Friday, June 1, 2012

Booksneeze: Garden of Madness

Garden of Madness by Tracy Higley

The Untold Story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Daughter.
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.
Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.
As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.
In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelite’s one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all – to save the kingdom, and to save herself.
My thoughts:
I was intrigued by the summary of this book.  I haven't seen many (if any) stories about ancient Babylon or King Nebuchadnezzar's family.  The book of Daniel in the Bible, which records most of what we know about King N, is one of my favorites so I was excited to see what this author had come up with.
I liked the character of Tiamat.  She is a strong female heroine who isn't very princess-like.  She has a workout room where she punches bags and uses pulleys to strengthen her arms. She also races chariots, which is a unique sport in itself and even more unique when a princess does it.  Tia is only satisfied with the truth and refuses to be used as a pawn by others.  Other central characters, like Tiamat's mom and her late husband's brother, Pedaiah, are also fully developed and well-rounded. 

As for the story and the mystery involved, it's pretty good.  There were several plot twists that I did not anticipate which were new and interesting.  I did think the mystery was a little drawn out.  There were periods of the book that didn't really advance the story, but I could overlook those sections because I thought the premise was just so original.
I thought Higley also did a great job of presenting the supernatural elements in the book - the demons that were masquerading as Babylon gods - and the oppression that they cause.
My only issue with the book was Higley's portrayal of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He's insane for most of the book (as he is in the book of Daniel as well), so our knowledge of his character comes from his daughter.  She remembers her father as a loving, caring and great man who did things for the good of his people.  My study of King N in the Bible tells differently.  It shows a ruthless, arrogant man who would do anything for power, including kidnapping his enemies children and forcing them to live in Babylon and work for him.  Maybe King N changed for the better and became a follower of Yahweh at the end of his life (that is definitively the author's view), but that's hard for me to believe.  Seeing as history doesn't tell us King N"s character at the end of his life, I guess Higley is entitled to her opinion.
Overall, Garden of Madness was a well-written, entertaining book.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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