His Majesty’s Hope by MacNeal

imageMaggie Hope is back – this time on a secret mission to Berlin during World War 2. It’s supposed to be a quick in and out drop off and intelligence run… Supposed to be.

His Majesty’s Hope
Maggie Hope #3
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam / Random House Audio
May 2013

Maggie quickly makes things more complicated by deciding to stick around a little longer to gather intelligence when an opportunity to work for high ranking officials opens up. This leads to daring escapes, dramatic fights, terrible persecution and a fun story set in an era that is one of my favorites.

[MILD SPOILERS] The problem I have with this novel is that I’m constantly being jerked out of the story due to the questionable ethics being promoted by the main characters and cliché storylines. I despise when everyone in a story is related (although they may not know it at first.) The main bad guy is who? The helper at university is who? The boyfriend is where? Are there only 10 people in the whole world? Why must we go back to this tired form of storytelling?

As far as ethical issue, sure Maggie Hope is like a female James Bond so sleeping around doesn’t surprise me as much as it should considering that this is a World War 2 era story with a female protagonist. Her roommate being a (smart, fashionable, witty) gay man just trying to live his life in peace with his gay lover (who of course get attacked for being gay by some drunk ruffians). It’s just so cliché!

And consider the other heroine, Eliza, who wants to be a nun and seems to take her faith seriously except that she enjoys frequent premarital sex in the alley outside dance halls. (And who is related to our protagonist, of course.)

But Eliza’s hypocrisy is part of an anti-religious theme in the book that I didn’t appreciate. Along with Eliza, Maggie’s main contact in Berlin went to school to be a priest but is a borderline abusive, mean-spirited, sour man who never comes across as interesting, smart, or sympathetic. And he is terrible at apologetics. (Or great at being Maggie’s straw man.)

Consider how terribly this man answers the witty, smart, charming atheist Maggie about the issue of pain and suffering in Berlin. The man says that the pain and suffering and evil is something God provides to mold us and teach us lessons. While it is true that Christianity believes that God uses suffering we don’t believe that God is responsible for evil and suffering. This is a step too far and reveals a negative bias by the author against Christianity. The arguments that the wannabe priest make are merely set-ups for Maggie to knock down; easy straw man arguments create for Maggie, the atheist, to win. And why is there conflict anyway? Many of the greatest heroes from World War 2, especially in Germany, were the Christians who sacrificed everything to undermine the Reich. (Consider Bonheoffer, for some more knowledgeable and appropriate responses to Maggie’s questions.) And there really ought not to be a conflict between science and religion either, but that is the way the author chooses – the easy way – instead of really wrestling with the question of evil in Hitler’s Germany.

The story is fun and Maggie is a charming character. But the way the book heavy handedly promotes carnality and atheism made the story less enjoyable for me. And I believe can also cause issues for the other 80% of the world that believes in a faith tradition.

I don’t recommend it.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.