The Last Queen of Sheba by Jill Francis Hudson is a highly interesting and plausible account of the relationship between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Ms. Hudson based her fictional story on several sources, including the Bible in which very little is written. The Queen of Sheba appears very briefly in the Old Testament, and the Bible just says that she came to question Solomon because she had heard of his fame. If the reader can keep an open mind and be receptive to the authors blending of various thoughts and speculations about the encounter between Solomon and Sheba and the outcome of it, the story will be a very enjoyable and entertaining one. The authors historical note at the end is informative about beliefs, thought, and culture. The discussion of the Ark of the Covenant and the mention of the Queen of Sheba in the New Testament (Matt. 12:43 and Luke 11:31) shows her regard as a famous penitent.
The major characters, as well as the supporting characters, are depicted well. Makeda (later Queen of Sheba) has a rare beauty, though flawed by lameness in one leg. She is highly intelligent, inquisitive, and sympathetic toward all people of her nation. Her fondness for her uncle and close relationship with him is very endearing. Her uncle, Tamrin, is a respected merchant whose counsel is sought and whose friendship Solomon esteems, even before he meets Makeda. Solomon is portrayed as a wise man whose discouragement leads him to act on his own, not to wait upon God. A cast of minor characters also lend interest and entertainment.
The Queen of Sheba has long fascinated people, and the story of her meeting with Solomon has drawn much speculation and interest. Readers will enjoy this fictional account of these two great leaders of the ancient world. I recommend this book and the historical notes at the end. I received this book through TBCN in exchange for an honest review.
The Last Queen of Sheba was a mesmerizing book for me. While reading this and for a whole week, I was dreaming this book. In my dreams I was in the halls and court of the great wise king Solomon. I dont normally read a lot of Biblical fiction however this book intrigued me due to its subject matter. I always found the account of The Queen of Sheba and Solomon, found in both I Kings 10:1-3 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-12, as interesting. Jesus also mentions her in the New Testament in Mathew 12:42 and also Luke 11:31. Who was this queen, where exactly did she come from, and what was her background story? Ms. Hudson gives us a plausible story and sites her historical information and sources at the end of the book. In my homeschooling journey with my children, I had come across the Ethiopian Jews and their journey to Israel to escape communism, and their belief that they were descended from Menelik, whom some believe is the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I have also read accounts that some Ethiopian Christians believe that the Ark of the Covenant is located and closely guarded in Ethiopia. Ms. Hudson does mention this in her historical research and also a great deal more.
Something else I have always wondered about: why did the wisest man in the world choose to live the latter part of his life in the way that he did? How in the world could you have so many wives and concubines and let them set up alters to their gods, especially, when he started his reign on the right path and the teachings that he was brought up with? What made this wisest of men fall?
Told through the eyes of the Queen of Shebas uncle Tamrin, we are told the background of the Queen, we travel to Israel and back over a 20 plus year period, watch the glorious dedication of the Temple, and finally the deterioration of Israel right before the Nation of Israel split, with 10 tribes separating themselves from King Davids heirs. I could go on about this book but this review is long enough. This was a riveting read for me and I thank The Book Club Network, (TBCN) for my review copy. The opinions expressed are my own.
One of the best bibically-based historical fiction books I have ever read!
December 15, 2014
Critics or purists who prefer Bible stories to be free of fictionalization may not care for the concept of this book since its premise is based on just a few lines of scripture in the Old Testament--the meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, David's son. Yet, I found the book incredibly insightful and supportive of Biblical precepts. The book is professionally detailed: a book that speculates how "it could have happened." Special kudos goes out to Jill Francis Hudson for this epic tale of two young rulers. The Last Queen of Sheba is one of the greats.
As far as I can discern, there are four basic divisions in the story line:
1) Events leading up to choosing Makeda as Queen of Sheba. Once she was chosen, there was a certain amount of political turmoil she had to overcome. Then some troubling events led to Makeda's decision to visit King Solomon of Israel.
2) The Queen of Sheba's actual visit with Solomon.
3) The Queen's return to Sheba and her rule of her country from her family palace in Yeha, Ethiopia.
4) The Consequences of Sheba's visit. Some loose ends are resolved, while we read about the downfall of Solomon.
The story is told in the first person by Tamrin, the Merchant. The wealthy merchant has traveled extensively and amassed for himself riches and an an enterprising business with contacts all over Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia and even Israel and its neighbors. In fact, his most recent visit with Solomon garnered him a commission from the King for materials needed to embellish the Temple he was building for God. In addition to conducting business with Solomon, Tamrin treasured the philosophical discussions with the wise and humble man. The young king wanted his friend to know his God, Adonai, as well. Their talks gave Tamrin much to think about on his long journeys through the deserts.
This book is much more than just a political commentary of a remote queen. Through the author's skillful writing and storytelling ability, people jump off the pages and become real. The conflicts grip us and become personal to us. When Queen Makeda returned from Israel, she turned her country on its head. She introduced many reforms that turned an oppressed people into prosperous citizens. She brought from Israel principles from the law of Moses that turned her country from "an uneasy, unstable agglomeration of disparate tribes whose only reason for suppressing their mutual hatred was the fact that they hated non-Shebans more," to a country that worshiped and honored God (Adonai).
Twenty years after Makeda was chose Queen of Sheba, Tamrin the Merchant had to return to Jerusalem with a representative of Sheba's royal council. In contrast to Sheba's now orderly, happy and prosperous state, what greeted his eyes shocked and distressed him. Israel decline was evident everywhere he looked. Even more shocking was King Solomon himself. He appeared haggard and even older than the merchant. The reason for such a decline was even more shocking. That is something you'll discover when you read this book. Tamrin was not even as welcome as before, until Solomon met the Sheban emissary. Eventually they returned to Sheba with sad news for Queen Makeda, but with something important for the people and for God's temple in Yeha.
What I like best about this book is the meticulous detail the author uses to make the settings and circumstances interesting and relevant for the reader. By researching the Kebra Nagast, the national Ethiopian epic, Islamic and Jewish legends and literature and archaeological information, Ms. Hudson was able to move way beyond common knowledge to treat her readers to so much intricate detail.
While I felt the beginning of the tale was a little slow moving, once the events ramped up, so did the intensity and suspense. The remainder of the story was terse; I had a hard time finding a place to stop reading when I needed to. The beginning set-up is filled with necessary background information, making the faster moving accounts flow more naturally and easier to comprehend. This is definitely one of my favorite biblically-based historical fiction books of all time. I will be looking for this author's other works as soon as I can. I highly recommend this book for high school, college age and older readers. As for younger readers than I just mentioned, the subject material may be a bit more mature than they can handle. If I were to rate the book, it would be given a PG-13 rating for some adult topics.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author and Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Setting: Kingdom of Sheba, Israel, Arabian Peninsula, Egypt
Tamrin the Merchant of the Sheban tribe of Banu Habesh tells us the story of the last Queen of Sheba as he experienced it. He begins his story as her predecessor has died and is being buried.
Tamrin has been to Jerusalem in his role as a trader. He met King Solomon who orders supplies for the Temple being built there. Before Tamrin can return to Ethiopia to procure the needed supplies through his cousin Rafash the chief of the Banu Habesh tribe he is caught up in the funeral for the former Queen of Sheba and the selection of the new Queen.
He takes us with him through the process whereby his kinswoman Makeda is selected as the new queen. His story shows us how this beautiful young girl came to make the long trip to Israel to meet King Solomon with the blessing of her Crown Council. We are shown the rigors of her travels, the splendor of Solomons court, and the blessings of Israel as Gods chosen people.
Makeda grows before our eyes from an impressionable young girl to a powerful, compassionate, Godly woman. She faces the challenges of ruling her country and maintaining a close walk with God as she deals with the pain of walking away from her one true love.
Her son Menelik is sent back to Israel 20 years after her visit to help him learn the things that will help him be a better ruler. He is gravely disappointed when he and Tamrin find an Israel so very far from the Israel that Makeda and Tamrin left behind. After facing challenges, disappointments, and unexpected blessings Tamrin and Menelik set their faces back toward Ethiopia and home with the aim to make Ethiopia a country fully devoted to Adonai.
This book is a window into the world at the time of King Solomon. The events described are either Biblically-based or fall easily into the realm of the possible. The characters are well-developed and the plot brings to life the challenges of the time period and the historical ramifications of it. This book will open up new vistas with realistic word-pictures of the time and places encountered.
Travel back to a time when the Temple in Jerusalem was being built. See how far Israel fell during the reign of a king who started out as one of the wisest rulers ever to grace a kingdom. Experience the difference Adonai can make in a life lived for Him.
This book will at times make you joyful, sad, angry, and grateful, but you will not read it and be unaffected.
I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking an engaging look into the impact the life of a single person can have on those around them.
I received this book through The Book Club network for my honest review.
When I signed up to receive this book, I didn't know what to expect. Would it be a story made up from someone imagination with little or no relation to the Bible and those times? What a surprise and delightful treat!
The story begins with, "Tamrin the Merchant, and in the days when this story begins I had five hundred and twenty camels and seventy-three ships to my illustrious name." It is written from his perspective, and much detail is given and the characters are well developed. As you read on, you will be drawn into the story which tells of his special relationship with his beautiful niece, Makeda, and will take you on a story that covers much territory, different cultures, love, hate, idol worship and so much more. We will visit with Solomon, a dear friend of Tamrins' both prior to the crowning of Queen of Sheba and after.
Tamrin will be the one person whom she can count on from childhood, and on through her reign. Although this is not a fact based account, the author does include historical content at the end that makes much of what she shares plausible for the time, but also teaches us more than many of would have known or understood about those times, and even to be able to experience many of the things we have read of in the Bible.
"To behold the face of Zadok at prayer was like contemplating the countenance of God himself." pg. 266
We believe the God can use all situations for his good, even when it looks anything but, and this is another teaching we are reminded of in this story.
"But Uncle Tamrin, you have always told me that God can bring good out of any situation, no matter how much sin and evil are mixed up in it." pg 270
"But Zadok had fallen to his knees and wept unashamedly from unblinking eyes which seemed to be gazing in awe at something no one else could see; his face was transfigured by wonder, joy and sorrow all at the same time. I knew that he grieved for Solomon's fall from grace, yet rejoiced because the voice of prophecy was not silent in the land." pg 277
What an amazing moment this must have been, can you even imagine? Well I can now.
And so can you, pick up the book today and read for yourself. This will be a book you can't put down, and will be with you long after you have finished it.
Definitely the best book I have read in a long time! Thanks bookfun.org for allowing me to read this book, in exchange for an honest review.