In T.L. Higley’s historical novel Petra: City of Stone, Cassia and Julian cross paths in the city of Petra while escaping an old life. Julian, a citizen of Rome, flees his home to protect his family from persecution, while Cassia, a peasant who has just lost her husband, seeks a better existence for herself and her young son, Alexander. She has recently learned that Alexander is more than just the son of a poor widow. Cassia’s deceased husband was the son of Petra’s king, and Alexander is next in line to rule. However, Hagiru, the queen of Petra, has other plans—plans that do not involve competition for the throne. She seeks her gods’ aid in removing the threat to her power, whereas Julian finds his help in another God: Jesus Christ. Cassia resists dependence on others, fearing their betrayal. She trusts only in herself to protect her son, but soon his safety will be beyond her control.
Higley does a wonderful job of portraying the society and culture of the early years after Christ’s time on Earth. The characters of Cassia and Julian only enhance the historical context of the novel. While the plot is relatively predictable, it is also engaging and flowing. Queen Hagiru presents herself a formidable antagonist, and her fierce determination to see Alexander dead makes it difficult to put the book down. The story is driven by Cassia’s independence and love for her son, as well as Julian’s unwavering faith in his Savior.
Julian’s character is the perfect way for Higley to present the gospel, and she uses him well. His encouraging words, as well as those of his mentor, Malik, often come directly from the Bible. Julian tells Cassia of Christ, but she has a hard time placing her trust in anyone other than herself. Proverbs 3:5 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” The whole novel revolves around this principle, especially regarding Cassia’s struggle with faith.
Petra: City of Stone, though it possesses a very historically rich setting and plot, will appeal to even those who have very little interest in history. The interactions between the characters and the simple, bold plot are intriguing enough to make the novel worth reading, even to readers who have no interest whatsoever in the history behind the story. – Maria Martin, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Petra, the wondrous ancient city carved from the mountains of modern Jordan, is at the height of its glory in this gripping historical novel by T. L. Higley. A young widow, Cassia, and her son, Alexander, have arrived there seeking protection with her late husband's estranged family. But when Cassia discovers the man she married was heir to the throne, the power-hungry Queen Hagiru plots to murder Alexander so that her own child will someday rule. The queen, priestess of the sun-god, Dushrat, calls on demonic powers in her quest, but Cassia is prepared for the fierce spiritual battle to save her son, joining a Roman named Julian and his community of believers in the Jewish Messiah. Together they seek a mighty movement of God far stronger than any dark heart or city made of stone.