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Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Year of the Dragon by Stephen Hayes (Book Review)

I honestly believe that this is a book that needs to be read. Set in Apartheid South Africa under the rule of Die Groot Krokodil himself, it tells the story of an old woman's death and the search for the secrets hidden within a Christian ikon of great significance.

Having said that, it isn't really a story about politics. Or, to put it another way, politics isn't the central theme or point of the story. At its heart, it's about supernatural power, and how God can (and does) use everyday people like you and me to further His goals.

The story is beautifully woven, and the pacing is brilliant. Fair warning, though: the first five or six chapters or so are nice and short (twenty to thirty screens of my e-reader, and I read on the largest font size), and you think "Hey, cool! This is going to be a nice quick read." But after those first five or six chapters, the story takes a dramatic turn. Everything gets deeper and darker. The stakes get higher, the characters get more serious, and the chapters double or triple in length. It can be jarring if you're not expecting it, but when you look back, you realise the timing was perfect.

From an editing standpoint, it's very good, although there are missing punctuation marks scattered throughout (most often question marks, which happened so often that I found myself wondering whether I'd missed something intentional), and at one point, some dialogue is attributed to a character who isn't present at the time. None of that detracted from my enjoyment of the story, though!

Also, in the early chapters, the language is a bit... stilted. Overly formal, somehow, or maybe old-fashioned--particularly in dialogue, where I found myself thinking that nobody I know actually talks like that. No, I don't think anyone spoke like that in the '80s, either. But it either got better as the story went on, or I just got used to it.

But I would strongly urge you not to let any of the above stop you from reading this beautiful story. Honestly, I learnt so much reading it, not only about our South African past, and Christian history, but about my own faith, as I was frequently forced to stop and re-evaluate some of my own beliefs.

Don't worry if you're not a Christian, though. This book isn't going to try and convert you; you'll likely just read it as a great fantasy (and that's okay).

I think if you love Christian thrillers, paranormal thrillers, or reading about South Africa's dark and terrible past, this is a book not to be missed.

My Review: 4 / 5 stars

Click the cover below to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.


About the Book

The year is 1988. 

For 40 years the world has been in the grip of the Cold War, and South Africa has been in the grip of apartheid. For 71 years Russia has been under Bolshevik tyranny. Though few suspect it, this is about to change for ever. 

On a farm in the picturesque southern Drakensberg of South Africa a woman dies, and a young lawyer, Richard Rutherford, and his friend Denis Walters combine business with a pleasure weekend in the mountains. They will visit the farm to take the first steps in settling the estate. They soon discover that others also have an interest in the estate, or at least some items in it, and that they are prepared to kill for them. 

The contentious items seem to be some old Russian ikons, but how they got to a remote farm and why others are so anxious to get hold of them is a mystery. The search for answers leads them to a strange hermit and an even stranger priest, and a drive of a thousand miles in search of King Lobengula’s legendary treasure.

Click here to find out where you can get your hands on a copy.

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