Reviews for Hope of Ages Past
John Goldman—Goodreads, Indie Book Reviewers
Hope of Ages Past by Bruce Gardner sets itself apart from the crowd in a big way. A great mix of fact and fiction, loaded with historically and culturally relevant details that takes us back to the 30 Years’ War in Europe. Great rising action and intense conflict, but there is also a riveting human story here, dealing not just with war and religious persecution and intolerance, but with friends, family, and even romance. It’s not always easy to reconcile fact with fiction, and I appreciate how Gardner made it both readable, and also educational. Great job using the characters – real historical figures and fictitious ones— in a way that really showed the story and the experiences as if we are there too. There are enough descriptions where you can picture everything perfectly, but not so much that it bogs down the pacing. Right from the beginning Gardner plops us down into the world-changing and history making drama, and has such a cool mix of historical events, people, battles, political maneuverings from a bird’s eye view, not like something you read in a history book. I learned something and had fun too. Because of the overarching storylines relating to real events (or plausible scenarios for the era/characters) it just felt more real than I anticipated -- not totally contrived which is important for enjoying a book like this. It makes you think of the history of Christianity and Catholicism in a different light especially regarding religious wars, and it’s amazing to think how long it lasted and how many millions of people perished. Peter and Hans’ story over the years is one that I think will resonate with readers, and romantic/sexual storyline is a welcome break from the constant strife. Lots of violence and adult scenes so best suited for mature readers. Recommend.
Laura Clarke—Goodreads, Indie Book Reviewers
I really enjoyed “Hope of Ages Past”. I like reading historical fiction on occasion, but hadn’t read any in a while, and nothing on this subject about Christian history or The Thirty Years’ War, so I thought I’d give this one by Bruce Gardner a try. I’m not one for rehashing the plot (that’s what the book page description is for) but it encompassed far more than I thought it would, and had a riveting combination of history (religious, political and cultural), action and adventure, thrills and suspense, emotional relationships, romance and tragedy, spanning over many years’ time. It’s not a quick and easy read by any stretch, but it will take you through whole different lives and experiences that you’ve never thought of before, and it was so interesting to really experience this era of early Christianity and the onset of such influential players and events in history close up. I felt a connection with each of these characters that I didn’t expect, and I thought the author’s narrative prose was some of the best and most authentic I’ve read in a while; the way he brought the scenes to life, and his attention to historical and cultural and character details gave this story genuine authenticity. Solid world-building is extremely vital in selling a believable historical fiction that can entertain yet stay true to the “facts” and realities of the past (in this case there are real historical figures and events mixed with fictional characters and events). Not only did I really enjoy reading this, I actually feel like I learned something more about this time period that I didn’t know before. There are a LOT of characters – some more fully fleshed out than others (a few just felt like ‘names’ to me). But the flow was perfect, and keeps us hooked right until the end. Very literary, almost poetic writing and terrific editing. I can see this book having wide-ranging appeal amongst adult readers of historical fiction/religious fiction, and I’m looking forward to more books by Bruce Gardner!
Stephan Beacher—Goodreads, Indie Book Reviewers
Great novel. Tight writing, great action, believable characters, important plotlines that shed light on many elements involved in Europe’s Thirty Years War in a way that makes it relatable—and interesting— to the average reader…. Smooth blend of personal relations and military/political conflicts throughout, as well as historical figures and scenes. Gardner incorporates many aspects of this pivotal era and puts it together in a digestible manner, despite its lengthy size. It reads more like a novel than a scholarly work, but still loaded with political, religious, and sociological conditions in Europe in this era, that ultimately led to this war. I’m certainly no expert on the subject but enjoy European and Christian history, and this had many highs and few lows and definitely opened my eyes. Such a compelling group of characters – I am hard pressed to think of another novel I’ve read lately where they are so dynamic, yet real – from Peter and Hans and Anna, to the actual ‘real people’ who each participate in the story in a way that highlights different facets of their roles. It is very evenly paced with good balance between action and introspection. This isn’t a nonfiction book, but there is enough truth in here to give you pause. Clean editing and an ending that is organic and fitting. 18+.
Leo Gregory—Goodreads, Indie Book Reviewers
I hate to say that I know little about the Thirty Years’ War beyond the very basics, so a book like this is great in not only giving a through overview of the times, conditions and events regarding the actual War itself, but also the social and religious conditions of Europe in the 17th century in general. It provides a nice background for the era, but it is not all military battles and fighting (although there is that galore), but also human relations, family, friend, foe, lover… It had many ‘layers’ that kept revealing themselves as the story progressed…Although there are some familiar themes and tropes at play, and of course there are several real figures and events from the ‘real world’ , which is really what makes this book so good, in my opinion. I’ve read several historical fictions, (most involving American history, however) so I’m not easily impressed, but I can say that this author managed to do it – particularly with the top-notch narrative prose and detailed situations that feel well-researched. Authentic world building (and character development) is absolutely crucial in selling a believable story and it is done quite nicely here. Recommend for anyone (adults) who enjoy a well-written, action packed, drama based on historical context within Christianity in Europe. Adult situations, violence.