Title: Daughter of Sand and Stone: A Novel Empress Zenobia
Author: Libbie Hawker
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Copyright: December 1, 2015
Format: E-Book, 332 Pages, $9.00 [Amazon Paperback], $6.99 [Kindle], $0.00 [KindleUnlimited], $7.34 [Audible], $8.77 [Barnes & Noble Paperback], $24.13 [Barnes & Noble Hardcover], $11.88 [Barnes & Noble Audiobook], $9.95 [iBooks Audiobook]
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?
Zenobia bat-Zabbai, the heroine of Daughter of Sand and Stone is no ordinary Palmyrene woman. Her father is Zabbai, the Great Chief of the Amlaqi tribe and her mother is Berenikë, a direct descendant of the legendary Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. Possessing illustrious descent and a father loved by all Palmyrenes, one can only expect a glorious destiny for Zenobia.
The story unfolds as four richly-dressed women are gathered together on a rooftop to stave off the oppressive heat of the day. There at the Oasis of Tadmor, the four women amuse themselves with gossip, embroidery, and games. Berenikë, mother of the three women, is a small but clever lady who attempts to keep two of her daughters from quarreling with each other. Nafsha, the oldest daughter (and very paragon of propriety) is a haughty married woman who looks down on her youngest sister because she is still unmarried. Worse yet, Zenobia has refused eight suitors. As the youngest daughter, Zenobia has a nonchalant, tough as nails attitude. Most of all she is determined that if she marries, she will marry someone who will elevate her status far above that of her sisters. She is convinced that the gods have a higher calling for her than being the wife of some nobody. The fourth woman present is Zabibah, the middle child who is naturally sweet by nature and who has a tendency to shy away from conflict.
While these women are gathered together on the roof, they hear someone announce that Zabbai, the great Amlaqi Chief has been slain by the Tanukh, a rival tribe who are vying for power. What ensues is panic and chaos. Understandingly, Berenikë takes the news hard and retreats to her chamber with Nafsha and Zabibah following her dutifully. While her sisters go to comfort their mother, Zenobia does the most unexpected thing possible. She decides that she will face uncertain danger and adventure into the desert to find her brother-in-law Antiochus. This is not proper conduct for the daughter of an Amlaqi Chief and Nafsha hastily reminders her of this. With a great sense of urgency, Zenobia embarks on her journey into the desert. What awaits her there? One can only conjecture.
Daughter of Sand and Stone is a classical story of a warrior queen, much like Cleopatra, who rose to power. Author, Libbie Hawker brings the character of Zenobia (who was a real person) to life in the pages of this well-researched and clever literary masterpiece. I was entirely enchanted by Zenobia who is strong in a time where women are looked down upon and encouraged not to be so. From the beginning, she makes it clear that she will not be bound by social conventions that control other women. Zenobia is a woman in a league of her own. While the story started off very strong with Zenobia’s heroism and bravery in the desert, but I feel like she lost her edge in the latter half of the story. In certain points, my interest did begin to wane.
Overall, I absolutely adored Libbie Hawker’s writing style. It was a richly woven, beautiful tapestry created so skillfully. It was an experience and a joyous sensation. I felt like I was there in the 3rd century, witnessing every event firsthand. In the future, I will definitely be looking into Ms. Hawker’s other works. Four Crowns for a magnificent story.