Title: The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen
Author: Tosca Lee
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Received from publisher
There is the story you know: A foreign queen, journeying north with a caravan of riches to pay tribute to a king favored by the One God. The tale of a queen conquered by a king and god both before returning to her own land laden with gifts.That is the tale you were meant to believe.
Which means most of it is a lie.
The truth is far more than even the storytellers could conjure. The riches more priceless. The secrets more corrosive. The love and betrayal more passionate and devastating.
Across the Red Sea, the pillars of the great oval temple once bore my name: Bilqis, Daughter of the Moon. Here, to the west, the porticoes knew another: Makeda, Woman of Fire. To the Israelites, I was queen of the spice lands, which they called Sheba.
In the tenth century BC, the new Queen of Sheba has inherited her father’s throne and all its riches at great personal cost. Her realm stretches west across the Red Sea into land wealthy in gold, frankincense, and spices. But now new alliances to the North threaten the trade routes that are the lifeblood of her nation. Solomon, the brash new king of Israel famous for his wealth and wisdom, will not be denied the tribute of the world—or of Sheba’s queen. With tensions ready to erupt within her own borders and the future of her nation at stake, the one woman who can match wits with Solomon undertakes the journey of a lifetime in a daring bid to test and win the king. But neither ruler has anticipated the clash of agendas, gods, and passion that threatens to ignite—and ruin—them both. An explosive retelling of the legendary king and queen and the nations that shaped history.
You should know by now how much I love my Biblical retellings. The Queen of Sheba has always interested me, mainly because there is so little account of her. The Bible doesn't even mention her name. (Quick PSA: a lot of people get confused/get it wrong. She is not Queen Sheba, she's the Queen OF Sheba. I've seen many people who think her name is Sheba, but that is not actually true.) And while I haven't read anything by Tosca Lee by herself, I've loved her books with Ted Dekker. So I knew I had to read this (and will definitely be picking up more of her books). Not to mention…look at that gorgeous cover.
The story starts with a young girl--Bilqis, daughter of the King of Saba (aka Sheba). She is then sent away to another place, where she is known as Makeda. But when she is 18, she goes back to Saba to claim the throne. She is back to being Bilqis, but she has a new name: Queen. She knows how wealthy Saba is, and she has plans to make it even greater. Until a traveling merchant brings her tales of a new king of a fairly new country. One who is deemed wise, serves only one God. King Solomon. The Queen thinks that such a new kingdom cannot be a match for her timeless one, but she would be wron. And soon, she finds herself traveling to Israel to confront this upstart.
This tale was so finely woven. The amount if research that went into this story is obvious. It took a while for me to get into it, and there were places where it lagged a bit. The pace could have picked up a bit more, as there were places where it seemed like not a lot was happening. But other than the few pacing issues, this was a fascinating read. It really brought life to this mysterious historical figure.
At first, I wasn't sure what to make of our main character (I still don't know what to call her, because giving her a name seems weird. Since she was Bilqis longer than Makeda, and just calling her "the Queen" seems strange, that's what we'll go with). While there were many aspects of her personality that I didn't like, I kept in mind that she was a female ruler of a country, and back then, that was hard (I mean, we can't even get a female president now). I admired her strength and courage, and resolve to rule an entire country (at my age! I don't even want to get out of bed most days).
This story actually painted King Solomon in a different light, as I didn't like him very much (well, I already had issues with him. Is that sacrilegious?). The part where the two of them were together went downhill for me, although not enough to ruin the story overall. But something about Solomon irked me.
Except for the parts it lagged, this was an exciting read. I actually found myself anxious at the end to find out how everything was resolved. But Tosca Lee is a master storyteller, and this is definitely one I would recommend.