The Crossing is the first of the Blood of the Lamb trilogy by Mandy Hager and takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a group calling themselves the Apostles of the Lamb uses a twisted version of Christianity to bully the populace into providing for them. When Maryam, one of the Blessed Sisters, enters womanhood and completes “the crossing,” a short ride over the water to the boat where the Apostles and their servants are sequestered, she discovers that the so-called Holy City is held together by fear and lies. Maryam decides that she must escape and tell her long lost family about the abuses suffered under the Apostles, but the question is not only a matter of how, but of how fast she can flee, because her ever loving leaders have sentenced her to the death of a “bleeder”.
The cover and description made me think that this might be a vampire novel. It’s not, and I love the eventual explanation for all the obsession over blood. The Crossing is a scifi that reads more like historical fiction. This makes sense as Maryam is raised as a servant and would have no access to knowledge about blood types and that sort of thing. So, the science is there for those who are interested in putting it together, but it is very much in the background.
At first I was not sure how I felt about the heavy religious aspect of the book, but there is certainly historical precedence for cults that take advantage of their followers. I’m sure its hard to walk that line and not offend readers. In the end, I was very pleased with the depth of the protagonist’s thoughts on the matter and mollified that, at least for now, Maryam’s friend Ruth has become a counterpoint for her doubt. Even if the protagonist ends up being an atheist in the series, I feel that Mandy Hager has given her sufficient reasons to question her beliefs and that this is not necessarily a criticism of the main tenants of Christianity. In fact, this theme of faith, knowledge, and trust is what gives The Crossing its depth and beauty.
Lazarus also helps make the book worth the read. Lazarus and Joseph are both young men who live on the ship as part of the upper class, yet the two characters are opposites. The main love interest, Joseph, is a little flat and underdeveloped, but I’m hoping this will improve with sequels. He is also supposed to be very ill, so this limits the heroics available to him. Lazarus on the other hand, serves as a controversial example of a bad guy who may still be able to turn to the light. He nearly commits rape, not once, but twice throughout the book, and yet we are also shown that he is still human. Perhaps Lazarus will become a love interest if he reforms, but for now, it is a relief that our heroine does not go gaga over the bad guy.
My only reservation regarding “The Crossing” is purely a matter of preference. “The Crossing” starts out with a naive protagonist, which is something for which I have very little tolerance. Yet, in “The Crossing,” the reason for her naivety is spelled out clearly and Mandy Hager puts forth great effort to legitimize Maryam’s growing maturity. Maryam’s transformation is a bit slow for my tastes, but then, we must be made to believe that other characters before her have had reason to succumb to the oppression of the Apostles. Once Maryam choses to stand her ground, Mandy Hager shows us just how tough a woman can be, and I love that. Maryam’s going to need her budding self-confidence to tackle the wide, open world in the next book.
Learn more about “The Crossing” and Mandy Hager at her writing blog: http://www.mandyhager.com
Visit the publisher’s page at: http://pyrsf.com/TheCrossing.html
Michelle Ristuccia writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of spec fic, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com