Brian Godawa’s Novel “David Ascendant”
Will Shock You…
Christian Book Review
The novel David Ascendant, written by Hollywood screenwriter and director Brian Godawa (To End All Wars, The Visitation), uses a very unique angle to retell the story of David and the events surrounding Israel during his ascent to the throne. It is Book Seven in an epic series called Chronicles of the Nephilim, a series of Biblical adventure novels that focus on specific heroes of faith in the Bible. The historical research done for each novel is so extensive that there’s a separate book devoted entirely to the appendices of research that Godawa conducted to shape each book.
Before I get into my review of the novel, I’ll point something out briefly: you’ll notice that this article’s feature image on the front of the website mentions Brian talking about the novel. That’s actually a screenshot from a short video featured on his website. Besides watching the book’s trailer at top, I highly recommend you watch the author’s intro before reading my review; it’s fascinating. Click here to check it out.
The Startling Truth About Goliath: He Wasn’t the Only Giant Trying to Kill David!
Godawa zeroes in on a fact about David’s life in Scripture that many long-time students of the Bible, including myself, have overlooked or forgotten. In 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, the Bible mentions the Sons of Rapha, a group of warrior giants — not just Goliath! — who tried to to kill David. The implications of this are astonishing, from a narrative point of view, and I can see why the author took this very unique angle.
For one thing, it gives you a deeper appreciation for how difficult David’s life was during that period in Israel’s history.
I mean, seriously, the dude had a bunch of psychotic, demonized warrior giants chasing him down trying to hill him! No wonder he sounded so stressed out in some of his psalms!
The Shocking, Disturbing Elements of Philistine Culture
Using thorough extra-Biblical historical research, the novel does an extraordinary job of unveiling the true nature of Philistine culture in Biblical times. It is not a pretty picture; in fact, it is downright shocking. Ritual sodomy and rape was a routine practice among Philistine soldiers, and although the novel does not go into needless graphic detail, it does describe several instances of homosexual rape between soldiers. It opens with such a scene, in fact, and when you’re not expecting it, it is both shocking and disturbing.
It serves a purpose in the story, however, because it depicts the truth about the Philistines. It highlights the stark contrast between the holiness that Yahweh built into Hebrew culture and the godless debauchery and savage immorality of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel. It really motivates the reader to cheer for the good guys — David and his mighty warriors.
Also, David Ascendant does something fascinating: for a good chunk of the book, it tells the story from the point of view of the Philistines. This interesting narrative decision really shows how odd Israel looked to all of the pagan cultures that surrounded it. Israel — the culture that God Himself crafted — really was a light shining in the darkness of the world.
Other Gems from the Book
I also greatly appreciated these other elements:
* The portrait of Saul’s rise and fall and how, in some ways, he might have had more in common with the Philistines than he did with the Hebrews.
* The riveting sketches of the “David’s mighty men” characters. Those warriors from the Biblical account always fascinated me. When you consider that warrior giants were trying to kill David, it makes sense that God would raise up mighty warriors and gift them with a supernatural ability to fight.
* The ancient historical settings of Israel come alive. It feels like you’re traveling back in time. It’s a wonderful escape.
* The depiction of David’s weakness for women adds a sensuality to the novel, but the writing avoids any explicit descriptions of sexual activity, and it certainly does not condone any sexually immoral activities. The inclusion of this racier side of David’s life provides ample opportunity for the novel to highlight God’s amazing grace in the story of Israel’s greatest warrior king.
These are just a few samples. The book — 504 pages — dives deep into the world of David, and it has enhanced my study of the Word in powerful ways.
Exhaustive Historical Research Meets Vivid Imagination Consistent with the Bible’s Intent
That sub-header basically sums up the series of books in the Chronicles of the Nephilim. And David Ascendant is no exception. Besides all of the fascinating historical research mentioned above, Godawa blends it with a vivid imagination, particularly in the way that he takes creative license with the pagan gods that dominated the ancient cultures. Using the back story of the Nephilim, he takes the fallen-angels-masquerading-as-gods idea and creates the most wicked and fantastical of villains. Despite adding a fantasy element to it, these imagined ingredients stay true to the spirit and intention of the Biblical account.
The novel is available on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback. Click here for the Kindle version.