Daughter of Sand and Stone: Review
The benefits of having an Amazon Prime membership are many, and among them is the Prime Reading feature. There are several titles available for borrowing from Amazon and they can be sent straight to my Kindle, or to a Kindle reading app. Daughter of Sand Stone, a historical fiction novel by Libbie Hawker, immediately caught my eye when it was offered by Amazon Prime, and I was pleasantly surprised by it!
When Zenobia takes control of her own fate, will the gods punish her audacity?
Zenobia, the proud daughter of a Syrian sheikh, refuses to marry against her will. She won’t submit to a lifetime of subservience. When her father dies, she sets out on her own, pursuing the power she believes to be her birthright, dreaming of the Roman Empire’s downfall and her ascendance to the throne.
Defying her family, Zenobia arranges her own marriage to the most influential man in the city of Palmyra. But their union is anything but peaceful—his other wife begrudges the marriage and the birth of Zenobia’s son, and Zenobia finds herself ever more drawn to her guardsman, Zabdas. As war breaks out, she’s faced with terrible choices.
From the decadent halls of Rome to the golden sands of Egypt, Zenobia fights for power, for love, and for her son. But will her hubris draw the wrath of the gods? Will she learn a “woman’s place,” or can she finally stake her claim as Empress of the East?
I think the key to a good historical fantasy is to do a lot of research, and it's clear that Libbie Hawker has done just that. The focus of Daughter of Sand and Stone is Zenobia, a figure about whom historians don't actually know very much. So it's impressive that the setting of the story is so detailed and lush, and the characters are so multi dimensional in their loves, hates, motivations, and interests.
The book is broken into three sections, or three parts of Zenobia's life. When we first meet her, she is the pampered daughter of a powerful man, who longs for political power over being a trophy wife. We follow stages of Zenobia's life as she ascends to this power. It's full of political intrigue, military strategy, and of course, a romance for the ages. It makes sense to tell Zenobia's story this way, for how can you cram an entire person's life into a single novel? But still, the parts were choppy in the way they segued from one to the next. I was particularly interested by Zenobia's childhood and her relationship with the guard Zabdas. But the pacing of the book is aggressive as it tries to cover both the rise and fall of Zenobia's empire.
Hawker's writing is phenomenal, given how sparse source material around Zenobia's history is. However, she was portrayed as a really arrogant and somewhat unlikeable character in her quest for power. Her hubris is her character flaw, and it's something she struggles with for most of the book- toeing the line between giving into her desires and putting them aside to gain power.
Daughter of Sand and Stone is a compelling read that left me wanting more. I give major props to Hawker for turning Zenobia into such a multidimensional character and telling her story in such a respectful way.
I rate Daughter of Sand and Stone 3/5 stars.