From the first page of Day of War, Cliff Graham throws his reader into a tumultuous series of both physical and emotional battles, every time bringing his characters back to the unfailing covering of God. Though a man named Benaiah is the book’s main hero, the story follows various soldiers who are either a part of David’s army or his enemies. Rough and realistic, the tale refuses to shirk from any of the positive or negative aspects, jumping between struggles with a criminal army, a hated Philistine alliance, and Israel’s inner conflict. Bringing biblical characters to life, Day of War is impactful, pulling readers into the pages.
Whereas it is frequently a tendency for Christians to turn Old Testament history into simple stories with morals, Graham’s recounting of the times of David ignites new life into figures sometimes worn out by repetition of their tales. He keeps a firm grip on the Scriptures, maintaining historical details while regaling the readers with descriptions so real they place readers inside the battle. At the forefront of characters’ minds is their reliance on God, their “covering.” Yet, there are also those who have turned away, portrayed in such a relatable way that any Christian who has ever lost sight of God will recognize himself in the character. God, who is loving and just, continues to look after his own: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
The plot focuses mainly on Benaiah, a man with a dark and terrible past who runs from both God and his emotional devastation. But the story is not that simple, and there are various chapters scattered throughout the book that deal with David, Saul, the Amalekite enemies, and other key men.
Despite having powerful characters who are overwhelmingly human, there was one aspect of Graham’s that did not work. Guardian angels and demons are at one time locked into combat, but they seem out of place and, fortunately, do not appear for the majority of the story. If the supernatural element is continued in future books, this will not be an issue, but it does seem a bit out of context.
With only a few simple phrases, Graham can determine whether or not a reader will adore or abhor a character. Mundane facts are given life, and statistics and names now have personalities and meanings. Benaiah, a man who buries himself in war, is not always the most likeable or the strongest of characters. Perhaps this is what makes him a powerful protagonist: he is imperfect, and the reader wants to see him grow closer to God and be healed. Some characters make a few comments that are, after a while, a bit degrading to women, but considering the time period it should be overlooked.
Expecting to find this a book geared mainly toward men, I was impressed to discover how much I enjoyed reading it. The ending is intriguing, not necessarily due to a cliffhanger but to the unresolved anger and emotional conflict that remain in some of the main characters. Anyone interested in a retelling of biblical stories, and who is not afraid of the realities of war or struggles with lust, will enjoy reading Graham’s Day of War. – Sarah Lyons, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Day of War is a gritty, intense, stylistic portrait of the Mighty Men of Israel—a rag-tag band of disgruntled warriors on the run with David, the soon-to-be King, whose legendary deeds are recorded in 2 Samuel 23 and 1 Chronicles 11.
In ancient Israel, at the crossroads of the great trading routes, a man named Benaiah is searching for a fresh start in life. He has joined a band of soldiers led by a warlord named David, seeking to bury the past that refuses to leave him. Their ragged army is disgruntled and full of reckless men. Some are loyal to David, but others are only with him for the promise of captured wealth.
While the ruthless and increasingly mad King Saul marches hopelessly against the powerful Philistines, loyal son Jonathan in tow, the land of the Hebrew tribes has never been more despondent—and more in need of rescue.
Over the course of ten days, from snowy mountain passes to sword-wracked battlefields, Benaiah and his fellow mercenaries must call upon every skill they have to survive and establish the throne for David—if they don’t kill each other first.