The Marus Manuscripts, Volume 1 — “Passages” Series


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

The Marus Manuscripts, volume 1 by Paul McCusker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Passages” series.

Plot Summary

This book is a compilation of the first three Marus Manuscripts.

Darien’s Rise
Siblings Kyle and Anna enter the world of Marus through an abandoned house in their grandparents’ woods. Kyle finds himself at the side of Marutian general Darien, who is on a secret mission for King Lawrence. Kyle saves the general’s life from an enemy.

Anna ends up in a closet in one of the rooms of the king’s palace in Marus. She overhears a plot between Lawrence and Gen. Liddel to get rid of Darien. Anna is found and sold as a slave, but a mysterious old man named the Old Judge rescues her.

Kyle follows Darien back to Marus as his personal attaché. It seems that Kyle can sense whenever Darien is in danger. He doesn’t exactly understand this mysterious power, but it is very useful.

Anna dreams she sees what the king and other people are doing. She is scared of this ability and tries to hide it. The Old Judge senses her power and helps her cultivate it through belief in the Unseen One, whom the Old Judge serves as a prophet. He sends her to a convent outside the Marutian capital to be trained in how to use her gift.

The king thinks Darien wants to seize power, and he plots to kill the general. Lawrence’s daughter, Michelle, who is to become Darien’s wife, warns Darien about the plot. Darien flees Marus with Kyle, stopping briefly at the convent to rest. Lawrence orders Liddel to murder the inhabitants of the convent in revenge for helping Darien. Anna barely escapes with her life and finds herself in the house of a sorcerer who calls on the spirits of the dead.

Soldiers join Darien on the borders of Marus. They free a border town from Palatians’ occupation. Lawrence hears of their activities and marches to the border with an army to kill Darien. However, before he can kill him, news reaches him of a Palatian invasion.

Darien decides to help the king defeat the Palatians. Lawrence becomes indecisive and decides to consult the spirit of the Old Judge, who has recently died. He visits the sorcerer, and the Old Judge’s spirit tells him that the battle will go ill and that he, the king, will be killed.

The Palatians defeat the Marutians, and Lawrence commits suicide to prevent himself from being captured. Kyle flees to a cave, and a Palatian soldier hits him on the head with his weapon. Kyle passes out.

Anna is sent home. She finds herself back in the abandoned house with Kyle, who has a lump on his head. He is taken to the hospital but is fine. He and Anna lose their miraculous powers, but leave with a stronger faith in God, whom they recognize as The Unseen One.

Arin’s Judgment
Wade enjoys studying about modern weapons and bombs. When he discovers a copy of the plans for the atomic bomb, he hides it, for fear that someone will hurt him to take the plans. Although he is home and sick with the flu, he shovels coal into his family’s furnace and accidentally enters Marus.

Wade meets Arin and his family, who are building a shelter to prepare for the doom that the Unseen One has told them is coming. They live in a compound walled off from the rest of Marus, which is in turmoil with different tribes and factions bombing each other.

Wade foolishly climbs over the compound wall, and two men abduct him. They take him to where the leaders of Marus are meeting to figure out a solution to their national problems. The leaders don’t believe Wade is from another world. They order that he be taken to a secure location to be kept until needed; however, the two men double-cross the city leaders and take Wade to Tyran, a radical visionary who lives in a castle outside the city.

Tyran treats Wade like a friend, as does Dr. Lyst, who is helping Tyran discover how to make weapons superior to those of their enemies. Naturally, Wade’s knowledge of modern technology is useful to Tyran and Lyst, and he helps them make gunpowder bombs. Tyran misuses the discoveries, becomes the sole leader and turns into a tyrant.

Then Tyran encounters another problem — an incurable disease spreads across Marus. The disease kills people by the thousands. After Lyst and Wade protest Tyran’s dictatorship, he locks them in prison.

Tyran dies from the disease, and Lyst and Wade break out of prison. Lyst becomes ill, and he tells Wade that the judgment that Arin spoke of has come upon the world. The mysterious disease came from Wade’s flu. The Marutians had no defenses against it. Wade leaves, and Lyst dies by blowing up Tyran’s castle.

Wade goes to Arin’s compound and sees that Arin and his family have taken refuge in the underground shelter. Wade pounds on the door, and Arin eventually lets him in. Wade feels responsible for the death of all the Marutians, but Arin explains that the Unseen One used Wade to fulfill his plans. Wade falls asleep and finds himself back in his own room, but with a deeper understanding of how God uses people.

Annison’s Risk
Madina (Maddy), daughter of Russian immigrant parents, has dreams in which a dark-haired princess asks her for help. Not long after the dreams, Maddy crawls under her parents’ front porch and finds herself in the middle of a street in Marus.

Neighboring Palatia has conquered Marus, and a procession to the capital of Marus will end with the new leader becoming king of Marus. The Palatian king, Willem, proclaims a public holiday and announces his marriage to a Marutian princess, Annison. She looks exactly like the princess in Maddy’s dreams.

Maddy finds a way into the palace to help Annison, but she becomes lost. She meets a guard named Simet, who reveals that he is Annison’s adoptive father. Maddy tells Simet about her dreams. He believes the dreams are the work of the Unseen One.

Maddy finds the princess and thinks she is supposed to help Annison find her true love, but Annison chooses to do her duty and marry the king. Annison asks Maddy to be her messenger to talk to Simet. She tells her to be careful of Lord Hector, the king’s personal assistant, who only looks out for his own interests. After leaving Annison, Maddy overhears two officials and Lord Hector plotting to poison the king’s wine that night at a banquet. She goes at once to find Simet.

At the banquet, two of the conspirators are arrested. Lord Hector suspects that the plot has been uncovered and makes a public show of defending the king. Annison, Maddy and Simet keep their knowledge of his involvement to themselves.

Lord Hector blames the conspiracy on believers of the Old Faith, those who believe in the Unseen One. After their wedding, the king and queen go on a month-long honeymoon. They leave Hector in charge of Marus.

Hector arrests members of the Old Faith the whole time the king is gone. He wants to purge all believers as a present for the king. When Willem and Annison return, Maddy tells Annison what has happened. Then Hector arrests Simet.

Maddy wants Annison to tell the king, but Annison reminds her of a Palatian law. The queen can’t visit the king unless she is invited. Maddy suggests a “chance” meeting, and Annison agrees to take the risk.

Annison asks the king and Lord Hector to have lunch with her the next day. She also gives him a story she has written. The king happily agrees to read it later.

The next day, before the lunch begins, a servant arrives from the king summoning her to the reception room because he has requested an audience. Annison wonders what will happen and leaves hurriedly to meet the king.

The queen enters. He asks her if her story is real. He wants to know if she was an orphan girl raised by a guard and if that guard uncovered the plot to kill the king. He also wants to know if the people flattering the king imprisoned the man.

Annison tells him to treat the story hypothetically and asks if the king would want to free such a man. Willem responds that of course the king would. Annison tells him about Simet. The king asks about the girl in the story. Before Annison can answer, Lord Hector enters. Annison suggests that the king speak to Hector hypothetically about this story.

The king asks Hector what he should do for a man who has served him faithfully and has not been properly rewarded. Hector says that he would make a banquet, invite all the man’s friends and present him with a medal or medallion of some sort. He also adds that if the man was particularly faithful, the king might reward him with a house and estates in the country. Hector thinks the king wants to honor him.

The king tells Hector that the man he wishes to honor is Simet and asks why he is in the dungeon. Lord Hector attempts a response, and the king snubs him. Lord Hector leaves, and the king asks if Annison is satisfied. She says she is. But the king thinks there is more to the story. She promises to tell him the rest of the story at lunch.

At lunch, the king questions Hector about his activities and accuses him of plotting to murder the king. Hector eventually confesses, and guards take him away. The king asks Annison to always tell him the truth. She says she will. That night Simet is given Lord Hector’s position. The next night, Maddy returns home.

Christian Beliefs

The Marus Manuscripts are thinly veiled biblical allegories. “Darien’s Rise” is a retelling of the story of King David; “Arin’s Judgment” is a retelling of the story of Noah; and the story of Esther is detailed in “Annison’s Risk.”

Other Belief Systems

Some people in Marus believe in “The Unseen One.” Some of the other inhabitants, as well as the people of the nations surrounding Marus, believe in false gods.

Authority Roles

Darien and his officers expect complete obedience from their soldiers, but in turn swear allegiance to the king of Marus. The Old Judge asserts his authority over the people of Marus and over the king because he is the messenger for the Unseen One. King Lawrence expects obedience from his subjects. However, he abuses his authority when he desires absolute power, and when he kills the inhabitants of the convent.

Arin expects his family to respect his leadership and do as he tells them. He is a strong leader, but kind. Tyran and Dr. Lyst abuse their power by using the information Wade gives them to terrorize the people.

King Willem becomes a wise king because of the counsel of Queen Annison. Simet, a respected official, uses his authority to help the believers of the Unseen One. Lord Hector uses his power to try to exterminate the believers of the Unseen One.

Profanity & Violence

Darien swordfights with a Palatian soldier. Several soldiers die during battles with the Palatians and other countries, and King Lawrence kills himself. A Palatian soldier hits Kyle on the head with his gun. Gen. Liddell puts Anna in prison, and a slave trader drags her through the street. She fights him before the Old Judge saves her. Gen. Liddel and King Lawrence massacre the occupants of a convent outside the capital of Marus.

Marus during Arin’s time is a violent place. Explosions are heard throughout the story. Wade is kidnapped by two professional thugs and taken to the city council. Tyran blows up Liven’s house as a demonstration, and Liven’s housekeeper is killed in the explosion. The mobs in Marus begin beating up each other in anger when the secret of the housekeeper’s death is revealed. Because of his blond hair, Wade is chased by mobs threatening to kill him. When infected by a mysterious disease, people in Marus begin dying.

Lord Hector plans to kill all the believers of the Unseen One by hanging them on a 40-foot gallows. The king’s soldiers hit an old woman in the city when they are searching her house.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at

Additional Comments

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected]

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email