The story opens with an old king, one who has had his claws and fangs pulled. Indeed, he is not a particularly impressive specimen. Through the course of one night, his memory flashes back to younger days. David started off as a court entertainer – a poet, a dancer, a harp player. But then one decision after another leads David down a road of tough choices, choices that often lead to blood. Set in the land of Israel in the 1st or 2nd century BC, we watch as David rises in power, watch as that power is snatched away, and then watch as David claws that power back.
This story was new to me as I am not religious, though I am pretty certain that the life of David is chronicled in the Christian and Hebrew bibles. So some of you may already be familiar with many of the details of this story. Even I, who lives under a rock, had heard the tale of David versus Goliath. I have to admit that my overall ignorance of David and his deeds added to my pleasure in discovering this tale through this book. except for the David versus Goliath fight, I had no idea what would happen to David. So, yes I fretted over him.
He started off so simple and care-free. He was a court entertainer and a bit of a ladies’ man. A young lad soon to be a man who had little a need to be noticed. Of course, the King (King Saul) offers him a daughter’s hand in marriage for defeating Goliath. This turns out to be a bit of a ruse and David ends up with another daughter. But don’t worry, later in the story he collects a few more wives. He has plenty of companionship in the bedroom. Just as he has plenty of conflict in the king’s court and later in the battlefield.
David is a complicated guy. He starts off on a bit of a lark, off for adventure. Then marriage and court intrigue send him into a series of conflicts that bloody his hands. By the end of the book, we have a very different picture of David. I am not sure I like the man he turned into, even as I am sure that I am quite intrigued by him. The ending left me ready for the sequel in the series, wanting to know if David can redeem himself of his misdeeds, or if I am going to want to behead him.
My few criticisms are small, as I quite enjoyed my time with this book. The first partly stems from my own cultural and (perhaps) historical ignorance. There is a scene where David must collect the foreskins of 100 Philistines. Now I assume that the only way to do that is to convert the uncut men to Judaism, and part of that conversion means the willing circumcision. The other option is to kill the Philistine men and then collect their foreskins. I can only imagine that would be a grisly task left to servants and they would probably do it quickly, so there might be a few extra tips thrown in with the foreskins. Ugh! Oh, and these were a wedding present. As you can see, I had to make some assumptions there as to why David would be tasked with foreskin collection duty.
The other criticism is that the ladies are mostly wives and sex objects. We’re told one lady (Abigail, I think) is particularly clever, but in the few lines she had, I did not see it. The ladies don’t seem to have anything other than David to talk about, so I didn’t get a sense of their personalities.
Still, with those in mind, I did enjoy this book, and I enjoyed learning a bit of history from it. David is a complex character that evolves through out the book and while I may not end up liking him and wanting to have him over for tea, I want to know more about him.
The Narration: David George made a good David, scoffing and pouting and womanizing in all the right places. He also did a good job expressing incredulity (like the numerous times King Solomon has to throw his spear at someone in court). I especially liked his voice of the taunting David when certain items were liberated (quietly and sneakily) from an enemy’s camp. His female voices were rather similar, but as the women didn’t have major roles and didn’t chat with one another, it was easy to keep their characters apart.