As Sure as the Dawn

by Francine Rivers
Series: The Mark of the Lion #3
471 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jenny

A good story of God’s redemptive work, but full of mature content.


Having won his wooden foil and now freed from being a gladiator, Atretes does not know what to do. He has been spurned by Julia Valerian and lives nursing his wounded pride, caged like a lion in Rome’s domain. But then Rizpah, a young Jewess, walks into his life, taking care of the son Atretes thought was dead. But as his foster-mother, Rizpah refuses to turn little Caleb into the reckless arms of his father, so Atretes is stuck with Rizpah for good. The relentless Jewess, as patient as he is tempestuous, is even content to journey with him all the way back to his homeland in the wilds of Germania. It seems he will not be rid of her or her God.


The morality is Christian in this book, but that does not mean that Christ’s followers do not occasionally have difficulty doing what they know is right. The characters are human, full of flaws, and struggle to do what is right. Those apart from the light of the Holy Spirit are lost in their darkness.

Spiritual Content

This is a strongly Christian book, its title taken from a passage in the book of Hosea. The light of Christ clashes with the darkness of the pagan gods, making for a very spiritual background to the story.

Editor's Note: This book, as well as the others in this series, deal with direct revelation from God - which is a tricky subject after the close of the writing of Scripture.


Atretes, being both a warrior and an ex-gladiator, is both well-versed in violence and prone to sudden and equally violent bursts of temper. There are physical and verbal fights throughout the story.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is drunk, sometimes to excess. It is also the common beverage of the times since water was not always fit to drink.

Sexual Content

As in all of Rivers’ books that I have read, sexuality plays a major role in this book. Before the story beings, Rizpah was once a prostitute to earn money and keep herself alive. Atretes is wracked by a desire for Rizpah. There is an attempted seduction, and mentioned intercourse between a man and his wife. Many of these passages can be unnerving.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Atretes is not a moral man and often swears and curses in his anger.


This book was enjoyable for its redemptive message and the hope that fills the passage in Hosea which inspired Rivers to write this. Rizpah is a wonderfully stalwart character, willing to stand by the truth no matter the consequences, and God’s work in Atretes’ life is like watching winter turn to spring. However, there is plenty that a reader should be warned about, particularly the sexual content.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 13+

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