This book left me feeling very torn. On the one hand, it was really a great read. On the other hand, it seemed that there was an underlying agenda that the author refused to admit (or realize). At times, it seemed a little like Bart Ehrman's book--only half the story gets told to bend the conclusion. Of course, Wilken admits that he is not telling the whole story, but he leads the reader to believe that he is being fair. Allow me a few examples. Wilken admits that Augustine is the giant of early Christian thought, and quotes him in every chapter, and on almost every subject. However, when he begins to talk about free-will, there is no talk of Augustine, and Wilken says that all the early fathers believed in free-will. While Augustine may have been in the minority, the average reader (to whom the book is written, as purported by Wilken) would have no other idea. Also, Wilken talks about the monothelite controversy. Usually, he deals with all the bishops and emporers on both sides of a debate. However, in this discussion, he fails to mention Honorius, prelate of Rome. This would be unknown to the average reader, but seems (to me) that it would be important enough to mention. There are a few other, mostly minor, examples of things like this. It all seems to be an apologetic for Roman Catholicism. While that's fine to write an apologetic for your church, telling half the story is deceitful.
That being said, the book is a good read. It flows well, and is enjoyable. Technical terms (usually Greek or Latin words) are explained and used in useful ways. The book contains a good amount of information, yet is presented in an understandable way and is made easy to remember. It isn't just another book on early church history--it traces other things like poetry, etc. Another underlying theme is that knowledge of God is not true knowledge until it is experienced. It seems simple enough, but Wilken explains it quite well. And to this end, I agree with another reviewer, that there is a devotional, not just academic, use for this book.
The negative side of this review shouldn't deter anyone from reading it. This book is a great read, but it needs to be read with discernment (of course, everything does).