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Sumptuous historical novel set in King Solomon's time
on October 17, 2004
I did have a chance to see the galleys of this novel before publication last year and even give an opinion or two back to the author, and I thought then that this book looked to be very promising. Now, reading it in published form, I think "Wisdom's Daughter" is even better than India Edghill's previous book "Queenmaker"--the story of Queen Michal, Saul's daughter and David's consort.
In "Wisdom's Daughter", Edghill recreates the court of King Solomon and of Bilqis, Queen of Sheba. The author poses an answer to the riddle of the reason behind the Queen's long journey from far-off Sheba to Israel. What were the questions she wished to have answered that were so perplexing? It is rare that a queen would travel for months away from her realm and offer riches beyond imagination for information! Some have speculated that, in the Bible "all she desired" was to have a child by Solomon. Edghill proposes a far more intricate answer.
The writing is stylized though not overly florid, as befits the subject, and the imagery is rich and colorful. The stories of the other queens of Solomon are as interesting as Bilqis' own; a Sword Maiden from Troy, a sorceress who charms snakes to peer into the future, a breeder of tiny dogs, a Northerner whose blonde hair and pale skin is considered exotic and a princess of Cush (Nubia) who is "black but comely" as the Song of Songs states.
Bilqis is joined by Baalit, the splendid daughter of Solomon. She is brilliant and wise enough to rule as a Queen, but in Israel, her brothers, who are by and large quite inferior to her, will succeed to the throne. Characters from "Queenmaker" also make a reappearance, so this novel is in a sense a continuation of the first book. Howver, it stands entirely on its own as a novel. Together, they are fascinating historical fiction, more in the mythical style than in the factual, and filled with romance and adventure. A fine, pleasurable read. Recommended for those who love historical or fantasy fiction.