First, in case, you only read this paragraph, I thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy. Born out of Martha Kennedy’s interest in her family’s genealogy, this a historical fiction, set in Switzerland and spanning three periods in time – the Crusades, the Reformation and the 18th century immigration to America. The one current that runs throughout the series is the bond between brothers and their personal journeys with family and faith. In each book, inner conflict plays out as each of the brothers struggles with their own desires and the desire to do what is right, which can be in opposition to one another, and force them to choose one over the other. At once in love with some of the characters and not always liking others, we follow the brothers, joining in the choices they make, often risking life and death in the quest and promise of faith, adventure and new lands.
In Savior, brothers Rudolph and Conrad are caught between their family and the Church’s recruitment of young men to fight in the Crusades. Rudolph secretly struggles with a heartfelt darkness in his soul, which he believes he can resolve by going into battle for the Church. He has vowed to marry and this presents him with a decision that will affect two families should he choose to fight. Conrad is in search of the adventure and glory of becoming a knight and seeing new lands, but is he misguided by the naivety of youth? Filled with authentic songs from the period and vivid imagery of battle, I was caught up with the two brothers and the paths each chose to follow. I’m not going to give away spoilers. You’ll have to read this for yourself to find out what happens.
The Brothers Path takes the reader to the Reformation. As ideas about what belief in God began to change, the Schneebeli brothers face difficult choices between the faith they have practiced for generations and the new faith taking political hold, placing each brother in danger for different reasons. As in Savior, we find that when the church is the state, lives and property are at stake. True personal freedom does not exist. Conrad, Hannes, Andreas and Thomann are swept up in the turmoil. What place does the church and the priesthood have in a community? Where do loyalties lie, when it comes to love, family, and one’s faith in God? Does one take a stand to fight for freedom, risking death; or choose to flee to find freedom at the cost of leaving home and everything and everyone they love? Are those the only choices? I loved this book!
The Price, which takes place in the mid-1800’s, finds the Schneebeli family still living near the remnants of their ancestor’s castle from the time of the Crusades. By the time we reach this book, the location is as much of a character in the story as the people who live in it. The dream of America and the promise of religious freedom calls out to two generations. Well established in their village, going to America means never returning to the home and family that remains behind, and a strong connection to their history. The journey across the Atlantic takes months, is very expensive, and dangerous. But believing they can find true religious freedom and the separation of church and state turns the Schneebeli brothers hearts away from their roots toward a new and better life. Painting a clear picture of life on the ship and what awaits the Schneebelis when they arrive in America, I was taken along on this journey and the questions it asks. What is home? What does one truly value in life? Is chasing one’s dreams worth the risk it involves and the lives it affects? I think Martha’s writing gets better and better with each novel. Or maybe I was just becoming more invested in the family’s story. I found this last novel truly compelling.
This epic trilogy offers something everyone can connect with, what one values and what it means to follow one’s hopes and dreams. Through strong dialogue and great story telling, the themes of family and faith drive each one of the novels. In the same way that location plays an important part in these books, so do the horses the family cherishes. I haven’t mentioned the women characters, yet, but I fell in love with many of them. They are very present and at the heart of every story and I would be remiss if I left them out of this review. Often seeing the world through their eyes, as well as that of the brothers, added interest to the series. I highly recommend reading Across the World on the Wings of the Wind.
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