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The Begotten

by Lisa T. Bergren

The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren

 



  • In an ideal trilogy, each book stands on its own but is made stronger by the whole. In a second-tier trilogy, each book is so intricately tied to the others that one must read all three books because they're really just one book released in three parts.

    Having read "The Begotten", book one of Lisa T. Bergren's "The Gifted" series (I'm guessing it's a trilogy because that's how many books are listed in the back), I can only hope it falls into the second tier. I say "hope" because the back of the book doesn't indicate if the other two books are all there will be of "The Gifted" series.

    Be that as it may, "The Begotten" reads like the first part of a larger story, and not a story in and of itself. The characters have a great quest . . . which they start on. The bad guy seems destined for "great" (albeit evil) things to come.

    The Story

    It's the fourteenth century and Christianity has been co-opted by one group: the hierarchy of the Catholic church. You don't spit unless they give you leave.

    But two things are happening shake up the status quo: an evil man named "the Sorcerer" is terrorizing Rome (Roma) and making the Church look ineffectual against him; and a disputed manuscript—which might have been written by Paul—prophesies of a group of people with specific spiritual gifts who will shake up said status quo and lead the people of God back to Him. "The Begotten" tells the tale of how "The Gifted" come together and get started in their quest—to enlighten the church and, maybe, bring down the Sorcerer.

    A Comment

    As a person who grew up in a Restoration Movement home, the underlying concept of this book was so foreign to me as to be unattainable. In case you don't know, the Restoration Movement grew out of the Reformation, which grew out of a break with Protestantism, which grew out of a break with Catholocism. So I'm multiple generations removed from any connection to the Catholic Church no matter how you count my genealogy.

    All these "new teachings" the Gifted are quietly trying to spread, which are causing such consternation among Christianity, are just the basic tenets I grew up with. Spiritual gifts, priesthood of all believers, etc. I'm already used to all those ideas and I didn't need another letter from Paul to introduce them to me. As the characters in the book seem to finally figure out, all these "new" teachings were right there in front of them all the time in the rest of the Bible.

    In some ways, this story is like an allegory of the Reformation or the Protestant Revolt, but I find the actual stories to be more interesting.

    The Writing

    I couldn't bring myself to care deeply about these characters. Just as there are elements of the plot which seem to be hovering around the edges so they can be brought out later, the character of the characters almost seems as if it is awaiting development, too. Daria, the heroine, seems too strong to have this much self-doubt (and trouble with love, even in a culture where being barren was almost a death-knell for relationships). And Father Piero is too subtly enigmatic, like the second-string quarterback you know could lead the team to victory if he ever gets the chance, but of course he never does.

    Bergren has a reputation for historical fiction and that certainly shows through here. Her descriptions of towns, artifacts and customs is (as far as I know) impeccable. She put me right in the fourteenth century, but I didn't care about my companions so it was kind of like a vacation with boring strangers. Once the whole trilogy is out, maybe the trip will seem much better, but right now I'm not looking forward to vacationing with these people next summer.

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