The Mark of the King is the first novel I’ve read by author Jocelyn Green. I’d been intrigued since seeing it because of the unique setting (haven’t seen much of anything covering the colonization of Louisiana) and its interesting premise. But bogged down by a lot of regular life, I hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Until I saw it on Barbara Brutt’s summer recommendation list — which was the inspiration I needed to make it my next read.
To begin with and to summarize: it’s a good one. I’m a big fan of historical fiction that spends a lot of time teaching me something. I love the books that were clearly born out of research that an author found fascinating and worthwhile. I’m always impressed by these offerings because I know that in addition to wrestling with the story itself, there was also much wrestling with historical accuracy and the inclusion of details. In this way, The Mark of the King reminded me a lot of Laura Frantz’s novels. Super rich in details plus an entertaining story and history lesson all rolled into one.
The novel begins with a gripping first few scenes. A midwife by trade, Julianna Chevalier is caught in an inescapable difficulty that she has no control over. Finding herself at La Salpêtrière, the notorious French hospital that also served as a prison, Julianna seeks the only way out: forced marriage to a convict and expatriation. She’s forced to leave France in order to help colonize New Orleans.
It’s a gritty beginning – one that I found very refreshing. So often historical details are glossed over, but this book spent warranted time inside those realities – and it made for a more believable and more impacting story.
Throughout her travels to and settling in the new land, Julianna faces many struggles. A good number of these struggles revolve around the fleur-de-lis on her shoulder — the brand she wears for the crime she didn’t commit. It’s her “mark of the king” and an intriguing premise that carries throughout the novel.
Caught in the middle of a warring and nearly inhabitable land, Julianna struggles to find a welcoming home and peace within.
The story includes a smidgen of romance, but I wouldn’t call it a romance book. There is nothing particularly romantic about the story – instead, it relies heavily on how personal struggles intersect with community struggles. It dives into how culture and historical events affect individuals, and how the God of all has a hand in everything – even in those “marks” and wounds that proclaim us as unworthy to other men.
The Mark of the King is a great book that not only teaches a lot of history – but also reminds us that even our most humiliating marks can be a beautiful story of grace and redemption.