When privileged Egyptian Kiya is sold into slavery by her own father, it is to save the rest of her family including her crippled brother. She finds herself in the household of a family friend, but the shame of serving in a home she once frequented as a guest and the vengeful behavior of her master’s wife leaves her feeling humiliated and hopeless. During her time of service she meets fellow slave Shira, a Hebrew, who makes a great sacrifice on Kiya’s behalf winning her loyalty and friendship. Through Shira, she also meets Eben, Shira’s brother who seems to despise her, but she also begins to learn of the rumors of a Deliverer spreading through the Hebrew households. Things go from bad to worse for Kiya, as her former fiance deserts her and all of the Egyptians are terrorized by strange plagues. Kiya wrestles with her lack of faith in her own gods and her terror of the Hebrew God, while also being strangely drawn to both the enslaved people and the one they call Yahweh. Eventually, in order to save her mother and brother, she casts her lot in with this strange people and flees Egypt.
I’m particular about biblical fiction. I love it if it is well done and gives me a new perspective on familiar stories without straying too far from biblical accounts. So, I really enjoyed this story of what is known by most as the Exodus story. I appreciate seeing the account of the plagues of Egypt, the exodus of the Hebrew slaves and their journey into the desert from the perspective of an Egyptian outsider. It brought a new depth to a familiar story which caused me to consider things I never had in reading the biblical version. It is obvious the author also did quite a bit of historical research as she really makes this ancient time come alive. The details of a woman’s toilette, the food that was consumed, the articles of clothing they wore, the industry and economy of the time and even the daily tasks and habits were woven into the story in an interesting way while also teaching me about an ancient culture.
It’s also fascinating to read about how the plagues affected not just a nation, but individuals. It makes the story so much more personal and real. In this account, the plagues take place over the course of months and you can see the slow stages of their effects until it reaches catastrophic limits of devastation for the entire nation. If you have read the biblical account it may have come across as simply a set of facts which sound terrible, but give you no real concept of their brutal impact. But to have them applied to individual characters makes the terror of it come alive. You can really wrap your mind around how not just the economic and military power of Egypt, which was the strongest in the world at that time, but also the very heart of the people would have been decimated to the point of no recovery. According to historical accounts, Egypt never did recover to its highest level of former glory after these events. Can you imagine the mightiest nation in the world today brought to such lows that it would never recover without a single battle waged? It is sobering.
I also enjoyed Kiya’s emotional and spiritual journey. She started out as a proud yet protective young woman with the prejudices of her privilege and race to a woman who is able to humble herself enough to become part of a culture and to accept a God she had initially despised. Kiya’s friendship with Shira really is the catalyst for her transformation and it is a beautiful account of the impact a true friend can have in your life. This relationship also sustained her in the challenges of leaving her home and learning a completely new way of life.
My only complaint is that I felt that the relationship between Kiya and Eben was not developed enough for its’ eventual conclusion.
Counted with the Stars is the author’s debut and the first in a series and it is impressive. I am definitely looking forward to reading Shira’s story next.
If you are similar to me and like visuals for the stories you read, check out the author’s Pinterest page for this book.