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The Begotten: A Novel of the Gifted    by Lisa T. Bergren order for
by Lisa T. Bergren
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

The Inquisition was a particularly dark time in human history, but it's during this period that the Gifted were meant to gather. They are ordinary people with extraordinary spiritual talents who have been brought together through the strength of an ancient prophecy.

Although the world knows that St. Paul's letters have been compiled to form the Bible, what it doesn't know is that one letter has been hidden by the Church - and has remained hidden for centuries. Its content was believed to be too powerful and potentially threatening to be revealed. But despite the Church's best efforts, the letter survived. And now, in 1339, St. Paul's long-forgotten words are the foundation used by the Gifted to come together and stand against a multitude of enemies who wish to destroy them.

They gather under the protective wing of a wise Dominican priest, Father Piero, who first meets Lady Daria D'Angelo (a heartbroken woman with the power to heal) and recognizes her as one of the Gifted. They're joined by others, like Contessa, a woman who can discern what really hides in men's hearts, Hasani, a slave with a talent for prophecy, and Gianni de Capezzana, a true knight with the strength to leave the Church behind and pledge his loyalty to the Gifted. Together, they must discover the meaning of the prophecy. The fate of the Church, and perhaps the entire world, lies in the balance.

At a time when the public has made its fascination with books such as The DaVinci Code clear, The Begotten is a welcome addition to the religious historical thriller genre. Bergren writes with a clear reverence for the past and a wealth of knowledge on the subject of theology. Unfortunately, those same strengths bog down the beginning of the book in too much character development, historical description and theological exposition, especially as Father Piero and Lady Daria get to know one another.

However, readers who persevere through the first half of the novel will be generously rewarded by a fast-paced thriller that is almost impossible to put down. The latter half of the book more than makes up for any shortcomings of the sluggish beginning. The focus shifts from gathering the Gifted together to throwing them into a quest of epic proportions. The forces of evil standing in their way are prodigious, and the obstacles seem almost insurmountable at times.

The faith message is strong in this book, and non-Christian readers may not find enough of interest to persevere through the novel. Christian readers, however, should be delighted with Bergren's reverent approach to the question of authenticity of faith. The novel's fast pace and its engaging characters elevate The Begotten above other similar books.

2nd Review by Ricki Marking-Camuto:

The Begotten starts off a trilogy steeped in religious mysteries, miracles, and murder. Fans of religious intrigue will not want to put down this fast-paced story.

In 731, an illuminated letter from Paul to the Corinthians is smuggled out of a monastery before it can be destroyed. Almost a century later, part of the letter has been passed down to Father Piero, a priest with one of the gifts, wisdom, that Paul mentions in his letter. Father Piero is now on a quest to find those with the other six gifts that Paul talks about. He is aided by the illuminations in the part of the letter he has, which distinctly show Lady Daria with her gift of healing and Sir Gianni with his gift of faith. Together the three return to Lady Daria's estate and build a community of Gifted and those who believe in them. However, the Church is none too pleased when they get wind of a group that believes that the power of God is within them. Also a dark Sorcerer is on the loose, claiming to heal just like Lady Daria, but also bent on murder. The Gifted are soon forced to defend their lives and their faith.

The Begotten is full of intrigue and rogue religious ideas (for the time period, at least) that instantly draw the reader in. Bergren has done a wonderful job of creating well-developed characters that the reader cares for and wants to root for. Also, everything that the characters believe is fully explained, which helps the reader understand the intrigue rather than be confused by it. However, there do seem to be one or two anachronisms that keep the reader from being fully-immersed in the time period. As in any good first book in a trilogy, Lisa T. Bergren lays the groundwork for The Gifted in The Begotten. The end is left open with plenty of unresolved points so that the reader eagerly anticipates the next novel, The Betrayed.

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