Niko’s (The Oracle, 2015, etc.) historical novel focuses on King Solomon and his first wife.
The year is 965 B.C.E., and a young King Solomon is pleased to see the temple planned by his father, King David, being built in Jerusalem. With the wise priest Zadok by his side, Solomon seems “destined for the role he had stepped into: leading God’s chosen people into a new era of greatness and prosperity.” The temple under construction is meant to convey such greatness and will eventually hold the Ark of the Covenant. For his grand scheme, though, Solomon requires a large quantity of gold, and obtaining such a treasure will require negotiation with the often hostile Egyptians. Solomon is untroubled by such a proposition, and he travels to Zoan with a small contingent to meet with Pharaoh Psusennes II. In the process of acquiring the gold, Solomon becomes mesmerized by the pharaoh’s daughter Nicaule. A marriage pact is soon formed that seals peace between the kingdoms of Egypt and Israel. If Nicaule’s unhappiness is any indication, however, such peace is tepid at best. Nicaule is forced to leave behind both her homeland and her lover, Shoshenq, a situation she is powerless to prevent and that leaves her far from cheerful. Will she ever be able to return to Egypt? Will she ever feel any loyalty to Solomon and his reign? Following the plot as Nicaule gives birth, Zadok marvels at the completed temple, and Solomon begins his long decline, the reader is given a view of this legendary time in digestible portions. Although the dialogue tends toward the grand (as when Solomon tells Nicaule: “Your voice is like honey dripping from the belly of a fig”), the story progresses in such a way as to be believable, in increments inspired more by historical possibilities than historical hyperboles. More than a mere biblical bodice-ripper, the narrative provides a studied look at the time of this king and what it might mean, for instance, to visit Solomon’s Temple with its “altar of burnt offering, built of hewn stones with twelve steps leading up to the massive fire pit.”
An inviting look at an ancient king and the lives of those around him.