The Proof by Cheryl Colwell

About the Book:  Shrouded in mystery, a precious relic known as Il Testamento, or The Proof, circulated among the early Christians for centuries. Before their deaths, its guardians hid it from their adversaries, leaving only a crude map of its location. For centuries, it lay in darkness. Until now. Reports of its existence have resurfaced, inciting an ancient rivalry between a ruthless group that seeks to destroy it, and a secret association that lusts for its power. Summoned to Siena by a grandfather he has never met, Gabriel Dolcini is thrust into a dark maze of danger. And into his divine destiny.

About the Author:   Passionate about all things creative, Cheryl Colwell finds inspiration in the countryside of Ashland, Oregon - the perfect venue for her interests in writing, gardening, and art. John, her husband, best friend, and chiropractor, keeps her in shape for gardening and writing long into the night. They are delighted to have four unique and talented children and three grandchildren. A smart and playful English Shepherd makes their empty nest a happy place. Cheryl began writing fiction in 2007. True to her tagline, "Stunning Suspense," her characters visit stunning locations while they pursue adventurous quests peppered with mystery, suspense, and romance. Cheryl likes to think of her stories as "cozy" suspense.

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My Review:   When I first read the description of Cheryl's book, I couldn't wait to read it.  Mystery.  Ancient relic.  Crude map.  Ancient rivalry.  The perfect story, in my mind.  I'm glad to say that I was not disappointed.  From the very first chapter, I related to the main character, Gabriel, an artist pursuing his life-long dream yet endeavoring to simply pay his bills.  I understood his frustration and confusion.  I felt for him as he strove to find answers to solve not only his financial problems, but his emotional ones as well.  He, like all the other characters, are well-written as complex individuals with unique characteristics and personal struggles.

As for the story itself, I must admit it had me running to the history books to discover just how much of the tale was truth and how much was fiction.  The two were interwoven so beautifully and delicately that is was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began.  I was thrilled to discover that the story behind the authentic sword in the stone is a true and fascinating story and that the actual sword can be viewed in Italy.  The story of the sword and the man who thrust it into the stone is an integral part of the mystery of the book, but I can assure you that it is not the only portion that will have your scratching your head or leaning forward in anticipation of the next chapter.

My favorite part of the book was the last chapter, not because of reaching the solution to the mystery but rather because it was totally unexpected and unbelievably moving.  My tears flowed freely as I read and pondered the conclusion, but I fear I cannot tell you more without ruining the experience for you, so I'll leave it at that.

While the book is Christian-based, the author does a wonderful job of not coming across as "preachy" or "super-religious."  That being said, however, salvation's message and the fruit of the Spirit are unmistakably clear throughout the pages.

If there was one drawback to the book, I would have to say that it was the number of characters and locations in the book.  Perhaps it was because I had to read the book over a longer stretch of time, but I had trouble keeping the characters and places straight.  There is a guide in the back of the book that tells who is who and where each scene is taking place, but since I was reading on an e-reader, it was not convenient to "flip" to the back of the book each time the characters changed.  Halfway through the book, before I realized there was a guide in the back, I found myself wishing I had taken notes on the many different characters and locations.  I tell you this not as a criticism but because I hope with this knowledge you will either take notes or be aware of the list in the back before you begin reading.  I'm certain it will aid you.

Overall, this was an excellent book and a must-read for those who love history, medieval conflict, Templar knights, ancient relics and/or religious mysteries.  You will not be disappointed!

(Note:  After reading my review, Cheryl revamped her book and placed the character list in the front of the book, which I'm sure will aid you when you read this thrilling mystery!)