Connilyn Cossette. A Light on a Hill. Bethany House, 2018. See here to buy the book.
A Light on a Hill is the first book of Connilyn Cossette’s
“Cities of Refuge” series. The Israelite cities of refuge are discussed
in Numbers 35. Essentially, they are cities to which a person who
commits manslaughter flees, to be protected from death at the hands of
the victim’s avenging relatives. Priests also live in cities of
refuge. A Light on a Hill takes place seven years after Cossette’s book, Wings of the Wind, which was the third book of Cossette’s “Out of Egypt” series.
Moshe has died, and his successor, Yehoshua, has led the Israelites
to conquer many, but not all, of the cities of Canaan. Moriyah is a
daughter of an Egyptian who joined the Israelites, and, at the beginning
of the book, she is a captive in Jericho. She is being prepared to
become a Temple prostitute and is tattooed with images of Canaanite
deities. She manages to escape and returns to the Israelites. Ashamed
of her tattoos, she continually wears a veil among the Israelites.
At a festival, she meets a man named Darek, and they develop a
chemistry. She thinks that he is the man to whom his father is engaging
her, but it turns out that she is engaged to his cold older brother,
Raviv. Raviv has two twin sons, and they are bullying Moriyah’s young
friend, Eitan. Moriyah threatens the twins as she is preparing soup for
the family. A poisonous plant gets inside of the soup, and the twins
die. Moriyah looks like a murderer, so she undertakes a journey to a
city of refuge to escape being killed by Raviv and to await a trial.
She is joined by her family’s servant, the loyal Yuval, and, eventually,
the conflicted Darek shows up and accompanies her on her journey. They
have adventures, and Darek and Moriyah both confront their inner
My response to Wings of the Wind was rather “meh”: it seemed
to regurgitate the standard Christian apologetics about the Israelite
conquest, and the depiction of the Canaanites was flat. A Light on a Hill,
by contrast, was really good. Many of the characters struggled with
ambivalence or painful pasts and presents; some learned profound
spiritual lessons, and some did not. Among the lessons that Moriyah
learned was the importance of loving her enemies, how to hear the voice
of God, and how she was wrong to judge her fellow Israelites as harshly
as she did.
There were characters whom I especially liked, and scenes that I
enjoyed. One character was Ora, a blind woman whom Moriyah helped. Ora
was a quiet, peaceful, and wise presence in Moriyah’s life. There was a
Midianite woman who was asking spiritual questions. In terms of
scenes, Yuval and Darek learning to like each other after their initial
suspicion stood out to me, as did the tense scene in which Moriyah was
pretending to be a Canaanite priestess, as a Canaanite king questioned
her to see if she was telling the truth.
Cossette also incorporates scholarship into her story, such as the
historical recognition that Egypt controlled many cities of Canaan in
the fifteenth century B.C.E.
There were some quibbles that I had: how could Yuval be released from
slavery in the seventh year, when Yuval was not a Hebrew, and Hebrew
slaves were the slaves who were released at that time (Exodus 21:2;
Deuteronomy 15:12)? He is depicted as somewhat of a convert, so that
may be the reason.
The romantic dialogue could get cheesy, and Eitan was a bit annoying,
but this was an enjoyable book, in that it had comfortable characters.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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