Today is my first day in a while that I’ve had off work without needing to go shopping or having company over. And, although I enjoy doing both those things sometimes, it’s so nice to spend a day just relaxing at home.
I sat out in the sun reading a nonfiction book and sipping coffee, journaling a ton, and then got caught up on housework and cleaned out my fridge because I’m going to be visiting my family for about two weeks.
This afternoon I took a nap and finished reading King’s Shadow. I’m excited about this for several reasons, including the fact that after being behind with book reviews for far too long I’m finally caught up! I’m so thankful for the grace the publishing companies/review sites showed me when life didn’t go according to plan and I got behind.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Two women occupy a place in Herod’s court. The first, Salome, is the king’s only sister, a resentful woman who has been told she is from an inferior race, a people God will never accept or approve.
The second woman, Zara, is a lowly handmaid who serves Salome, but where Salome spies conspiracies and treachery, Zara sees hurting people in need of understanding and compassion.
Powerful and powerless, Idumean and Jew, selfish and selfless–both women struggle to reach their goals and survive in Herod the Great’s tumultuous court, where no one is trustworthy and no one is safe.
WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK
In July of 2017, I received the first book in The Silent Years series for review. It’s titled Egypt’s Sister (read the review here) and totally intrigued me. I’d never read a book that took place during the Silent Years before, and I right away set about researching that time period.
Over the last couple of years, I bought books 2 (Judah’s Wife which I gave three stars) and 3 (Jerusalem’s Queen which also got three stars from me) when they were released. The crazy thing I was didn’t even really like the storyline of either of those books, but the writing, world-building, and research were so well done that I kept going with the series. When this book was released I jumped at the chance to review it.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK
My admiration for the author is strong. I can’t even imagine the number of historical documents she had to shift through to write this book, nor how much notetaking she had to commit to in order to keep everything straight. Considering the sheer amounts of Herod’s, Alexandra/Alexander’s, and Mariamne’s that were mentioned in this book I’m amazed by how smoothly the storyline flowed and how well I was able to understand what was going on. Seriously though, why did everyone use the same names? (Actually, not seriously, I understand why.)
As far as storylines go, I thought the author made a bold (and wise) move by having the story be from the perspective of the “bad guy” – although you never feel like that when you’re reading. Most of the story is told by Salome, the sister of Herod, a person who was very loyal to him. Therefore, as we read about the atrocities that Herod committed, it’s through the eyes of someone who’s only seeing his best and always justifying his actions. If you were reading the book just paying attention to tone instead of content, then it would seem that everything that is going on is perfectly normal and acceptable. It’s only when you stop and consider what is actually happening that you realize how terrible it really is.
This perspective was well done and made the story flow in a way that I’m not used to. Instead of focusing on emotions that you’d normally feel while reading about someone in history doing horrible things, those violent acts were just stated as facts and then you move on. For instance, when King Herod had someone he’d loved very much be executed, he then went crazy for a while. Since we’re reading from the perspective of Salome, we focus on her sadness that her brother is having a hard time, and the way she tries to help him, vs. the fact that the man is a brutal, savage madman.
Because of this lack of emotion and the way Salome merely recites facts (“And then he had 300 Jews killed in a mad fit, but hey – the guy has to protect his throne.”) it made the book a lot more bearable to read than if it had gone into how horrible everything was. If this story was merely fiction I wouldn’t have liked the approach at all, but since it’s based on true facts I appreciated being able to read and learn this way.
The other perspective is from Zara (a made-up character) who is Salome’s Jewish handmaid. Her chapters weren’t very often, but she did provide an interesting balance to Salome’s cut-throat and scheming ways. Since her perspective isn’t really prevalent in the story I felt like we didn’t get to know her well as a character, but I have nothing bad to say about her.
The book covers about a 30ish year period of time, which isn’t something I generally like, but for the sake of this story, I think it was well-done.
I’ve learned so much through this series, and I find myself being satisfied with King’s Shadow as the final book.
There’s a lot of horrible stuff that goes on in the book. So much plotting, killing, torture (not in detail) scheming, lying, and un-holy relationships.
But, nothing was written in detail (probably about as much as if you were reading the Bible), and I think the author did a really good job of making the time period come alive without saying too much. I think I would recommend this book to people fifteen and older.
I’m giving King’s Shadow 4 out of 5 stars. I’m thankful to Bethany House Publishers for giving me a copy so I could review it for y’all.