Map of the Mahari kingdom from The Mantle.

Review of The Mantle


The Mantle doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, but the Illumination Book Awards weren’t wrong when they gave it the Silver Medal in the Inspirational/Romance category. Awards go to “the year’s best new titles… with a Christian worldview.” The novel’s main characters, a cultured tribe known as the Mahari, are guided by the values of their Maker: mercy, redemption, wisdom and prophecy. They live by tribal laws born out of self-preservation, which include a ban on writing.


Introduced as “the Mahari love story” on the novel’s beautiful book jacket – original full-color art by Joyce Harlukowicz graces it throughout – there’s plenty of romance in The Mantle. But the real love story is the one between the written word and the author. Learn the Words, Live the Words, Love the Words, words that tell the stories of our lives.


At times the pace of The Mantle is frustratingly slow, leaving the reader wondering when something is going to happen, and searching for clues like the Mahari search for words in their tapestries. Then you realize it is happening, all around; the awkward and beautiful minutiae of life. That’s what the author wants us to focus on, averting our eyes from the hard, the painful and the malevolent. We only see the aftermath. We’re only permitted glimpses of the novel’s villain, Stebin, in very brief chapters.


Despite this oblique approach, the detailed culture and characters, plus some mystery and intrigue, keep the reader interested until the plot finally crescendos into a celebration of the written word and its power to connect us.


Cathleen Hagan

Writer, Editor and Author of The Hart & Horn

Illumination Book Awards logo

2019 Silver Medalist


"(Iris Lee Underwood) has created quietly heroic men, women and children who struggle and win... to preserve and change the history of their people."

Tudi Harwood

"I strongly suggest you obtain a copy of the Mantle, add a log to the fire and lose yourself in this magical tale."

John D. Zimmerly

"Once you are introduced to all the characters in this tale of an ancient civilization it is hard to put it down."

Melanie Di Censo-Dhan