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Woolley, "Compass of God" (reviewed by Tristi Pinkston) Options · View
Posted: Tuesday, January 03, 2012 6:04:30 PM

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Title: Compass of God ("The Promised Land" Volume 5)
Author: David G. Woolley
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 408
Binding: Hardback
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-1-60861-1-877-3
Price: $22.99

Reviewed by Tristi Pinkston for the Association for Mormon Letters

Lehi and his family have fled into the wilderness upon the command of God. Nephi, Laban, Lemuel, and Sam return to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass from Laban, who will not give them up, and Nephi, acting on the inspiration of the Lord, slays Laban when he discovers him drunk in the street. The sons of Lehi return to their parents in the wilderness with the plates, a captive-turned-friend, Zoram, and intrigue following in their wake. This is how we begin "Compass of God" by David G. Woolley, in the aftermath of the assassination and the effect it had on Jerusalem.

Aaron, the blacksmith's son, stands accused of the murder and has gone into hiding after a brutal beating from Daniel, his brother, who is charged with solving the crime. The daughters of Ishmael, each having an understanding with one of the sons of Lehi, feel betrayed and forsaken, and wonder if they will now ever have a chance to marry someone they love. Handsome new arrivals from Egypt make them think that perhaps romance has not entirely passed them by, but their hearts still yearn for the young men in the wilderness.

In the meantime, Prince Mulek has returned to the home of his father, bringing with him an object of curious workmanship, a compass made of gold.

We are not told in the Book of Mormon where the Liahona came from or how it was delivered to the ground outside Lehi's tent, and in this, the fifth volume of The Promised Land series, Woolley extrapolates his ideas. While this is fiction, Woolley's writing is very scholarly--I would not call this a light read. Every page is imbued with evidence of extensive research, from the clothing of the time to the food, trade routes, customs, traditions, and laws. In fact, the last 76 pages of the volume are made up of author notes detailing the research that went in to the writing of the book.

I've never seen such detailed author notes before, speaking to Woolley's dedication to his project and desire to share that knowledge with his readers. It also explains why the series has been so spread out, with books appearing in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2008, and now 2011 - you can't crank out books with this kind of detail overnight. It takes time, preparation, and a lot of hard work.

I enjoyed this look at Book of Mormon history from a fictional perspective. The elements that are fiction seem highly plausible, and the parts that are based on scripture align with how I've always imagined the scriptures when I've read them. Woolley has a unique way of placing his words that gives him an identifiable author fingerprint. I also noticed that he tends not to use the word "said" when writing dialogue, choosing instead to give the character an action to denote the speaker. This works well most of the time, although there were places where a simple "said" would have been less distracting.

"Compass of God," and the whole series, is best suited to readers who wants a deep look into Book of Mormon times, traditions, and cultures. It is not a book to be read in one afternoon, but more slowly, thoughtfully.
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