Set in ancient Mesopotamia, King Sargon’s army has been conquering and laying claim to cities in his area for decades. For Princess Nindalla of Susa, this is the second time in her young like that Sargon’s Akkadians have conquered her home. Ur-sag-enki was once a farm boy. But the Akkadians changed all that when they destroyed his home and brought ruin to his family. Now, he is a soldier in the Akkadian army. He believes his destiny is tied to Nindalla’s but plots and violence keep driving them apart.
First, this is an awesome book. Second, I know the cover doesn’t convey all the awesomeness contained in this novel, so just push it to the side. There is indeed a romantic love story twined throughout this tale, but there is ever so much more going on. The world is richly conveyed to the reader in a thousand little ways – a few Sumerian words are sprinkled here and there, the way folks dress, swearing by and praying to the deities of the time, liberal consumption of beer, and love pouring forth from the liver (instead of the heart).
The characters have quite a bit of depth, having a history, but also growing throughout this story. The women are portrayed realistically for the time and culture, but they are not boring or simply decorative pieces moved here and there. Princess Nindalla especially is critical for the plot, not because she is the love interest of Ur-sag-enki, but because she has political power and a brain. I really enjoyed this character. She’s a mother of 3, so no shy blushing maiden here. Also, this ties her to the city, and she has to consider her children in each and every decision she makes for their lives may be greatly affected.
Ur-sag-enki wasn’t your average beau. He is a Sumerian of a conquered land living and working as a soldier in the enemy’s army. He has his reasons (ones that aren’t revealed til the end of the book) but his status brings him many enemies both within the Akkadian army and within the newly conquered Susa. Once, as a farm boy, he saw Nindalla from afar and knew then and there that she was his destiny. While that is a nice romantic touch, it fed into his motivations later one. Personally, I think his character would have made many of the same decisions concerning Nindalla even if he hadn’t fallen in love with her on first sight. But if you are a romantic, that will make you sigh and go all gooey hearted.
The plot was excellent. So much palace intrigue! So much army back stabbing! Both Ur-sag-enki and Nindalla have to navigate these treacherous waters, all the while not knowing if they can trust each other.
And there was beer. Now Mesopotamian beer isn’t like Coors or even a good porter. It was a nutritional part of the daily diet. Everyone (men, women, kids, elderly, pregnant ladies) consumed this beverage. It was great to see that the author didn’t shy away from showing this aspect of Mesopotamian life despite social norms of today concerning alcohol.
OK, so the cover. I’m not so hot on it. I assume the young man on the cover is meant to be Ur-sag-enki. However, he doesn’t have any scars, he doesn’t look like he’s been through hell and back, he’s not tanned or dark skinned as I pictured the character. While the cover is easy on the eyes it just doesn’t convey the awesomness contained in this story. And that is my only quibble about the book.
The Narration: Hollie Jackson was really goo with the voices. Her Princess Nindalla was excellent. She also was great at pronouncing the Sumerian words and the ancient Mesopotamian deities. My only criticism is that several times throughout the book there were do overs of a line or two. If it happens just once or twice in a book, I don’t mention it. However, with this book it happened a 4-6 times. Other than that, her performance was great.