.
Theo is shocked to discover a stowaway on board his vessel and determines to be rid of her as soon as possible. But drawn in by Chariline’s story, he feels honor-bound to see her safely to shore, especially when it appears someone may be willing to kill for the truth she seeks.
In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters–including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.
I received this book from the author for free via NetGalley. This is a voluntary review, therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
When I picked up this book, I didn’t even know where the ancient kingdom of Cush was. But Chariline’s (pronounced kar-uh-leen, per the author, if you were wondering) story has given me a newfound fondness for it, as well as a deeper love for the sprawling 1st century Roman Empire. Along her journey to find her long-lost and possibly dead father, Chariline encounters several enchanting characters, including some Biblical figures, like Philip, Natemahar, and the famous couple, Priscilla & Aquila. She also deals with intense feelings of worthlessness, betrayal, and fear, countered at every turn by God’s gentle and relentless love. While she initially sets off to find a father who may not even exist, her Heavenly Father quietly guides her to more lasting treasures than she imagined possible.
I adored this book from prologue to epilogue (I even read the author’s note, because I wasn’t ready to put the book down!). Jewel of the Nile was the first book I’ve read by Tessa Afshar, but it will absolutely not be the last! Her style of writing reminded me of Francine Rivers, which is high praise given she is one of my favorite authors of all time! In this book, Mrs. Afshar wove a perfect tapestry of intrigue, romance, adventure, and historical detail. Soon after starting the book, I could tell it would be one I would want to read again (and I wasn’t wrong).
“Yeshua does not abandon. He does not walk away. He does not leave or forsake. His always is trustworthy. Even when the people you love fail you, he does not. He does not leave you. He is with you. Always.”
One of my favorite parts of Jewel of the Nile was the way it pointed me back to Jesus over and over. I even messaged the author on Instagram late at night after reading chapter 20 to let her know just how intensely her words in that chapter had moved me and added a new layer to my relationship with Jesus. I will not spoil anything at all, but I will tell you that if you read this book with an open heart, God will use these characters to show you new aspects of His unending love and grace for you.
“‘We all contend with darkness in our lives,’ [Priscilla] said. ‘I know I have. But this truth consoles me: Our Lord, who passed through the worst darkness… helps us in our darkness… He endured the loss of every light so that we may always have the light of his countenance shining upon our path.’”
In addition to being a spiritually deep and valuable book, Jewel of the Nile is also a really fun story. I enjoyed getting to read about characters my age, with whom I share certain spiritual attributes or personality traits. Even the side characters were loveable- I dare you not to adore Arkamani, Sophocles, and Ferox! The characters based on real-life historical figures were also amazing and will make you want to pick up your Bible to check out their original stories. Speaking of original stories, it turns out Mrs. Afshar has also written other books about Theo, namely Thief of Corinth and Daughter of Rome. So, if you’re like me and want to keep reading about the 1st century heartthrob, you don’t have to look far!
In summary, this is without a doubt one of the best books I’ve picked up this year, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction with a side of romance and adventure! I give it 5 out of 5 stars!