Garden of Madness, by Tracy L Higley

book coverThe untold story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter

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 opulent yet oppressive life in the palace. But her husband has since died and she relishes her newfound independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own 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, Tia must decide if she is willing to risk everything—her possessions, her gods, and her very life—for the Israelites’ one God. Madness, sorcery, and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion as Tia chooses whether to risk all to save the kingdom—and her family.

Raise your hands if you consider yourself an expert on Nebuchadnezzar. I admit I don’t know much about him at all. We know him in relation to the prophet Daniel, and we believe he had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon built for his wife, but there is so much that is unknown about his personal life and his family. What happened to them when he was driven mad for a time as described in the book of Daniel? How was the empire ruled during those seven years? The Bible states that he was restored to his kingdom so no one overthrew him, but were there attempts by others to claim the throne in his absence? Tracy Higley attempts to answers these questions in her latest historical novel.

To a large extent, she succeeds. History tells us that the wife of Nebuchadnezzar, Amytis, was a royal princess before their political marriage. Surrounded by loyal councilors, she is able to firmly rule in her husband’s place and the official word is that the king is ill. A body double – a common occurrence still in parts of the Middle East – is paraded in a chariot on important occasions.  We know the marriage produced two daughters because their husbands both became ruler of the empire in later years. The main character of Tiamat, however, is an invention and there is no historical record of a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar marrying a son of the imprisoned Jewish king, Jehoiachin. As Higley states in her end notes this is, “Fiction of [her] creation,” and the end result is well done.

Garden of Madness gives the reader an insight into life in a pagan culture before the coming of Jesus. The city of Babylon is divided by the Euphrates, with the Jewish people living in the newer section. One evening, Tiamat is taken to the Jewish section and the reader gets to experience the differences between Jewish and Babylonian cultures through her eyes. It is through Tia that we learn that the Jewish exiles knew of prophecy regarding a future Savior. We see the evil perpetrated by men who seek power for themselves and who would go to any length to obtain it. The romance between Tia and Pedaiah is the secondary plot as Tia seeks to discover what truth is and what it is not.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Tracy Higley, although I do have one of her earlier books in my library of books to be read. I enjoyed her writing and was surprised by one of the revelations towards the end, which is what a good plot twist should do. Her next book, So Shines the Night, is set in Ephesus during the time of the early church. Its expected release date is March 2013.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 01 May 2012

Page Count: 400

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I received my free copy of Garden of Madness from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze review program in exchange for an honest review.



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