Wednesday, July 30, 2014

St. George and the Dragon

Every month I get a few emails from authors asking me to review their newly published book. Most of the books are self-published, and it's a pretty even mix of fiction and non-fiction. I have a busy review schedule, so unfortunately I have to turn 99% of them away. Every now and then, a slot appears in my schedule that I can take the time to squeeze one in. Today, I am reviewing Michael Lotti's first novel Saint George and the Dragon.

The icon of St. George slaying the dragon is one of the most recognizable images in iconography. However, apart from legends, very little is known about this saint. Mr. Lotti recognizes this and weaves a story based on the facts and guesses people know about St. George. Therefore, this is a story about St. George, and not the story about St. George. The setting is 300 A.D. in the Roman Empire, and the main character is a soldier named Marcellus, who will eventually become St. George. The audience for this book would be tween to teenage years, though younger adults might find it enjoyable as well.

Throughout the early part of the book, Mr. Lotti paints us a wonderful picture of Marcellus. He is the son of Titus, a former officer in the army of the Roman Empire. Marcellus is also a brilliant soldier, because he has been trained to be a soldier from his youth. He loves and values the Empire above all else, and wants the best for it. He is also engaged to a woman named Regina with a wedding to take place very shortly. In order to get married, he has to take time off from the army and return to his father's estate. It is on this leave that his world is turned upside down. He learns his father is a Christian sympathizer. Titus isn't a Christian, but he allows his slaves to be, and his most loyal slave, Pasikrates, is a big Christian. This was bold for this day and age, because Christians were heavily persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian. Another startling discovery he learns is about a religion that worships a dragon. To make matters worse, Regina is a devout follower, and wants Marcellus to be as well. I won't give away further plot details. You'll have to buy the book and read it to find out.

There are several recurring themes in this book. One major theme is good vs. evil, or God vs. the dragon. The Christians, the local bishop, and the thought of God always seem to put Marcellus at ease. However, the dragon and dragon-worshippers make Marcellus sick to his stomach and feel completely powerless, but not in a good way. The first encounter/conversation Marcellus had with the dragon made me uncomfortable for Marcellus and my stomach tighten up a bit. That's good writing! The other major theme in this book is slavery. Slavery is a common practice in 300 A.D., but Marcellus has a hard time understanding/agreeing with the concept that just because a man is a slave on earth, doesn't make him any less of a person. It is for this reason that he also has a hard time understanding that being a slave for God is one of the best things you can be.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book in all honesty. You never know how an author's first novel is going to turn out. To say the very least, I was pleasantly surprised! It is a great story and a wonderful fleshing out of a legend we know so little about. Additionally, it presents a solid teaching of both Bible and tradition. I also love the fact that it has appeal to both Catholics and Orthodox alike. I hope that this is not the last novel he writes, and I would gladly read another of his books if it's the same quality as this one.

This book was provided to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!