We’ve finished the first month of the Unlocking the Past 2022 Reading Challenge: Around the World. This month we traveled to Africa, and my choice of story was Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar. Once you read my review, don’t forget to comment to be entered for your chance to win a copy.

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Jewel of the Nile

by Tessa Afshar

This month’s review is a combination of my review (section below the line) and Phyllis’s from AmongtheReads.net as we both read the same book. You can see not only Among the Read’s Full Review HERE, but you can also take a look through some beautiful graphics of her favorite quotes. I highly recommend it! 

From Among the Reads:

When I first saw this title, I thought it was from a much earlier time period and a different country. Which wouldn’t have mattered, I really enjoy Tessa Afshar’s writing and would have read it regardless. Intrigued by the synopsis, I was eager to learn more.

I was transported to another time and place from the very start. And fascinated by the plight of Gemina and her husband, who were introduced in the prologue. I quickly became fully invested in the characters and knew that I had to follow their story to its conclusion!

I struggled a little with reading the name Chariline at first. Then I realized that her name was Greek and therefore assumed the “ch” would be pronounced like “k” as in charis – therefore read it as “Caroline”. It made the rest of the reading much easier!

Chariline had such a sad background! My heart went out to the orphan who was despised by her grandfather due to her mixed heritage and the rebellion she represented to him and merely tolerated by the aunt who raised her. When she discovered that her father was still living, I didn’t blame her at all for wanting to discover his identity and was impressed by the bold way she continued to search for him.

As much as I admired Chariline, I adored Theo! He was so fascinating. When he discovered her as a stowaway on his ship, he was so kind to her and possessed the servant heart Jesus desires from His followers!

One of my favorite less-known New Testament characters played a minor, though significant, role and I loved reading the author’s depiction of him! The conjecture the author made about his backstory was interesting and unexpected. I was fascinated to learn more about the plight of the God-fearers desiring to worship and yet were forbidden access to the temple. The circumstances that led him to feel insignificant were very moving.

A level of suspense and mystery filled the pages as Chariline’s search took place and Theo had to protect her from an unexpected threat. And as both learned to find their value in Christ alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed this well-researched story. And as it contained characters from other books by Tessa Afshar also set during this time period, including Theo, it made me want to go back and re-read The Thief of Corinth and Daughter of Rome! It is not necessary to read them all together but it certainly would enhance the reading experience to do so.

Genre: Biblical Fiction, Roman Empire, Africa

Plot Overview:

Whispered secrets about her parents’ past take on new urgency for Chariline as she pays one last visit to the land of her forefathers, the ancient kingdom of Cush.
Raised as an orphan by her aunt, Chariline has only been told a few pieces of her parents’ tragic love story. Her beautiful dark skin is proof that her father was Cushite, but she knows nothing else. While visiting her grandfather before his retirement as the Roman official in the queen’s court, Chariline overhears that her father is still alive, and discovering his identity becomes her obsession. Both her grandfather and the queen have reasons for keeping this secret, however, and forbid her quest. So when her only clues lead to Rome, Chariline sneaks on the ship of a merchant trusted by friends.

Theo is shocked to discover a stowaway on board his vessel and determines to be rid of her as soon as possible. But drawn in by Chariline’s story, he feels honor-bound to see her safely to shore, especially when it appears someone may be willing to kill for the truth she seeks.

In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters—including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.

Crystal’s Opinons

I am NOT a huge Biblical fiction reader. To the point I really really really put it off. However, once I started reading, the story never let go of me. The story, characters, mystery, danger, spiritual thread, and way of describing things have made me a Tess Afshar fan for life. I actually look forward to reading her other books.

What I loved: The plotline what not just a retelling or reimagining of some Biblical story, but a story that held merits of its own but was enhanced by the connections to real Biblical characters. 

Favorite Character and Why: Arkamani was a fun little boy who makes lots of appearances in the story and adds levity to stressful scenes. I loved all the characters, but I especially looked forward to his appearances on the page.

Who would like this? Those who like stories written in beautiful language and imagery that pull you wholy and completely into the setting. Also, those who loves stories of intrigue, danger, and romance with spiritual arcs that feel genuine and natural and even personal. I’d even recommend this book to those who are hesitant to try Biblical fiction.


Amazon     Baker Bookhouse       Barnes & Noble      Books-a-Million      Book Depository      Bookshop.org      Christianbook.com     Indiebound.org


For your chance to win a print copy, comment with what book YOU read for this month and you will also be entered into the year-end Grand Prize Reader Basket. Use the Rafflecopter below for extra entries and to mark that you left a comment. Entries end on February 7th at midnight EST, and the winner will be drawn sometime that week and notified by email. The winner will be announced don’t the Rafflecopter widget. *Open to all residents of the contiguous USA, legally able to enter, and an e-book format or Amazon Gift Card will be awarded to those outside that range who are legally able to enter.

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What did you read for January’s Challenge? What do you hope to read in February?

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