enaiah, son of Jehoiada, was one of David’s thirty Mighty Men.  The Bible speaks of his courage and his great deeds as well as his loyalty to David.  However, there is no background given of his life prior to joining David’s army, nor are there many details provided as to how he accomplished such great feats.  This is where well-written speculative fiction can be so incredibly awesome.  Day of War is an excellent speculative novel, which creates a realistic portrait of a man whose life is summed up in only eight verses of scripture.

I saw this book mentioned in Family Fiction’s weekly newsletter and knew I had to read it.  I have read 1 Samuel-2 Kings more than any other books in the Bible.  The accounts of David’s life are the scriptures that first captured my heart and started my love for God’s word.  What was it like to be around a man so fierce in battle but gentle in spirit?  So when the opportunity arose to read what promised to be an authentic-look into the lives of those closest to David, I couldn’t resist.

I was not at all disappointed by Day of War.  Graham does a fantastic job of creating a highly believable backstory for Benaiah.  I loved reading about his flawed character and gaining a little more insight into the mind of one who fought brutal battles with crudely constructed weapons.  Passages of scriptures that are easy to acknowledge, but rarely considered were nicely blended into this book and the emotion of many verses were brought to the surface.  There is a fantastic balance between fact and fiction and they are meshed together in a seamless fashion to create a truly remarkable speculative novel.

One of the strengths of this book is Graham’s ability to create a story for Benaiah without neglecting David or overshadowing Benaiah.  Again, balance is the key in making this book work.  I felt as though David’s character was allowed to develop and lead where he needed to without other pivotal people being left out.

The pacing of the battle scenes was well done.  With a number of conflicts, starting with Benaiah’s encounter with a lion and moving on to lengthy battles against various enemies, this book knows when to give the reader a break.  It would have been easy to overdo some of these fights, but the restraint was well-rewarded and allowed the reader to experience more fully the dynamics and intensity of each situation.

I feel that authors take a small risk when they attempt to reconstruct familiar history.  There’s always the possibility that what the reader imagines clashes with the author’s perspective.  This book worked for me because I agreed with most of what Graham wrote.  I felt like he captured the emotion and the spiritual nature of these men.  The scenes, though often brutal and at times saddening, held the hope and presence of God which is central to the Biblical accounts.

While fiction-wise this is an excellent novel, it also manages to capture the spiritual aspect from the Bible.  I loved how the spiritual elements were incorporated with a stark contrast between the nation of Israel who had largely abandoned God and David who sought God.  It is impossible to think of David only as the warrior when he is equally known as a man of God.  This book does not neglect either side of his personality.

In the author notes, Graham nicely summed up why I have always found such encouragement from the life of David:  “It is a comfort to know that, regardless of our mistakes, the God who loved, forgave, and empowered David does the same for us.”  When this book ended, I felt as though Graham had only scratched the surface in terms of bringing to life these very powerful Biblical stories.  If this first book is any indication of what is to come,The Lion of War series is going to be absolutely epic!

Note for sensitive readers:  Day of War does have a significant amount of violence as well as mild sexual content.  Nothing is beyond what would be found in scripture, but do be prepared to encounter some brutal scenes.