Thursday, February 27, 2020

Ismael Covenant, Empires of Armageddon #1 by Terry Brennan

Book description:

His marriage in tatters and his career ruined by lies, Diplomatic Security Service agent Brian Mullaney is at the end of his rope. Banished to Israel as punishment by his agency, he's assigned to guard a US ambassador and an insignificant box. Little does he know that this new job will propel him straight into a crisis of global proportions.

Inside the box is a messianic prophecy about the fate of the world. And a dark enemy known as The Turk and the forces of evil at his command are determined to destroy the box, the prophecy, and the Middle East as we know it. When Ambassador Cleveland gets in the way, his life and his daughter's life are threatened--and Mullaney must act fast.

Now agents of three ancient empires have launched covert operations to secure nuclear weapons, in direct defiance of the startling peace treaty Israel and its Arab neighbors have signed. And a traitor in the US State Department is leaking critical information to a foreign power. It's up to Mullaney--still struggling with his own broken future--to protect the embassy staff, thwart the clandestine conspiracies, and unmask a traitor--before the desert is turned into a radioactive wasteland.

My review:

 I read The Jerusalem Prophecies trilogy by Brennan, and I really enjoyed that series. It has been five years since that series ended, so I was happy to see the author coming out with a new series.

 I had a little difficulty getting into this book, but that only lasted through the prologue. Once I got to the main part of the book, I got pulled into the story.

 Though this book is fictional, this book could be taken from today's headlines. Unrest in the Middle East, fighting among Muslim factions, threats against our freedoms, etc. There is a lot that happens in this book. Fortunately, the author indicates the setting, date, and time each time he switches locations, which makes it easier to keep up with what is going on and where.

 Brian Mullaney is the main character in the book, and he is a likable one you can't help feeling sorry for and cheering on. Through his eyes, the reader gets a good look at what all is involved with ambassadors, the state department, and foreign relations in regards to those.

 I found the book a fascinating and exciting read, and learned a lot through this great fictional novel. The author knows his stuff, and it is evident that he did a lot of research for the book. I am definitely looking forward to reading more in this series.

I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions in this review are my own.

About the author:

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 release, Ishmael Covenant is the first in his new series, Empires of Armageddon.

A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Brennan accumulated during his 22-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 (400 newspapers in the U.S., Ireland and England) as Executive Editor of all U.S. newspaper titles.

In 1996, Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending 12 years as VP 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, CT.

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

Enter to win a copy of the book here.

Author interview:

An interview with Terry Brennan,
Author of Ishmael Covenant

What if three ancient empires were poised to rise again and begin an epic battle for the land they
once occupied in the Middle East? What if this battle was the fulfillment of a prophecy that would
set into motion the end of the world as we know it? Those questions were the launching point for
award-winning author Terry Brennan as he began writing his new series, Empires of
Armageddon. The series begins with Ishmael Covenant (Kregel Publications), a fast-paced,
modern-day international thriller.
At the center of the action is Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Brian Mullaney, who is
assigned to protect Joseph Atticus Cleveland, the newly appointed US ambassador to Israel.
Mullaney is at the end of his rope as not only is his marriage in trouble, so is his career. Now he’s
been banished to Israel as punishment by his agency where he is supposed to be guarding the
ambassador and what he considers to be an insignificant box. Little does he know that his new job
will propel him straight into a crisis of global proportions.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your new Empires of Armageddon series, specifically the first book, Ishmael Covenant.
The three-book Empires of Armageddon series is a fast-paced, modern-day international thriller, constructed around
historical fact and historical fiction. The story envelops the lives of nearly a dozen key characters but is driven by three
primary characters: Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Brian Mullaney; Joseph Atticus Cleveland, the newly appointed
US ambassador to Israel; and their unknown but evident enemy, the Turk, an immortal agent of evil who serves the One.
Out of the chaos and conflict of today’s Middle East, it appears that three ancient empires (Persian, Islamic, and Ottoman) are
about to resurrect themselves. One belief of the Islamic faith is that once an Islamic nation rules any part of the earth, it rules
that part of the earth forever. So, ultimately, each of those empires would covet, and attempt to control, the same slice of land
that each empire once ruled—from the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, through the rocky desert known as Palestine, to the
Nile Delta in Egypt. The collision of those competing empires could trigger the climactic events in the Valley of Megiddo.
The series explores how this potential clash of empires might impact current history, future events, and the viability of the
Jewish state. One immediate impact of an emergent Persian Empire (an alliance between the majority Shia governments of
Iran and Iraq) is to drive their ancient enemies, the Sunni Arabs of Saudi Arabia, into a treaty and mutual defense pact with, of
all people, Israel. Thus the Ishmael Covenant, the joining together of the tribe of Abraham and the tribe of Ishmael.
The plot is kick-started when the first of two messianic prophecies, written in 1794 by the legendary Jewish Talmudic scholar
the Vilna Gaon, is revealed in Jerusalem. Mullaney accepts the responsibility of guardian of the Gaon’s second prophecy and
the box that protects it, which puts his life, and the lives of his loved ones, in terrible peril and direct opposition to the Turk.
The Turk and the One have been focused on a singular purpose for thousands of years: if they can prevent the fulfillment of
one messianic biblical prophecy, they can eradicate the validity of all prophecy and change the end of the Book—the outcome
of the Battle of Armageddon. What is contained in the Gaon’s prophecy could destroy their plans.
That theme of ultimate evil trying to overthrow the plans of God fuels the story of Ishmael Covenant, which utilizes this
geopolitical cauldron and its biblical ramifications as the backdrop for an epic testing of one man’s character when faced with
multiple adversaries who threaten his family, his faith, and his country. How Brian Mullaney responds to his calling could
dictate the fate of this world—and the onset of the next.
Q: Is there a scriptural or spiritual theme that inspired the writing of Ishmael Covenant?
My Bible is an NIV Study Bible with extensive explanatory notes on almost every page. One of the longest notes and—for
me—one of the most impactful refers to Ephesians 1:3 where Paul writes about “heavenly realms.” In part, the note explains
that Christians are in a real, tangible war, what it calls a “titanic conflict”: “In the Christian’s union with the exalted Christ,
ultimate issues are involved. . . . At stake are God’s eternal eschatological purpose and the titanic conflict between God and the
powerful spiritual forces arrayed against him. . . . As a result, the spiritual struggles of the saints here and now are not so much
against ‘flesh and blood’ as against the great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven.”
I was struck by the idea that there are great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven. More sobering is the idea that my
spiritual struggles here on earth have, in some way, an impact on that war in heaven. Not all of us will come face-to-face with
evil incarnate, as Brian Mullaney and the other characters of Ishmael Covenant do. However, agents of evil are at work in the
world today, just as they have been since Lucifer’s rebellion was crushed and banished to earth.

Q: How did your studies while writing the book change your thoughts on the spiritual
warfare we face in daily life as Christians?
I don’t generally live my daily life conscious of the part I play in this great spiritual battle in heaven.
I most often perceive the evil I face as personal. So, my wife and I pray against the spirits of evil
that try to steal, rob, and destroy in our lives, in our family, and in our marriage, which is good to
Through digging deeper into the concept of spiritual warfare for this book, I’ve learned that I need
to reach beyond the personal conflict of good and evil in my life and be more conscious of the
vastness of this titanic conflict around me. I need to be an example, a reflection, of Jesus and his
love for all souls. And I need to stand up for light—to be a warrior-ambassador for light—in a dark
world that often seems to be getting darker.
But the bottom line is inevitable. Good triumphs. The end of the Book will never change.

Q: What are some of the faith struggles your main character, Brian Mullaney, faces?
Right from the outset, Mullaney is grappling with a great chasm in his life. He desperately desires the forgiveness and
affirmation of his father, but now it is impossible to attain because the elder Mullaney has died. Even though he is a man of
character and integrity, admired by many, reliable and effective in his career as an agent for the Diplomatic Security Service,
Mullaney struggles personally and spiritually with the insecurity that he’s just not good enough.
Now, unfairly accused and banished to Israel from his post in Washington, Mullaney is emotionally crippled by the fractures
occurring in his marriage. Add to that, he’s enlisted in a tangible, life-threatening conflict with evil incarnate. A devoted,
mature Christian, Mullaney openly wrestles with and challenges God’s plan as he tries to save the lives of the ambassador and
those around him in the field while desperately trying to save his marriage back home. His trust in God’s faithful provenance is
ultimately tested when he is tasked to obey an implausible heavenly command—hand over the box of power while face-to-face
with Satan’s emissary.
Q: How do aspects of actual history come together with a fictional modern-day story in your book?
There are numerous threads of actual history woven throughout the plot, threads that become critical catalysts in the
unfolding of Ishmael Covenant and the rest of the series.
The story of the Vilna Gaon—Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman (1720–1797)—that launches the narrative is accurate in all its
historical elements. He was the foremost Talmudic scholar of his age and a renowned genius on both sacred and secular
learning. The story of the Gaon’s prophecy about Russia and Crimea, revealed by his great-great-grandson in 2014, is true and
led many to believe that the coming of the Jewish Messiah was near at hand. The Gaon did attempt three trips to Jerusalem
from his native Lithuania; the last one, only a few years before his death, ended prematurely in Konigsberg, Prussia. All of that
history is extensively integrated into the story arc that plays out over all three books. The story of the Gaon’s second prophecy
is a product of my own imagination.
The ancient biblical conflict between the nation of Israel and the people of Amalek—the descendants of Abraham and
Ishmael—is a fundamental element in the conflict driving the series. Other historically accurate elements of the book include
the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq in 2014, the worldwide confiscation of Iranian financial assets following the hostage crisis in
1979, NATO’s nuclear sharing project which still has sixty-one nuclear bombs in bunkers at the Incirlik Airbase, the
geopolitical weapon that water has become in the Middle East, the history of the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, and the
history of the Jews in Turkey. All were vital to the development of this fictional series.
Q: What kind of research went into this series? How much time have you spent in the locales where Ishmael Covenant
takes place?
I did an extensive amount of online research on the history of the Vilna Gaon, his involvement with Jewish mysticism
(kabbalah), his continued influence on Jewish theology, and the role his followers played in the building and history of the
Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem. Much more contemporary research was required into the concept of NATO’s policy of nuclear
sharing as well as the structure of the US State Department and the duties and layout of its operations center. Additionally, the
mission and makeup of the US military’s top-secret Joint Special Operations Command was earnestly pursued and is factually
portrayed, as was the structure and assignment of the Diplomatic Security Service, one of America’s “armed services” and the
most widely represented law enforcement agency in the world.

Several years ago, my wife and I spent three weeks in Israel, visiting almost all the locales in this and my previous series,
immersing ourselves in the history of the land and the culture of its people. Engaging a Palestinian Christian as our guide
provided us with some unique access. Over the years, I’ve made many trips to Washington, DC, including an exclusive trip to
what was then called the Old Executive Office Building inside the White House compound. By necessity, locales with high
security or limited access were researched online, often aided by visuals through Google Maps.
Q: Empires of Armageddon is categorized as “end-times fiction.” How would you describe the genre and what
encouragement would you give a reader who isn’t sure about prophetic or end-times fiction to get them to read this
new series?
As Christians, one of our foundational beliefs is that Jesus Christ will return. Many believe his second coming will usher in the
final countdown to the end of time as we know it. There are many parts of the Bible that prophesy about the second coming.
Many scholars believe the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 started the “end-times clock” ticking. So, most likely we are
in, or on the cusp of, the end of days. The end really is near—whatever “near” means in God’s timing. I believe any novel that
weaves into its plotline elements relating to how or when Christ will return, or its impact, qualifies as end-times fiction.
It’s important to remember that end-times fiction is not the book of Revelation. It’s not theologically deep or hard to
Ishmael Covenant can be characterized as an end-times thriller because there is a strong thread connecting the plot of the
book, and the series, to last-days events such as how the quest of the protagonist may ultimately affect biblical prophecies. But
primarily it is simply a story of the conflict between good and evil, and how that conflict plays out in the life of an ordinary guy.
At its core is an everyman protagonist—a Christian man, accomplished and successful in his career, who is enlisted in a life-
threatening situation beyond his sphere of experience and understanding. This lethal danger, projected not only against the
man himself but also against his family, is perpetrated by the Turk and his disciples, a shadowy gang of murderous thugs who
ruthlessly pursue our hero from one country to the next. One complicating factor is that our protagonist realizes the spiritual
implications and consequences of the deadly conflict into which he was recruited. As a result, his faith and character are
challenged to the utmost as he confronts a relentless string of obstacles to fulfilling his call.
Q: How did your career in journalism prepare you to write this series?
Journalists are trained observers. They absorb, analyze, and report on what they see. When I write, I see the stories as movies.
In other words, I’m writing what I see in my mind, which is similar to what I did as a journalist, especially my ten years as a
sportswriter. I would watch an event and then replay it in my mind to accurately recount it for my readers.
Perhaps the most tangible result of being a journalist is that I approach my writing as a gardener, not as an architect.
Architects are the writers who have everything planned and plotted out before they get started, including extensive
biographies for all their key characters and a detailed outline that is a road map for the entire book. Journalists don’t have the
time for such exhaustive planning. Journalists are more like gardeners. You watch a game. You’re on deadline. You have an
idea. You start writing and see where it takes you. My characters generally reveal themselves to me as I write. So, in writing
novels, my process is normally to see how the plot grows and matures and where my characters take the story.
But one of the first things I learned as a writer is that novels are not written in the same way newspaper stories are written.
There is an age-old structure to the way fictional novels are written, a structure that brings clarity to the story and comfort to
readers. So, I needed to be retrained for a new style of writing.
Q: You also spent nearly two decades working in the nonprofit sector. What bearing did your work with homeless
people in New York have on these stories?
My nonprofit career, my second career, impacted the series in a significant way. For twenty years I worked for agencies that
ministered to homeless people in New York City. While I was a journalist, I really didn’t have a social justice bone in my body.
After living in The Bowery Mission for seven years, not only did my social justice perspective change by seeing injustice,
poverty, mental illness, and racism on a personal level, but my heart changed as well.
Two of the primary characters in the series are black men, one African American, one Caribbean. As a white man, they were
challenging characters for me to write because I wanted to get them right. I wanted to accurately represent the reality of being
a black man in America. I read a lot and received solid counsel and guidance from those close to me who personally experience
a black man’s reality. I hope the characters and their worldviews are portrayed honestly and accurately.

Q: Can you give us just a tease of what to expect from the rest of the series?
The entire series takes place in the span of a few days, so each book in the trilogy picks up right where the other left off. The
fight for power and dominion between the empires escalates. The theme of spiritual warfare expands as the series progresses
and intensifies as the battle for the Gaon’s second prophecy continues. And readers will find Brian Mullaney torn apart by
conflicting loyalties—protecting the ambassador, salvaging his marriage and his family, unmasking a traitor in the highest
echelons of the State Department—while entangled in a lethal battle with the emissaries of incarnate evil.
More on Brennan can be found at He is also on Facebook (Terry Brennan) and Twitter