Author: Valerie Farber
Publisher: Falcon Books
ISBN: 976-0-9816058-0-7

Click Here To Purchase City of Refuge: A Biblical Novel of the Ancient Past

American born author Valerie Farber, who now makes her home in Hashmonaim Israel, has penned an absorbing novel that you can easily get lost in. She has accomplished this feat not just by weaving her City of Refuge: A Biblical Novel of the Ancient Past expertly, but also by constructing a time and place in such a way that we believe every detail of the landscape is real.

Set in biblical times during  the era of judges of the Israeli nation (approximately 1030 B.C.E), the novel focuses on two principal characters and their intertwining stories, Bat-Shachar, daughter of Tzaddok a priest in Michmash and Tzuriel son of Assaf from Bet Shemesh, a metalworking apprentice.

The focus of the first story is sixteen-year-old Bat-Shachar, who is quite a handful, and unfortunately has become badly influenced by the family’s devious Canaanite maidservant, Basmat. Bat-Shachar has placed her complete trust in Basmat and blindly follows her to places that a daughter of a respected priest should never think of entering.

Bat-Shachar's father,Tzaddok is a highly respected elder in the nation of Israel for his scholarship and his profound knowledge of the law. Upon learning of his daughter’s errant behavior, he is determined to marry her off to one of his students, Itamar.  Bat-Shachar detests Itamar and begs her father not to be forced into this arranged marriage. Cunningly, Basmat, on the pretext that she is a good friend of Bat-Shachar and concerned about her welfare, drugs her in order to lead her to the forbidden City of Gat where both, along with some male companions, witness a pagan Canaanite Baal celebration that leads to some haunting experiences.

The second yarn involves Tzuriel and his best friend Yerachmiel, who are metalworking apprentices to a mean spirited master, Chur, of the tribe of Ephraim in Bet-El. After a brief period of enduring Chur’s tyranny and discovering that his products are deficient, particularly the swords he makes, the two decide to escape and find another more qualified teacher.  When they ask people in the know, they are advised to seek out one of the best metal workers, Shraya of Bet Shemesh. Following a few days of travel, the two young men meet up with Shraya, who agrees to take them on as his apprentices.  However, in order to teach them how to craft the best quality steel and iron, Shraya advises them that they must travel to Gat and find out how their enemies craft their iron weapons, which are far superior than those used by soldiers of the Israelite nation.

Farber cleverly weaves into her plots several themes including trust, deception, love, loyalty, and justice. Another interesting thread is the introduction to her readers to the basic ancient principles of law that have made their way into the present day Anglo and Civil Law legal systems that we now take for granted such as contract equity and enrichment without a justified cause, as well as many more. Farber also serves up through Yerachmiel and Shraya a fascinating collection of facts concerning metal making.

Although one of the shortcomings of the novel is Farber’s tendency to overwrite and to repeat certain events verbatim, nonetheless, for a first time author, she has created a splendid tale that will no doubt have you begging for a sequel.

According to the publicity material I received, Farber’s interest in the world of biblical history and law began during her days at a Jewish religious school where she was inspired by her ninth grade Bible teacher. Her knowledge of metallurgy is the result of her many years of study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and she has taught lecture and lab courses in metallurgy at Tel Aviv University. She attributes her physical presence in the land of the Bible as her ultimate inspiration.

 Click Here To Purchase City of Refuge: A Biblical Novel of the Ancient Past