(Click on book-cover to read an excerpt.)
The Peregrine's Odyssey
Christiani esse non licit!
“It is not lawful to be a Christian”
These four words hung over the head of every Christian for the first three centuries of the nascent Church of the Christos, the God-man.
In 116 AD during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria, heard those four words that sentenced him to death in the Roman Colosseum. His condemnation and martyrdom were witnessed by his closest friend, Gaius Segusiavus, the “Peregrine.”
Through the eyes of Gaius, we travel back in time to October of 96 AD, to Antioch in the Roman province of Syria. On a stormy night in Antioch, Ignatius reveals the story of his mid-life conversion, prompted by a singular event witnessed by his father outside Jerusalem in 30 AD. Gaius, a prosperous merchant from Roman Gaul, a typical believer in the gods, is incredulous at Ignatius’ strange tale and the peculiar history of the followers of Christos. Ignatius, the novice Christian, asks a favor of Gaius, a request rooted in his new religion.
Granting Ignatius’ request leads the two friends to the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony, and a meeting with the last of the twelve apostles, the “Ancient One”, John, the beloved of Christ. Against the backdrop of Trajan’s Roman Empire, Gaius is inexorably drawn into the Christian world as “The Way” spreads throughout the Empire and into Gaius’ own family. We encounter the Christians of Rome, those in Asia and Bithynia; the emperor Trajan, successful in war, reshaping the face of Rome with his monumental building projects; the decorated centurion Maximus who befriends Gaius; the eloquent Roman senator, Pliny the Younger, through whose letters we live the lives of noble Romans; and a vengeful, banished son who will haunt the last days of the “Peregrine.”
Throughout the course of twenty years, from that night in Antioch to a death under the noonday sun in the Colosseum, the lives of Gaius and Ignatius are increasingly intertwined: Ignatius the martyr who becomes one of the most famous and iconic of the early Church Fathers; Gaius who seeks understanding of his closest friend’s faith, while fearing the possibility of hearing those mortal four words.
History and fiction meet in this story of the love of two “brothers” and the story of the Love that conquers both.
What readers are saying...
Fresh, well-rounded characters in their complexity… an adventure where one finds answers along the way. Hope-filled!!! L.E.
I read it the first time just for enjoyment. On a second reading I began to see how rich the story was in historical facts that I had skimmed over and how much I enjoyed the second reading. This is a book that inspires me to delve deeper into story.
The story “humanizes” what can be very dry history… the fact of John the Apostle had more of a life after Patmos and was able to continue preaching. I thought he died on the island… the suspense of what seems to be coming in the character of Sagittarius (the grandson) and his Christian mother and how they will guide him in the future as he takes over his grandfather’s business and how the “Wolf” will seek revenge. S.C.S.
Kleinfall takes you seamlessly back in time, as you venture with early Christians and converts. While submerged in the different cultures and languages, affection grows for the people of the past whose paths of faith we still walk today. C.E.
Reviewed by Lois Henderson for Readers' Favorite:
Immersed in the world of ancient Rome, Michael Kleinfall’s epic, The Peregrine’s Odyssey, tells the story of the deep fraternal bond that develops between Gaius Segusiavus, “the Peregrine,” and Ignatius the Younger, both from wealthy merchant families, which outlasts even death. This work of historical fiction relates as a central thread how Ignatius converts from Judaism to a profound faith in the Christian religion, while the Romano-Gallic Gaius, his comrade-in- arms, draws ever closer to him, despite their religious differences.
The socio-cultural depth of the world that Kleinfall describes in astounding detail, embracing the entire ambit of the world surrounding the Mare Nostrum (the Mediterranean Sea), is thrilling in the emotional charge and complexity that the author imparts to his vast panoply of characters, stretching across generations.
Intended for an extremely broad audience, Kleinfall’s The Peregrine’s Odyssey should have a special interest for young adults. Read as a gripping adventure story, with its overwhelming momentum and drive towards the unexpected, the hoped-for and the feared, the novel should prove pleasing to those in search of an entertaining and engrossing read. That it has an inescapable deeper meaning for those who wish to look more deeply is unavoidable, though, whether you choose to revel in the historical accuracy of the text (supplemented by the Segusiavus family tree, numerous maps and black-and-white shaded drawings of the cities in which the action takes place, an extensive afterword, providing background information as to various key aspects of Roman and Early Christian life, detailed lists of the principal and other notable characters, and a multi-paged glossary), or to probe its deeper spiritual signiﬁcance.
I especially love the fact that The Peregrine’s Odyssey is only the first of an entire series of works, "Burnt Oﬀerings", that is destined for publication, all in due course.
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite:
The Peregrine’s Odyssey: Burnt Oﬀerings is a work of historical fiction focusing on early Christianity and the struggles of its followers, and was penned by author Michael Kleinfall. In a story told in the ﬁrst and second centuries, we follow the intertwined history of the eventual bishop and martyr Ignatius and his friend Gaius Segusiavus, the title’s ‘Peregrine.’ Through ancient Rome, Asia, Bithynia and beyond, we follow the story of Ignatius’s conversion to the Christian faith, and the eventual price he pays for his determination to practice and teach his religion. Gaius narrates the journey of amazing discovery, encountering fascinating and famous people of the era, right up to the moment in 116 A.D. when everything changes for this pair of close, brotherly friends.
Written for adults due to some mild explicit content and complex themes, this pairing of men discovering and learning something new in a very dangerous time makes for fascinating reading. The combination of biblical stories and personages alongside the historical evidence content gives a well-rooted feel to the tale, giving the authentic experience of what it must have been like to practice an ‘unlawful’ faith at the hands of the Romans. I found the descriptions and dialogue were able to transport me back in time; and author Michael Kleinfall gives full emotional and spiritual consideration to his characters, making them realistic, likable and easy to root for.
Overall, The Peregrine’s Odyssey: Burnt Oﬀerings makes for compelling reading and will suit fans of both historical and Christian fiction tastes.
Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite:
This story deserves a rightful place in the annals of religious historical fiction. Michael Kleinfall’s The Peregrine’s Odyssey: Burnt Oﬀerings conveys the splendor and enchantment of the past as it highlights the story of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch in Syria. It traces his beginnings up to his condemnation and martyrdom as witnessed by his close friend, Gaius “The Peregrine” Segusiavus. The novel puts the reader in a front-row seat on the itineraries of Christianity-- how it spread and spawned hatred from the time of Nero, and how it led to the persecution of those who kept the faith. Gaius provides a ﬁrst-person narration of the events beginning in 96 A.D. He gives an account of his conversion to the Christian faith that he refers to as “The Way.”
While Ignatius and Gaius are the focal characters in this novel, Kleinfall throws a combination of fictional and historical characters into the mix. These real and imagined people contribute to the development of the plot and are not put in merely for authenticated eﬀect. Blending factual and ﬁctional characters in a novel of this magnitude can prove to be a challenging read. Kleinfall provides maps and Gaius’ family tree for reference. At the end of the book, there is a list of all the characters that appear, with the historical ﬁgures printed in italics. It is important to note that artistic license is involved, which Kleinfall feels is necessary to make the story more engaging.
The Peregrine’s Odyssey is the first book in a series of historical novels. This first installment has set the bar high enough through diligent research and well drawn-out characters. It is entertaining and educational, and perhaps we can have the same expectations of the next book in the series.