Sunday, August 16, 2020

Review: Persian Betrayal by Terry Brennan


Title: Persian Betrayal

Series: Empires of Armageddon, Book 2

Author: Terry Brennan

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Release Date: July 28, 2020



In Terry Brennan’s Empires of Armageddon series, Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer Brian Mullaney has been tasked with an incredibly dangerous mission—to deliver the Vilna Gaon’s second prophecy, along with the deadly box that protects it, to the rabbis at the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem. When a synagogue is destroyed by an explosion, both the prophecy and box are buried in the rubble along with the answers Mullaney so desperately needs. How can he discover the meaning of the centuries-old prophecy now? Why are he and the ambassador he’s assigned to protect being targeted? Is there any way he alone can thwart a nuclear arms race?


Brennan shares more about the series, and specifically the second installment of the trilogy, Persian Betrayal, in the interview that follows. He talks about the spiritual warfare his hero, Brian Mullaney, faces in the story as well as the daily battles Christians face. Brennan also shares the prophetic inspiration for his story and his thoughts on what’s going on in the world today. 



Q: Can you give us a quick introduction to the Empires of Armageddon series and what took place in book one, Ishmael Covenant?


Three ancient empires are rushing toward a collision in the volatile Middle East, an official high in the US State Department is conspiring with a foreign power against the US president, a centuries-old prophecy is unveiled that heralds Christ’s imminent return, and malevolent, created, eternal beings—fallen angels—are determined to invalidate biblical prophecy so they can manufacture a different ending to the Bible, reversing the outcome of the battle of Armageddon.


In Ishmael Covenant, Diplomatic Security Service agent Brian Mullaney is banished to Israel to protect the new US ambassador, Joseph Atticus Cleveland. Mullaney and the ambassador are thrust into the cauldron of Middle East conflict—political, personal, and spiritual conflict. They come into possession of an ancient, lethal metal box that supposedly holds a second prophecy that could both threaten the nascent peace treaty between Israel and all its Arab neighbors—the Ishmael Covenant—and also reveal the insidious plot of their evil enemies. Mullaney finds himself fighting for the life of the ambassador and his daughter, for his own crippled marriage, and in a spiritual battle (for which he is unprepared) against the agents of evil who are determined to destroy the box, the prophecy, and the Middle East as we know it.  


Q: Where does the second book, Persian Betrayal, pick up the action? Will readers be able to join in if they haven’t read the first installment?


The story in Persian Betrayal commences exactly where Ishmael Covenant ends, with the destruction of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem by agents of the Turk, an otherworldly servant of evil. The Turk and his men are still trying to destroy the prophecy of the Vilna Gaon and the box that protects it. 


I believe the story would be more deeply understood and appreciated by reading Ishmael Covenant before Persian Betrayal. Even though the entire trilogy has one overarching narrative story, each book in the series is complete in itself. Each contains a compelling and rewarding story arc, but each book also ends with a cliff-hanger conclusion designed to propel the reader further into the following book. 


Q: The whole trilogy takes place in a short time span. Does that make it harder or easier to write the series?




Confining the majority of the trilogy’s plot structure to a relatively compact span of time built a world that—for me—remained vibrant, alive, and active throughout the writing process and limited the amount of research necessary. On the negative side, because of the worldwide stage upon which the trilogy plays out (over a large number of time zones), the significant cast of characters, and the rapid shifts in action from one locale to another, keeping the scenes in the correct order was a challenge.


For each book, I created an Excel spreadsheet outline/timeline for myself that tracked the date and time for each scene. I also included the time stamp in the book with each change of scene to help orient the reader. Each line of my spreadsheet also included a short, descriptive sentence about of what happened in each scene, so if I had to move scenes around, they were still in sequential order. Still, there were several instances where I got into a significant bind. Squeezing that much action into a short time span was certainly arduous.


Q: The prologue shares a fictional retelling of Moses and the battle against the Amalekites from Joshua’s perspective. Is the inclusion of this story tied to the prophecies central to the story line of the series?


I don’t think it gives anything away too soon, but one portion of the second prophecy is deciphered to read “. . . when the sons of Amalek are invited to the king’s banquet . . .” In the Bible, following the battle of Rephidim—where Moses’s arms are kept raised by Aaron and Hur while the Israelite army routs a much larger army of Amalekites—Moses tells Joshua that God spoke, “I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” 


Historically, it is a widely held belief that the nomadic tribes known as Amalek were the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s illegitimate son by Hagar. These tribes became the Bedouin nomads who eventually populated vast stretches of the desert on both sides of the Red Sea and are now known as Arabs. The enmity between Arabs and Jews (the sons of Jacob) has continued for centuries. Within my story, when Israel signs a peace treaty, known as the Ishmael Covenant, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Arab states along the Persian Gulf, that covenant can certainly be interpreted as Amalek being “invited to the king’s banquet.”


In Persian Betrayal, that line, and other lines in the Vilna Gaon’s second prophecy, are a prophetic warning to the nation of Israel—one that may be too late to heed.


Q: How do the spiritual themes of the series such as spiritual warfare carry through in Persian Betrayal?


From the time the Vilna Gaon, a Jewish Talmudic genius, wrote two prophecies in 1794, relentless forces of evil arrayed against him to destroy the prophecies and prevent them from fulfilling their purpose. Those forces of evil were created, eternal beings—fallen angels. To protect the Gaon and the prophecies, angels from the throne room of God were dispatched to join the battle, a battle waged both in the heavenly realms and also on the earth.


In the Bible, the book of Ephesians references “heavenly realms” five times and refers to the battle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In this series, our protagonist, Brian Mullaney, is drawn into this conflict against desperate evil forces who want to change the end of the Bible with an earthly battle that has eternal consequences. My NIV Study Bible has a note on Ephesians 1 that reads, “The spiritual struggle of the saints here and now is not so much against ‘flesh and blood’ as against the great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven.” The spiritual warfare in Persian Betrayal is real, personal, dangerous, and frightening to our characters. And its outcome has eternal ramifications. Not so much different than today.


Q: Is the Vilna Gaon a fictional character, and are his prophecies a product of your imagination?


The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, was a real person who lived from 1720 to 1797 in Vilnius, Lithuania. A lifelong student of the Jewish scripture, the Gaon authored voluminous and accurate notes and explanations of Talmudic and other texts. He was internationally revered as one of the most familiar and influential figures in rabbinic study since the Middle Ages. A vigorous Talmudist and kabbalist, the Vilna Gaon was the foremost leader of non-Hasidic Jews of his time, and his followers remain active in Jewish scriptural interpretation and debate to this day. 


In late March 2014, Rabbi Moshe Shturnbuch, the Gaon’s great-great-grandson, actually revealed a prophecy written by the Gaon in 1794. In part, the prophecy said, When you hear that the Russians have captured the city of Crimea, you should know that the times of the Messiah have started, that his steps are being heard.” About a month earlier, on February 27, 2014, in the midst of political upheaval in the Crimea, Russian special forces seized the buildings of the Crimean Supreme Council and Council of Ministers. Russian flags were raised over these buildings, fulfilling the 210-year-old prophecy.


While the Gaon’s actual prophecy is written into my fictional series, the story of the second prophecy is a product of my imagination. 


Q: What mission is Brian Mullaney tasked with?


Brian Mullaney is a highly regarded, nineteen-year veteran of the Diplomatic Security Service, the 2,500-person armed force that protects American foreign service personnel overseas and the most widely represented law enforcement agency in the world. Presenting a danger to a rogue US State Department deputy secretary, Mullaney is banished to Israel as regional security officer and assigned to protect new US Ambassador Joseph Atticus Cleveland and all the foreign service personnel in Israel. Mullaney, however, is also enlisted into another task.


Through the influence of the massive angel Bayard, and the insistence of aged Rabbi Mordechai Herzog, Mullaney finds himself responsible for a metal box, emblazoned with kabbalistic symbols, that has gruesomely killed anyone who touches it. Originally the protective container of the Vilna Gaon’s second prophecy, the “box of power” now has a mission of its own, a mission that will put both Mullaney’s life and the life of Ambassador Cleveland at risk and transport Mullaney into the darkest depths of hell on earth. 


Q: How does Brian’s faith prove a challenge in his work? Does he feel a pull between serving God and doing his job?


Brian Mullaney is a get-in-touch-with-God Christian. It’s not until the third book that his church is even mentioned. But his close, personal connection to God is evident throughout the series as he prays urgently and fervently on several occasions, pleading for God’s help and direction in the massive challenges facing him. He seeks God’s guidance on how to resurrect his marriage to Abby and rescue his family even though he’s nearly halfway around the globe. He prays to be faithful to his duty as the DSS’s top security officer in the Middle East and the man most responsible for the life and safety of Ambassador Cleveland. And he must rely on God in coming to grips with the daunting spiritual responsibility others want to place on his shoulders and in learning to live with the recent loss of his father and the wounds that were never healed.


In Persian Betrayal, Mullaney begins to suffer through the agonizing choices he needs to make while dealing with nearly constant attacks from a group of Turkish terrorists who have put all their lives at risk. Desperate to get home and repair his rocky marriage, yet determined to faithfully serve Cleveland and fulfill his duty, Mullaney must face one of the most crushing moments of his career while he awaits God to answer his pleas.  


Q: What pressures does Brian experience from home? Would he be able to step away from the situation even if he wanted to?


Abigail and Brian Mullaney have been married for nearly twenty years. The first ten were great. The second ten were not so hot as they endured the consequences of moving eleven times from one assignment to another. But Brian promised Abby this was it—his assignment to Washington, DC, was the last move. They could settle down, and the girls could go to the same school. When he got unfairly booted out of DC and dispatched to Israel, Abby refused to go with him.


Mullaney was caught between promises—one to himself that he would never shirk his duty or betray a confidence, and the second to Abby that she would never have to move her family again. Abby had a simple question for her husband: “Who’s more important, Brian? Me? Your daughters? Or your job at the State Department?” To Mullaney the answers were “Yes” and “Yes,” but he knew that would never fly at home. Was his only option resignation from the Diplomatic Security Service? Could he turn his back on his duty? The answer to that question could cost him the most precious people in his life. 


Q: The Empires of Armageddon series is categorized as end-times fiction, as it features prophecies and an epic battle. Many people believe everything that has been going on in 2020 are prophetic signs. What do you think personally of all this talk?


Wars and rumors of wars. Famine. Now a global plague the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century. And an unprecedented, mammoth invasion of locust ravaging the African continent. Sounds ominous, all right. The moral decline in our nation—where what was once illegal, and always immoral, is now celebrated openly in the streets—has been precipitous. The cultural persecution of Christians is more subtle but growing ever more virulent.


I blame myself. I was born in 1947 and went to college from 1964 to 1968 in the midst of the cultural revolution that reversed the ethical and moral compass of America. I marched and protested, trampled the faith of my youth, and lived a free life. I sowed the seeds for the moral disaster we are watching unfold today. Do I think we’re looking at end-times harbingers today? If not now, it won’t be long. The clock started ticking with the 1948 birth of the nation of Israel. More than seven decades have already count down. Are we closing in on our final hours? I don’t know. But I think the alarm is ringing.


Q: One of your endorsements describes the series as a look at the dark world of political corruption. Is any of that element of the story based on actual events? 


Not in the sense that we would normally think of political corruption. I’m not writing about bribes and backroom deals, rigged elections, graft and embezzlement, conflicts of interest, or abuse of power. But there are definitely some dark deeds in the halls of power. The only actual event referred to in the series is what’s known as the Iran nuclear deal. But in this fictional world, there is a traitor in the State Department who’s trying to prevent the deal from being consummated, not because of a political agenda but because a billionaire banker doesn’t want to lose the $2 billion in Iranian funds frozen in his banks since the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. In the book there is a coup overthrowing a legitimate government, a number of international double crosses, and power-driven men intent on resurrecting ancient empires, regardless of the cost. Not unlike actual events but, no, not based on any truth that I know.   


Q: Can you give us a sneak peek into the final installment of the series, Ottoman Dominion


How not to give away all the good parts? Let’s just say that after Mullaney endures a devastating loss at the end of Persian Betrayal, all the diverse plotlines converge when Ambassador Cleveland decides to take the situation into his own hands. He determines to go AWOL from Tel Aviv without his security detail and flies to Ankara to confront Turkish president Emet Kashani. But when Cleveland finds his life and soul in mortal danger, Brian Mullaney must find a way to fulfill all the missions God has rested upon his shoulders—rescue the ambassador, resurrect his marriage, and fulfill the destiny of the box of power. Ottoman Dominion is nearly nonstop action that comes to a remarkable, unexpected, and very personal ending.


My Thoughts:

I absolutely LOVED Terry’s “Persian Betrayal”! I really enjoy when an author can bring his characters to life but at the same time bring the setting of the story to life as well. Terry did a phenomenal job at doing this and I really felt like I was right there with Brian in Israel. I loved that it was fast paced and full of action with its twists and turns and I can’t wait for the next book!

Persian Betrayal is a Five Star Read!



Terry Brennan is the award-winning author of The Sacred Cipher, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, and The Aleppo Code, the three books in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. His latest series is Empires of Armageddon, which includes Ishmael Covenant and Persian Betrayal.

A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Brennan accumulated during his twenty-two-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercury won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series

published while he led the team as the newspaper’s editor.

Starting out as a sportswriter in Philadelphia, Brennan became an editor and publisher for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York and later moved to the corporate staff of Ingersoll Publications (four hundred newspapers in the United States, Ireland, and England) as executive editor of all US newspapers.

In 1996, Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending twelve years as vice president of operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as chief administrative officer for Care for the Homeless, both in New York City. Terry and his wife, Andrea, now live in Danbury, Connecticut.

More on Brennan can be found at He is also on Facebook (Terry Brennan) and Twitter (@terrbrennan1).



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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Cover Reveal: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan


Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Releases March 2021

About the book


New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan delivers a breathtaking novel based on true events.
It was called "The Titanic of the South”—the luxury steamship that sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board. Through time, their fates were forgotten—until the wreck was found.

Now their story is finally being told.

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she's shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can't resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly's research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who, along with her child, was never found. The women were part of Savannah society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

Perfect for fans of Before We Were Yours, Sold on a Monday, and Orphan Train, Callahan’s highly anticipated novel tells the story of a little known chapter of history that has long deserved a spotlight. This transformative tale told from alternating past and present perspectives will sweep readers away and move them to their core.


Q&A with Patti Callahan


What inspired you to write Surviving Savannah?


Originally I was inspired by the Pulaski tales of survival, how the city of Savannah was part of this story, and how the Lowcountry was affected by this tragedy. I was also inspired and curious about the transformation of each passenger and the ways that each survivor not only lived through the explosion, but also how they chose to live their lives after the sinking.

How, I wondered, do some come to live better lives and others turn toward bitterness and cruelty? Who do we become after such great loss?

AND then!, everything shifted because after a hundred and eighty years, along came a shipwreck hunting crew who found the remains of the Pulaski a hundred feet beneath the waves, thirty miles off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. While the team went deep to bring up the artifacts and treasure of this beautiful ship, I dug deep to bring up the stories.  

My exhilarating hunt for the forgotten story began.


What kind of research was required to write the novel? Did anything surprise you?


The research was as fascinating as it was extensive – from the archives at the Georgia Historical Center in Savannah and the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum to books, newspaper archives, personal accounts and letters, I read everything that I could get my hands on. I devoured books on steamships and Savannah in the 1800’s. I read about the rich history of the colonization of Savannah with General Oglethorpe. I walked the streets of Savannah and visited museums and artifact collections. I interviewed shipwreck experts and became enchanted with the world of wreck salvaging and treasure hunting.

During this journey, I was surprised over and over, but one surprise that opens the novel is the true narrative about a fifteen-year-old passenger named Charles who survived the sinking to become a slave trader with a horrific reputation. As he grew into a man, he earned the nickname “the Red Devil”. How had this young boy survived to become so cruel? I wanted to know. 

Finally, after years of research, I put together a complete story of that calamitous night, and one family in particular.


Your story follows three women – Lily and Augusta on the ship in 1838, and Everly in present day. Which of the three women did you relate to the most and why?


While I was writing each section I always felt the most connected to the woman I was writing about at the moment. I don’t think I felt more for one woman than another but of course our modern-day character, Everly felt more relatable only because I know today’s Savannah and I know today’s southern norms and ideas. The historical narratives were almost two hundred years old, and yet I still felt as close to Lilly and Augusta because their plight and their desires and their inner lives feel familiar. As far as women have come in their roles in society, there is still the struggle for independence and agency. There remains the need to burst through familial and collective norms to build a life of one’s own.

All three women had their own tragedies, hardships and losses to navigate. All three needed to discover how they would make meaning and purpose out of their situation. All three found out what they were truly made of and if they wanted to merely survive or if they wanted to thrive and build new lives.


Advance Digital Copy Giveaways


Patti will announce five ARC winners on her Instagram and Facebook pages. Check back after posting to see if you’ve won!

You may enter to win an advance digital copy using this sweepstakes link:


 (NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. US Residents, 18+. Ends August 17, 2020. See official rules at official website.)


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