4 1/2 of 5 stars for plotting, craft, and just being a good historical, 4 of 4 stars for healing hearts and spiritual message. That is probably the book's greatest strength!
About the book:
Brandon Winslow would rather gamble and frequent taverns than attend church. So how does he find himself at the forefront of the resistance to Bloody Mary's attempt to eliminate—at sword's point, if need be—the Protestant faith?
During the reign of Mary I of England—"Bloody Mary"—young Brandon Winslow (son of Stuart, protagonist of Honor in the Dust, the first book in the Winslow Breed series) finds himself in dire straits. After being flogged and then drummed out of the military for seducing the wife of his commanding officer, he sinks into a life of gambling and petty fraud along with Lupa, the fair gypsy woman who nursed him back to health.
After Mary weds Prince Philip of Spain, she begins to work in earnest to establish Catholicism as the only faith in England—and to execute Protestants. When Brandon sees several people burned at the stake in London for their faith, the experience changes him: Even though he has been only a nominal member of the Church of England, he finds himself compelled to stop those responsible for these outrages—and to do so before his uncle Quentin, a pastor, is himself burned at the stake. Unfortunately, the only way to save Quentin and so many others is to make Princess Elizabeth (who is herself in danger of dying at Mary's hand) queen. And that, of course, would be treason. Punishable by death.
But then, Brandon has always been a gambler . . .
When the Heavens Fall is an enthralling fictional tale set during the reign of "bloody" Mary Tudor. I enjoyed entering the lives of the royals through the story and liked this book almost as much as the first one, Honor in the Dust. The story does a great job of taking the reader to the edge of the proverbial cliff. The author makes you hold your breath a number of times as bad things continue to get worse for the characters.
People who enjoy reading about the Tudors will enjoy this book. The author did a great job of increasing the tension and peril the characters were confronted with. Plus, everything didn't turn out rosy for people. Some died in their sin. All suffered the consequences of what they had done wrong. Some people were killed simply for refusing to deny their beliefs (as Protestants) and the author's description was downright brutal in it's realism. That made the emotional impact even more focused, and one cannot help but have a renewed appreciation for people martyred for their faith.
It's rare when I find Christian fiction that portrays a true prodigal son. Brandon Winslow was an excellent example of a man who had many reasons to believe he was too messed up to ever change. In fact, he felt he was so far gone that at times he didn't even care if he changed, and sometimes this bothered him. Most of the time it did not. That was very well done.
I found Brandon's spiritual state and self-talk fairly convincing and not at all contrived. His inability to really love others was well shown in the way he lived his life. The fact that he had good parents who loved him, and yet he still went the wrong way was powerfully written. This should give parents with prodigal children some encouragement. Maybe they will see that they were not the cause of their children straying from the faith.
I loved the way the author used Scripture in this story as well. Several times I identified with different characters and their emotions so much that I got a bit choked up. I found the story compulsively readable. I wanted to know what would happen next. There were no dry places and the scenes all built on each other. Everything moved the plot forward. I really enjoyed this book.
When the Heavens Fall was published by Howard Books and released in May 2010.