Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.
To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?
The sun pushed higher into the sky, and shadows no longer guarded Eben’s face.
The brilliant sun at his back outlined his body, illuminating gold in his dark brown hair. His beard, and its foreignness, momentarily fascinated me. Clean-shaven men surrounded me. But the beard fit Eben, lent a certain strength to his face. He was not striking like Akhum. No kohl accented his eyes. But I felt myself drawn to the planes of his face, his narrow nose, a small scar at the top of one high cheekbone, the line of his lips pressed together in aggravation.
“Perhaps you ought to look around yourself sometime. You people only care about yourselves and your own comfort.”
I startled at the venom in his tone. “You people?”
“Yes, you Egyptians. With your self-centered prancing about.” He twirled his hand in the air.
“You don’t know me. You have no idea about my life and who, or what, I care about.” My own fists clenched tight, fingernails slicing my palms.
“I know enough. I’ve had my fill of this country and her people. Egypt deserves what’s coming.” He folded his arms with a haughty jerk of his chin.
“And that is . . . ?” I stepped forward in a challenge.
He mirrored my movement. “Vengeance.”
“By whom? An army of slaves?”
“Aided by Yahweh.”
For some reason, I shrank back when Eben pronounced this name. My pulse raced, and my breath shallowed. Surprise flashed across his face at my reaction.
When the strange emotion released its grip on my throat, I sputtered out, “Who is that?”
His curious gaze swept over my face. “Our God.”
“Shira said your god has no name.”
“An elder from Goshen arrived this week to tell us what has transpired there – since all we have heard was rumors. Yahweh gave Mosheh his name as a sign among others.” Pride leaked into his voice, and he stood taller. “The name in our tongue means that he always has been and always will be the Almighty God.”
“How mighty is a god who cannot deliver his people from slavery?”
He folded his arms across his chest and shifted his stance. “He will.”
“So the last two hundred years your god was, what, asleep?” A caustic laugh slipped past my lips.
“Yahweh does things in his own time. He is preparing us.”
Shira’s odd statement, that her god might be preparing me for something, brushed through my thoughts. “For what?”
Standing at eye level with a man was strange to me, especially in such close proximity. I was taller than Shira, but all the men I knew – my father, Shefu, Akhum, even Jumo – towered over me. Eben’s ability to stare straight into my eyes unnerved me.
Defiance hardened his features as he brought his face closer to mine. “We will soon be ready to take back what has been stolen: our freedom, our wealth, our pride. Egypt will pay.”
His fierce words tore into my heart. My galloping pulse, caused by Eben’s proximity, was drowned out by their echo. When he looked at me, he saw only an enemy.
“You forget you are not the only one who has lost such things.” I turned my back on him to conceal the insistent tears that stung my eyes, snatched my jug, and rushed up the path.
The short take
This was a fresh and riveting account of the ten plagues and the exodus as experienced by a young Egyptian woman. Well written, and vivid in its historical and cultural details, it’s a must-read for lovers of Biblical fiction!
Counted With The Stars presents the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt from a fresh and riveting perspective: that of Kiya, a young Egyptian woman who is sold into slavery to pay her father’s debts. Ancient Egypt comes to life in vivid detail as Kiya struggles with the transition from a life of wealth and privilege to a life of servitude to Tekurah; a woman who takes every opportunity she can to reprimand and humiliate Kiya. And her humiliation is complete when she is ordered to serve at the lavish banquet her mistress will preside over for the Festival of the New Year – a banquet she has always attended as a guest in the past. Yet out of this springs an unexpected friendship; with Shira, a young Hebrew slave whose baffling optimism and kindness intrigue Kiya.
In the Biblical account of the exodus from Egypt, Pharaoh and Moses take centre stage. One of the things that made this novel so fascinating was that it does the complete opposite. These pivotal players are very much in the background – all but out of sight, in fact – and the characters in this novel have no knowledge of what is taking place in Pharaoh’s court. Their confusion as they try to deal with and make sense of what is happening gives great insight into the way in which the plagues meant so much more than physical devastation to the Egyptians. It struck at the very heart of their religion, and therefore their whole culture, and that really came through in this novel. By the time the final plague hits, everything Kiya has ever known has been turned on its head, and she, her mother, and her brother flee Egypt with Shira’s family and the rest of the Hebrews.
Journeying with the Hebrews in the desert brings its own trials as Kiya struggles to make sense of where her life is now headed. While she is thoroughly convinced that Yahweh is God, his unbridled power frightens her. As Egyptians, she and her family are shunned by many, and not all who travel with them have honourable intentions. And that is quite aside from the difficulties experienced by a whole nation travelling on foot through the desert. Through it all, Kiya is really searching for a place to belong; for something that will anchor her now that her whole world has shifted. And I think that is what makes her such an engaging character to read about – separated from us by time and culture, and yet connected by a common humanity.
Kiya’s story was beautifully written, emotionally engaging, and to read it is to become fully immersed in the ancient Egyptian world and the exodus of the Hebrews. I absolutely loved this novel, and think it is a must read for lovers of Biblical fiction, or indeed anyone who enjoys a great story.
I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 5 April 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Author’s website: http://www.connilyncossette.com/
Coming in October 2016 – Shadow of the Storm
Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.
When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?