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Reviews of

Stones Of Wrath
The Tapestry
Book One

Read Reviews of SJ Ratcliffe's first installment of the Stones of Wrath Trilogy below

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Prof. WA Liebenberg

"Buried deep within the annals of Holy Island's history lies a mystery so intriguing, it defies comprehension. Yet in this book, the author has masterfully woven together the enigmatic threads of the mystery, drawing the reader into a captivating web of intrigue. With deft skill, they bring to life the coded tapestry, Antoinette de Bourbon, her granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots, dolmens, the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and a professor. 
         Through the eyes of the author, we are transported to another side of historical truth… a mystery that starts in Lindisfarne in Northumberland on June 7th 793 AD.

 

I was impressed by the author's ability to create a vivid sense of place by referencing dolmens which are explicitly mentioned in the Scriptures. I appreciated the complexity of the historical threads in the novel format, where the different elements come neatly together.
The book would appeal not only to the adventurous, historical mystery seeker and romantic, but also to the reader who seeks to bring an obscure piece of history to life.

Prof (Dr) WA Liebenberg

FROM THE HISTORICAL FICTION COMPANY

A Full Review

Stones of Wrath Review:

A vaincre sans peril, on triomphe gloire. - A win without risk is a triumph without glory.

The sky over the monastery at Lindisfarne turned dark with the arrival of storm clouds, but the monks had no idea what else was on its way. While Brother Audlac prayed, he was unaware, as they all were, that three ships were just off the coast. Those on board the ships had come to pillage and kill, but one had come for a very different purpose.


Many centuries later, Ivy, a young woman from Sheffield, dreams of becoming a professional musician. The ongoing war with Germany leaves Ivy with limited opportunities to immerse herself in music, except when she performs with other gifted locals in the orchestra at the University of
Sheffield. They were fortunate to have Professor Gustav Richter, Head of the Music Faculty, as their conductor. He is an extremely gifted individual and the epitome of professionalism. However, there is something about the professor that Ivy did not like.

 

Professor Mikkel Jacobsen is the campus's youngest academic. He is a gifted historian and archaeologist. He can also speak several languages. However, unlike other academics, he doesn’t see any issue with bending or even breaking the rules when necessary. Music is also a passion of his and the moment he sees Ivy perform, he knows his life will never be the same. Little Deborah loves stories about queens and princesses and enjoys going out with her mother, especially when she can dress up in her Mary Queen of Scots costume. Today, they were going on an outing to the ruins of Sheffield Manor where Deborah was keen to look for treasure. However, things took a perilous turn when the earth trembled and Deborah became trapped beneath some debris. Deborah is miraculously unharmed, and ironically, she had found some treasure. But her rescuers
took her treasure away before she had a chance to look at it in the daylight.

They also gave her a stern warning –


“If you tell anyone about this, especially your mother, I will make sure she goes to jail for trespassing. You won’t see her for years.”


Frightened beyond belief, Deborah dared not utter another word. Deborah had unwittingly stumbled upon the entrance to where an ancient artefact had been hidden. However, this was not a typical artefact. It was holy and powerful. If it fell into German hands, it could influence the course of the war in their favour. The clock was ticking. Who would be the first to unravel the secrets of the ancient artefact? And would that person use it for good or for evil?

 

Stones Of Wrath (Book 1, The Tapestry) by S.J.Ratcliffe is a historical novel that will captivate readers with its realism and accuracy, depicting events from the eve of the sacking of Lindisfarne to a deadly Zeppelin attack on Sheffield.
Ratcliffe has penned an immensely readable novel. Not only is the narrative fast-paced, but it's also highly engaging. This story was so captivating that one more page turned into one more chapter. It was so enthralling that I read it in one sitting, staying up until the early hours to finish.

Stones Of Wrath is a book worthy of such devotion and time. Mikkel, a young and handsome Danish professor, has an infectious love for history and theology. He has a talent for making history and theology fun and engaging for his students. Mikkel is unfailingly kind, yet also assertive and willing to stand up for his beliefs. He's aware of the risk that could arise if some artefacts end up in the wrong hands and is committed to preventing it. His devil-may-care attitude reminded me a lot of Indiana Jones by George Lucas! While his relationship with Ivy is swoon-worthy, his character's fun, energetic and genuine portrayal in the story stole the show. His character was one that I found particularly engaging to read about.
Ivy was a character who piqued my interest. Considering herself a modern woman, she supports women’s suffrage and sees nothing wrong with riding a bicycle. Ivy is also a very talented musician and has a keen intelligence which matches Mikkel. I instantly connected with Ivy, and I thought her character was very well drawn. Her bravery and determination to do what's right, regardless of the cost, made her a character worth admiring as the story unfolded.
There was another rumble and Annie felt the ground shaking beneath her feet. But this time the ground moved in a wave. Horror spread across her face as a roaring sound filled her ears. She looked up in time to see Deborah disappear under a pile of rubble. The ground was moving and
Annie lost her balance. She stumbled towards the pile, screaming “Deborah!” over and over and over again. 
My heart was captured by little Deborah. This sweet little girl becomes a pawn in a very dark and dangerous world. The treatment she endures is horrendous and her courage and her belief that God will not abandon her made me weep. The author delves into the horror of child abduction and maltreatment, as well as the plight of the workhouse, through Deborah's character. Deborah's mutism and the trauma she went through were portrayed with great understanding by Ratcliffe. Out of all the characters in this book, Deborah is the one character I think will remain in my memory the longest.
Although there are multiple antagonists in the story, they are all united in their goal of securing a German victory. Ratcliffe impressively intertwined their stories with the historical context, making the characters appear more convincing. The villainous activity propelled the story forward and, despite them being utterly despicable, it made for a captivating read.

 

In order to maintain authenticity, Ratcliffe has included several real-life historical individuals in the story, with the magazine owner Edward Hudson being the most prominent. In my opinion, the inclusion enhanced the story's credibility and made it more enjoyable to read.

The historical detail in this novel is outstanding. It genuinely felt like I had travelled back in time.
What makes this novel stand out from the rest is the spiritual story that runs alongside it. This novel contains Christian miracles and angelic visions which gave me goosebumps on several occasions. The author's understanding of scripture was evident, and the spiritual aspect of the novel was well thought out. The story had multiple plot twists that kept me engaged and second-guessing the true villain. Unforgettable is the only way to describe Stones of Wrath.
This book is undeniably brilliant from start to finish. If you enjoy quality historical fiction with a spiritual twist, then you must read Stones Of Wrath (Book 1, The Tapestry) by S.J.Ratcliffe.
*****

“Stones of Wrath” (Book 1, The Tapestry) by S.J. Ratcliffe receives five stars and the “HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company.

Al J McCarn

Al McCarn is Executive Director of B’ney Yosef North America, and President of the Board of Ten from the Nations, two of several ministries he works with who are dedicated to bringing Christians and Jews together to walk out the promises of Israel’s complete restoration. He is also author of The Barking Fox blog and has published a book called The Ten Parts of the King.

Al is a retired Military Intelligence officer with 30 years experience in the military and government. He uses that experience in service to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

What do Christian Vikings, the last Catholic queen of Scotland, a Danish archaeologist, and a German Zeppelin have to do with the Lost Tribes of Israel?

 

S.J Ratcliffe answers that question in her debut novel, Stones of Wrath: The Tapestry.

Ratcliffe’s work easily fits a number of categories: historical fiction, romance, mystery, Christian, action-adventure, espionage, and crime drama. She combines those genres into an intricate piece of literary art set primarily in 1916, at the height of World War I. The Israelite connection is established in the opening pages, on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the coast of England. The monastery at Lindisfarne played a major role in the development of Christianity in the British Isles. Its destruction by Vikings in the year 793 provides an excellent setting for Ratcliffe to introduce not only an ancient Israelite artefact, but the network of faithful guardians who have kept it secret for centuries.

From this introduction, the author jumps forward to the early 20th century, where the next crisis in the artefact’s mysterious history unfolds. We learn that Mary Queen of Scots somehow became connected to this artefact, and kept it hidden even as she was under house arrest in Sheffield, England, during the reign of her cousin, Elizabeth I. It remains hidden as World War I engulfs Europe, but whispers of its existence and potential power inspire Germany’s Kaiser to send agents to retrieve it. The German spies enlist the unwitting assistance of Danish archaeologist Mikkel Jacobsen, who is temporarily assigned to the faculty at the University of Sheffield. Jacobsen’s budding romance with Ivy Jenkins soon entangles her and her family and friends in the mystery. As the plotlines unfold, we are taken on a fast-paced tour of wartime England, neutral Denmark, and the roots of Western civilization.

It takes a masterful storyteller like Ratcliffe to weave all these elements into a cohesive and credible epic. She does this by drawing heavily from her own family history. Her roots extend from her native Australia to England, where she still has relatives in Sheffield. Characters developed from her family line populate the novel, such as Thomas Jenkins, a bi-vocational Wesleyan Methodist pastor based on Ratcliffe’s great-grandfathers. This family connection, as well as her deep Christian faith, shape her depiction of England’s vibrant Christian culture in that era. She goes beyond the stereotypes and headlines to tell her story through real people, not two-dimensional characters. These are genuine Christians whose principles of faith guide them as they navigate the hardships of war on the home front. Their choices stand in contrast to the characters whose principles – or lack thereof – give them greater freedom of action, but fall short of the wisdom and discernment that sculpts daily actions into enduring achievements for the greater good.

Ratcliffe’s characters interact in a traumatized world coming to grips with global war. By 1916, the illusions of glory and glamour had evaporated over the muddy ruins of the Western Front and bloody beaches of Gallipoli. What we encounter are ordinary people doing their best to maintain some semblance of normalcy in an environment where the military-aged men are nearly all at the front, shortages of everything dictate daily life, and suspicions abound. That is what we would expect in wartime Britain, but we encounter similar circumstances when the action shifts to Denmark, which remained neutral throughout the First World War. The Danes are spared the loss of their military men, but every other reality of war impacts them, as well as difficulty of threading the needle between the hostile powers. That brings on a different, but no less toxic, kind of trauma that puts a strain on every relationship, but also provides opportunities to find allies in unexpected places.

These are the realities of life Ratcliffe writes about with the authority of experience. As the wife of a British naval aviator, she knows about military life in war and peacetime. Her extensive genealogical and historical research, as well as her travels, have equipped her with a reservoir of knowledge that she eagerly shares. This is not merely a knowledge of facts, but an intimate understanding of life, with all of its joys and sorrows, that translates into an engaging and uplifting story. From the scheming of the German spies to the gentle courtship of Mikkel and Ivy, we encounter a depiction of a bygone era that is more familiar to us than foreign simply because the author has chosen to write about the features of our human existence that never change.

This is what makes Stones of Wrath: The Tapestry so enjoyable, and what enables us to accept the elements that might be called the stuff of legend. That, of course, is the mysterious Israelite artefact, and with it, the account of Israel’s Lost Tribes. They did exist in antiquity, but where did they go after the Assyrian and then Babylonian empires conquered the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah? Ratcliffe weaves that into her story in the same way she incorporates Medieval and modern history. Her readers may be surprised to learn how much is known about the migrations of Israel’s tribes, and how those migrations shaped the development of nations and peoples around the world. There is a reason she has a Danish archaeologist as her protagonist, and she does not disappoint in taking him on a journey of discovery about the origins of his own people.

Is it all fiction, or is there something to it? This novel is itself the first phase in a journey of discovery that Ratcliffe calls Stones of Wrath. What are those stones? Whose wrath infuses them? What is their connection to Israel’s tribes, and why are they important? We get hints of the answers in The Tapestry, but the full revelation will come in bits and pieces with each new novel. It truly is a journey of discovery that will inspire the reader to look into these question with new eyes.

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