I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way. I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.
Half-sisters Bilkis and Makeda are daughters of the Mukarrib or chieftain of Saba. When a flood overruns the land, Bilkis does her best to protect Makeda, but Blikis is swept away in the waters for her efforts. Bilkis is believed to have perished in the flood, but is found by merchants making their way to Yisrael. On their journey, Bilkis' caravan is attacked and she is claimed by the King of Yisrael. Bilkis soon learns the ways of a Queen and orchestrates people and events to her whims. Bilkis grows and secures her son to the throne, ruling still through him. She decides a temple should be built and is surprised when stonemason Yeltzer is chosen for the job. In Saba, Makeda has earned her place as Mukarrib after her father passed and her mother sacrificed after building a dam to secure water for Saba's future. Years pass and the earthen dam is soon to fail. When Makeda learns of a builder of stone, she follows a a trader to Yisrael to discover her sister once again.
The story of the Queen of Sheba is veiled in mystery. The time period of around 550 BCE is not very well documented, however Marc Graham manages to bring the stories of Bilkis, Makeda and Yeltzer alive. In addition to these characters that the narrative alternates between, the landscape, dwellings, rituals and beliefs are richly described. I was amazed at how well I could connect with the lives of these people that lived so long ago. Their motivations and emotions resonated through the years. Bilkis and Makeda's relationship as well as their choices made while Queen were incredibly interesting. Bilkis and Makeda are two sides of the same coin, both strong leaders who are destined to rule; yet, one is guided by force and manipulation and the other with care and sympathy for her people. Yeltzer's character as the builder of the Temple of Urusalim was fascinating to follow, his life seemed destined to be continuous trial and heartbreak and he always seemed to make to best of his situation. The journeys of all three characters ends with the promise of more, and I would love to read more. The story of these characters and the writing carries through and resonates throughout many years creating a harmony of time and place, bringing to life a story of people who have only been known to us through a few verses of religious texts.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.