BY MARC GRAHAM
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Blank Slate Press
Paperback; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings.
When Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father’s titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people’s survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people’s prosperity.
On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?
AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE
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.
Marc Graham studied mechanical engineering at Rice University in Texas, but has been writing since his first attempt at science fiction penned when he was ten. From there, he graduated to knock-off political thrillers, all safely locked away to protect the public, before settling on historical fiction. His first novel, Of Ashes and Dust, was published in March 2017.
He has won numerous writing contests including, the National Writers Assocation Manuscript Contest (Of Ashes and Dust), the Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest – Historical (Of Ashes and Dust, Song of Songs), and the Colorado Gold Writing Contest – Mainstream (Prince of the West, coming from Blank Slate Press in Fall 2019).
He lives in Colorado on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and in addition to writing, he is an actor, narrator, speaker, story coach, shamanic practitioner, and whisky afficianado (Macallan 18, one ice cube). When not on stage or studio, in a pub, or bound to his computer, he can be found hiking with his wife and their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
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