I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by Blogging for Books, NetGalley, Waterbrook Press. I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.Isaiah's Daughter by Mesu Andrews
Series: Prophets and Kings #1
Published by Crown Publishing Group on 2018
Genres: Christian, Fiction, Historical, Religious
Source: Blogging for Books, NetGalley, Waterbrook Press
In this epic Biblical narrative, ideal for fans of The Bible miniseries, a young woman taken into the prophet Isaiah's household rises to capture the heart of the future king.
Isaiah adopts Ishma, giving her a new name--Zibah, delight of the Lord--thereby ensuring her royal pedigree. Ishma came to the prophet's home, devastated after watching her family destroyed and living as a captive. But as the years pass, Zibah's lively spirit wins Prince Hezekiah's favor, a boy determined to rebuild the kingdom his father has nearly destroyed. But loving this man will awake in her all the fears and pain of her past and she must turn to the only One who can give life, calm her fears, and deliver a nation.
"Andrews (The Pharaoh's Daughter) offers her unique brand of in-depth Bible knowledge and storytelling flair ... [she] is gifted at bringing the past to life..." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Biblical fiction can go one of only two ways, it can be done extremely well or it can do a complete 180 from that and be done completely so far from well that it’s well you know what 180 means. Even established amazing Biblical fiction authors can have those 180 books. Every time I pick one up I know the risks. Heck, I embrace the risks. It’s a genre I love and Mesu Andrews hit it out of the park with ‘Isaiah’s Daughter’. There were a few things that gave me pause but all in all this book made King Hezekiah and Queen Hephzibah come to life in all the right ways.
Let’s briefly glance over the things I was washy on and get to the good stuff. There were some word phrases and choices I wasn’t sure would have been relevant or appropriate during this time. ‘Two shakes of a lambs tail’ uttered by the midwife when she left to get poppy seed after Hephzibah’s first miscarriage. ‘Heartburn’ as mentioned by Hephzibah during her pregnancy when she talked about the burning in the back of her throat. This feels like a more recent reference term to me and less like it would have been a thing during the time of the Kings. Finally, when the doctor referred to Hezekiah’s illness as the ‘black death’. He referenced it to his time studying in Egypt and while the plague has been traced to potential roots in ancient Egypt I couldn’t find anything referencing that moniker for that time period. Outside those three measly word choices the other part that bugged me just a bit was the time jumps. I don’t mind time jumps generally, but until I was a bit into the chapter I wasn’t sure who was speaking or how much time had passed. It was annoying to occasionally have to go back and re-read the first paragraph or two to truly understand once I’d figured out who and how long. I was reading an advanced reader copy so it is possible that a simple header of each chapter was added to the final copy that would have prevented this confusion. Lastly, the Epilogue. Really? While I get ‘why’ it was included I feel like it did absolutely nothing to enhance the book and actually detracted from the story of Ishma/Hephzibah as a whole. This was her story from being a child refugee of war, to the adopted daughter of a prophet, to Queen of Judah. This was her story of finding her center in Yahweh and her love in Hezekiah and her place in history. This was not about her infant son with ten fingers and ten long narrow toes. This was not about his future but his beginning. Who he became took away from who she was. The epilogue can just go…m’kay?
Let’s talk good stuff, shall we? One thing I truly appreciated in this book was how it started with Ishma, renamed Hephzibah as a teen, as a young child. The horrors that are war were muted when told through a child’s view. Not that I think war, and the atrocities that go along with it, is something we should mute in our lives. We are forever dealing with that in society even today and when we choose to mute it then that gives it power to grow. However, that doesn’t mean that everything needs to be played out in our fiction. Getting to grow up with Ishma brought a wholeness to the story of the would be queen. I loved that each chapter was started with a verse relevant to the story as a whole and the chapter specifically. I loved the inclusion of prophecy and the arguments that it brought out in two people who truly loved each other. Let’s face it. I struggle with names and dates and timelines and all the things that come so easy to other people. I’ve studied Old Testament and the time of the Kings without much success in keeping it all straight or even the why things happened. Whey did the tribes split into two nations? Why were some so horridly evil? I’ve studied it but I’ve never truly understood it. I mean I still don’t, but for this brief moment in all of this, ‘Isaiah’s Daughter’ put just a part of that in perspective. OK, fine I’ll still be lost in the jumble of words that is the Kings. The truth is this story, with all the liberties that even Biblical fiction authors take in their words, brought this story of this king and his time on this earth into a perspective that I’ll never gain by Biblical study. Fiction that enhances truth by taking real people that walked this earth and make them relateable and knowable and whole again. Ultimately, that is what makes a great book.