I saw "Garden of Madness" up for review on Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze review program, and I felt drawn to it. So, I signed up to review it, not even knowing what gem I had asked for.
I begin reading it, and was drawn into this Babylonian world so familiar to the biblical and historical one I was familiar with, and yet so new, fresh, and dark.
I couldn't put it down, I flew through it, and I didn't even bother to say, "just one more chapter", as I knew that would never come to be.
And I finished it in a matter of hours. All 337 pages of it. Done. I think I might have broken a new personal record, or at least scored close to my Phantom of the Opera record (started and finished POTO in one night).
So, here is my review of this book that is as dazzling and confusing as the land it is set in.
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world.
Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an indulgent palace life. But when her husband dies and a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own newfound freedom is threatened.
As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.
In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, one woman must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelite’s one God. Madness, sorcery and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk all – to save the kingdom, and to save herself.
But as the story progresses, we see Amytis for who she truly is, a woman who is falling apart, but must hold a throne together without the support of a King and husband.
And of course, her chilliness towards Tiamat is well explained, though, to divulge such facts now would be breaking the River Song code of "spoilers!"
Queen Amytis is only one, from Amel-Marduk, Tiamat, Pedaiah, Shadir, Daniel (of course Daniel was included! In fact, through this read, I've grown to truly desire to meet Daniel. What an amazing man he was. I think he is the sort of fellow I could confine in without being scolded, just kindly directed) and Nebuchadnezzar. His character was made so much more clearer. It was...amazing.
So, I remained gripping the sides of my proverbial chair, and thinking to myself, "there is no way this can turn out happy for everyone. There is no way Tiamat can fix this".
And you know what? I was right.
It came shockingly, like, a bucket of cold water I should have expected.
None of us can fix messes in this world. None of us can right wrongs.
At least, not alone.
But everything does turn out good for everyone in the end. (Expect for Shadir, but do I look like I care about him?).
But not my Tia's hand, nor by Daniel's, or any extremely awesome Jewish guy who I adored before Tia thought it cool. *hipster glasses*.
But by Yahweh's. things were an awful mess until she reached out to him, and begged for him to "take the wheel" as Carrie Underwood says.
That ice bucket of water reminded me of how often I do the same thing, I try to take control, to work things out all on my own, when Yahweh yearns to take it from my shoulder so he can deal with it.
I know, for me, it's easy to read the bible, and yet hard to picture all these people as REAL PEOPLE.
"Garden of Madness" brought all these places and people to life. It solidified their existence in my head.
The ending was incredibly sweet, alright? As it came to nearing a close, I kept looking at the amount of pages I had left, and thinking, "how? How will everything get sorted out?"
But it did. And it was so sweet, and delightful.
That's how I felt with this book.
Babylon and it's Hanging Gardens is suddenly such a real place.
A few other similar remarks are made, but there are never any actual happenings. It's enough to be a 13+ read, but not enough to warrant caution.
If there ever was a event where government was being overthrown and it wasn't bloody, do enlighten me, as I don't know of one.
I was nervous while going into this read, due to my last retelling of a biblical account from Thomas Nelson (wasn't so hot...actually, it was hot. Very hot. Hot and sensual. It wasn't so great. There. Much better wording).
But, I was pleasantly surprised, and I'm regretting getting this book in ebook format. I do believe I need it on my bookshelf promptly.
So, my rating?
It's a retelling of that mysterious time period when Nebuchadnezzar went through his humbling madness. It painted a picture of how the kingdom was kept safe by attackers or enemies within the palace.
But it's more it's a novel about searching and finding truth, be it pleasant or painful.
It's about pride, and learning to humble yourself before God.
It's about the complicated relationships within families, the ties, the bonds and strengths that hold us together.
And it's about trusting your well being, your very life, into God's hand; letting Him shelter you and yours beneath his wings, and giving the fight, whatever it is, into his capable hands.
And even with all that, I feel I haven't praised this book enough.