The Wrath Inside by RR Gall is a work of historical fiction that takes place in a small Palestinian town in the year 15 AD. The story opens with the main character, Ezera, finding a knife held to his throat by an unknown assailant. Ezera is basically a good kid. He jokes, sometimes too much, and the worst trouble he caused was stealing a piece of fruit from a vendor. Not stealing in a bad sense though, more of a prank done by teens, for fun. The man, Khalil, demands information from Ezera, which he eventually provides and develops a trust with him and helps him find his missing twin children. Thinking that it is the end of the matter, life goes on for Ezera and his friends. The encounters with the occupying Romans provide the bulk of the story.
What I liked about the book was that when the characters interacted, especially Ezera and his friends. They used nicknames and spoke the way you would expect teens to speak. Ezera is “Eezy” to his friends. They talk about things, especially standing up to the Romans in the way an idealistic youth would. All their conversations in the book are in English. In one part of the story Ezera’s father, a carpenter, is planning on making wooden shoes and is wondering what they should be called. He comes up with “woodies”. It makes sense in the story, but I don’t think it would make sense in the local Greek. The reader should understand that the characters speak to each other in their native languages. The native languages have their own slang and clever plays on words although it probably would not make much sense to us. Keeping things simple helps the reader be part of the story instead of looking up foreign words in an index. Here the setting is well covered in detail, and the reader does not need to be reminded where the story is taking place.
The details in the story are excellent and true to history. I questioned some references in the book, particularly about food and plants mentioned in the story. For example, apple trees are mentioned, and I thought its much too arid in Palestine for apple trees. It is, but the Romans brought apple trees to Palestine. I also checked on beer, sure enough, it is historically accurate. Details like that show to me that this book is well thought out, and the author is putting more effort into the story than the story itself.
I usually shy away from books that take place around this time period because they tend to be overly religious. Here the Jewish religion is part of the culture and pride of the people, but it is not an overbearing force in the novel. Interactions with the religious figures are almost more political than religious. It breaks with the notion that the Jewish people in Palestine were overtly religious in their everyday lives. Ezera and his family and friends went to temple, lived good lives, and were pretty much no different in thinking from most people today.
I am sure there will be history and historical fiction fans who will find fault with some of the language and story. Rather than historical fiction, I would call this book a mystery set in Palestine. The storytelling is well done as well as laying out a setting and developing the characters. There is an effort to keep the setting historically accurate, but the driving force of the book is two mysteries and a story revenge. I enjoyed the book as a novel and especially the informal language of the characters. I was more pulled in by the mysteries than the sense of historical fiction. An enjoyable read.