Twins—one blessed, one cursed—come of age independently before an impending war and their parts in a prophecy ultimately reunite them in this debut fantasy.
Amazon queen Elektra’s resistance to the temptations of male flesh earns her immortality from Goddess Hera, who won a wager on gender superiority against Zeus. Centuries later, Zeus, by way of trickery, seduces Elektra, and Hera vows to curse the unborn child. Elektra births fraternal twins; she blesses firstborn Thea and entrusts her to mystic Seema, but Hera, witnessing the second child’s delivery, curses the infant to a life of hardship. Thea spends her years in an Amazon tribe, training to become a Sondra, the fiercest of warriors. Meanwhile, readers are introduced to Teigra, who lives as a slave and suffers atrocities, primarily at the hands of men, whom she grows to despise and distrust. Seema finally tells Thea of her destiny (which surprisingly entails a twin) —to become the next Amazon queen by seeking the Golden Girdle, a powerful belt Elektra left behind that will soon be in an evil king’s possession. That king is surely Prince Zarek of the city-state of Argos, whose affinity for cruelty and murder could mean war if he sits upon the throne. Despite shades of Wonder Woman, Ben-Yochanan’s epic tale, the first in a series, has more in common with Game of Thrones. It’s relentlessly violent, sometimes involving Teigra’s brutal retaliation for beatings or much worse. A few of those acts cast her in the role of antihero, a fitting addition to the strong, diverse female characters, including Laria, the tribal queen’s granddaughter who dislikes Thea, and Melia, Thea’s potential love interest. “Men are all pigs,” Teigra says, which is certainly true for most of the ones here; unfortunately, their general interchangeability makes them predictable (depraved desires are immediately evident). Notwithstanding the story’s bleakness, the prose melds into unassuming poetry: sex may be “exploration, pure and simple,” but it’s not “any less satisfying and sweet.”
A grand and evocative Amazon tale; the ending should leave readers restless for a sequel.