Thursday, April 05, 2012
Garden of Madness by Tracy L. Higley
Wow, this is an intense read-and I mean that in the best of ways! I started Garden of Madness last night around 8:00 pm and finished it at 4:00 am. I couldn't put it down, even though I knew I'd be seriously tired in the morning. There is just so much intrigue, mystery, and breathtaking, edge of your seat moments, that I had to see how everything turned out...
Here's the storyline:
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.
I have to say, that for me, one of the strongest elements in this book is the way author Tracy Higley evokes a real sense of atmosphere throughout. As Tia experiences layers of various emotions, the reader also shares that same apprehension, tightness in their chest, and dread of events to come. The tension keeps escalating until near breaking point, and you wonder what else can possibly happen.
The descriptions of Babylonian splendor are vivid, and the garden scenes between Tia and the beast like King Nebuchadnezzar, poignant. I honestly dreaded Tia's journeys to the pagan temple, as each visit seemed to pull her further into darkness, a strange madness even. I really felt the spiritual warfare, as good and evil are battling for control of the princess' mind.
However, despite the heaviness of subject, there was welcome relief from the intense oppression as Tia is counseled and prayed over by her trusted Jewish friends Daniel and Pedaiah. (Well, Pedaiah might not exactly be considered "friend" material, as he looks on all Babylonians as unclean idolaters that are best avoided at all cost. Most especially Tia, as he finds himself annoyingly attracted to his late brother's wife, despite his disgust with her excessive lifestyle and false gods.)
I really enjoyed the growing relationship between Tia and Pedaiah, unlikely as it seemed at the beginning. There's a slow, grudging acknowledgement of their mutual, ill advised, attraction, that turns into something really sweet and deep. I loved it. Tracey Higley also balances the religious aspects just right; not coming across too heavy handed, but allowing Tia to gradually see things with her own eyes, rather than be told what to believe.
As I said, the tension is awesome, along with the shiver of foreboding which accompanies you further and further into each chapter. I truly haven't read anything else quite like Garden of Madness, and found it refreshingly unique to explore this biblical story through a new vantage point. I was completely immersed in the world within these pages, and didn't want to leave!
I've not read anything else by Tracy L. Higley, but will definitely be picking up more of her books soon! I highly recommend Garden of Madness as an entertaining, thought provoking, eye opening, read that will stick with you long after you close its cover.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.