An Old Testament love triangle: the final installment of Halter’s bestselling trilogy of Biblical heroines, this book features his brightest star.
The beauteous Lilah must make a choice: the alien warrior who inflames her heart’s desire or her ascetic brother, bowing his head before the harsh dictates of merciless law? Antinoes the Persian, his comely thigh branded with a javelin scar, returns from battling the Greeks to Susa, his empire’s capital, and pell-mell into the arms of Lilah. Halter (Zipporah, Wife of Moses, 2005, etc.) makes it easy to understand Antinoes’ haste: The Jewish prize is Woman—part wisdom goddess, part juicy squeeze. She flutters a lot, too, and is given to drama, sort of an exclamation point with breasts. The pair have been soulmates since toddling times in the shadow of the Citadel a “hundred cubits above the River Shaour.” Lilah’s brother Ezra had joined in their playtime, but now he’s the dour disciple of the dying Baruch, a sage who dreams of his people’s return to their Promised Land. Ezra will inherit the promise but load the vision with the intolerance of a zealot: No Persian, he swears, will wed his lovely sister. Artaxerxes II, Persia’s King of Kings, gives Ezra the go-ahead for his exodus. Hordes then move with him to Jerusalem, Lilah in tow, where he utters his final fanatic proclamation: In order to preserve racial purity, all non-Jewish wives and their children must be banished. Lilah swoons less and less as the story progresses, in the end emerging as a beacon light for a kinder, gentler Yaweh. Generous with period detail—tunics, oiled beards and statues of Ahura Mazda—the clean, moving story neatly balances religious meditation and swift plot.