Under God's Rock

Christian - Historical Fiction
315 Pages
Reviewed on 11/21/2021
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Author Biography

An acclaimed cut-stone picture artist working under the name Grindstone Cowboy, historical fiction novelist Tim Urban gets the same satisfaction out of breathing life into stories that portray humanity at both its beautiful best and brutal worst as when he's crafting timeless, emotion-stirring images out of stone. After three decades spent in the artists' haven of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Tim and his wife, Cindy, now reside in Fernandina Beach, Florida where he strives to write thought-provoking books that make people reflect on themselves and their treatment of others.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

Wido is a sinner by choice and he regrets nothing. His hardheadedness and arrogance are punished when one day he falls into the sea as the rock he is standing on suddenly breaks. Injured, he is rescued by a Viking, Styrkar, whose ship was crushed under the same rock. In gratitude for saving Wido, his mother Adelvia gives refuge to Styrkar from a cruel man who is after him. However, Adelvia and Styrkar cannot fight their attraction anymore and she breaks her vows to her long-dead husband. Circumstances lead to a cruel end in which Wido becomes a murderer and an even worse sinner than he ever was. Over the years Wido challenges God and when he gets his hands on a relic that could change the Christian world, Wido has a very different decision to make. Will he ask for forgiveness or will he let the world crumble?

Under God's Rock by Tim Urban is the story of a man who was a sinner by choice and how his choices not only affected his life but those of others around him as well. This is a historical novel that takes on religion as a theme and handles it beautifully. The author is able to write a compelling story, convey his message and give the reader a lot to think about. I specifically enjoyed the flow of the story; how it fluidly moved forward despite the many twists and turns it took. I loved to hate Wido; he is the perfect anti-hero who knows what he is doing is wrong, but just doesn’t care. The pace of the story was fast without being too fast; it gave the characters the opportunity to grow while also adding substance to the story. Under God’s Rock lacks nothing; it is a perfect historical story with plenty of suspense and action to keep you reading on and on. Very entertaining!

Mary Jo Halpin

I couldn’t wait to read this book. Not my usual venue, but I found Under God’s Rock to be a page turning adventure. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next! There are characters you love and characters you love to despise that are “as vile as the Devil’s serpent” and even one you want to try to understand and you do at the end. Great read!

Douglas Durkin

A Thoughtful Examination of Catholicism in the Context of a Fictional Medieval Historical Story

It is clear the author intended his first novel to be thought provoking, and he succeeded! The novel is well written and the story fascinating.

It begins in September 1066 at the critical Battle of Stamford Bridge between a Viking army and Anglo Saxon forces that preceded the Battle of Hastings in October 1066, at which latter battle Normans under William the Conqueror won control of England. A small band of Vikings defeated by the Anglo Saxons escape England in their burning Viking longship, with a portion of their dead King Harald Hardrada's treasure including religious relics previously seized in the Holy Land. These Vikings survive the bloody battle only to land on a beach in Normandy during a vicious storm and be crushed by an enormous boulder known as God's Rock loosened from the cliff above by the storm's fury.

Attracted by the burning longship, a peasant boy ventures into the storm and stands upon God’s Rock to better view the scene. The boy is perched upon the enormous boulder at the moment the cliff collapses and the boulder falls, leaving the broken boy on the verge of death. However, the boy is rescued by the lone Viking survivor, but the boy is crippled for life in a harsh and hostile environment.

Evading Norman searchers, the lone Viking survivor develops a relationship with the crippled boy’s widowed mother, who harbors the Viking warrior. The author develops the story via additional characters from various levels of the feudal system, and the saga unfolds through succeeding generations.

Although there is some discussion of Viking beliefs, the focus is upon medieval Catholicism from the view primarily of the crippled boy sent to live in a monastery. The boy's assessment of religion changes over his lifetime as a monk. He eventually finds the fundamental essence and beauty of Christianity, while criticizing practices of the medieval church.

The story is as gritty as were the times, when people struggled just to survive in an unfair feudal system. Struggling through many hardships, the characters persevere with differing and developing views of their religion.

Whether the reader is spiritual or not, the novel is well worth the read.

The cover art work is a fascinating optical illusion, composed of hidden figures representing characters from the novel's story. The artist, the author's daughter, specializes in mandalas, a style of artwork employed in Hindu and Buddhist religions. A close examination of the cover art is worth the look!


I finished reading this book a few days ago and am still reeling from the emotional rollercoaster. I really did not know what to expect; I am a fan of historical fiction, but tend more towards the cozy, romanticized stories rather than being dropped into the middle of a world that makes me say "thank goodness for modern society!" and based on the cover artwork and description, this book was going to be anything but comfortable. I am very happy to say that I fought through this dark, gritty medieval tale and the light at the end of the tunnel is so worth it! I say "fought" not because it was a struggle to read or a chore (though, I will say I was extremely thankful for the brief historical preface, maps and list of terms in the back of the book, it was super helpful), but because the author really puts you through the wringer right alongside his characters. I cried multiple times in the final chapters because it was so gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

The story follows multiple characters from many walks of life and who all ultimately end up entangled. The author, Tim Urban, successfully tells his story through an omnipotent narrator while still giving distinct "voices" to each character as the focus of each chapter shifts. Because of the varying perspectives, the story moves in a way that is not necessarily linear, but more like you're picking up pieces of a puzzle as you proceed, occasionally finding pieces that fit together and the bigger picture is revealed. Sometimes historical fiction can be bogged down with the author trying to show off their knowledge of the era, but I actually really enjoyed the side-stories that supported the main thread. Nothing in this book feels superfluous or unnecessary - even the violence and crude language (and make no mistake, there is plenty of both). This book answers the question "what the hell were they thinking?" and the answer is often shocking... and alluding to a pile of sh*t, either literal or figurative.

In some ways it is hard to pick just one character as the "main character" because there are multiple who really carry the heavy loads of this story. In a way, almost every character can be thought of as both the protagonist and the antagonist depending on the where you're at in the story. This makes for some deliciously complex characters that are a dream for book club discussions or psychoanalysis, if you're into psychology. It would be amazing to sit down and discuss life and the world and religion with Wido! Because each character is so multi-dimensional, the reader can see a little bit of themselves in each one (as disturbing a thought that may be at times) forcing one to reflect their own beliefs and actions. This book should probably come with a warning label: "Caution, may cause intense emotions and internal dialogue evaluating your life choices!"

I am still not even sure how to summarize this book or explain it to a friend. All I can say is, it will take you by surprise, leaving you gobsmacked in a puddle of tears wanting to call your mamma, questioning your purpose in life, then wanting to go back to the beginning and read it all again. I did not expect to feel so uplifted after reading a story of a blasphemous monk, a murderous viking warrior and the tortured woman who loved them both, but this book is so much more than that and I am so grateful for its existence. The world needs more stories like Under God's Rock.