Shelley, Martha. “The Throne in the Heart of the Sea”, Ebisu, 2015.
A New Look at Biblical Characters
Tyre was a major maritime empire in the Ninth Century, B.C.E (for those of you who are not aware, Jewish readers of the Bible and history do not use the initials B.C. but rather B.C.E. referring to that period as Before the Common era). It was the king. Ittobaal, who was responsible for this might and he announces that the is ruler of the world who has the mightiest army the world has ever known. The king’s daughter, Jezebel, feels that the gods have chosen her to rule Tyre. However, not everyone agrees with her about his and especially not her nemesis, Elijah, an Israelite farm boy, who is bitter and swears to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the king.
When we first meet the characters they are still young—in their teens—but it is important to remember that times were different back then and Jezebel and Elijah are ready to be adults.Jezebel and Elijah lived at a time when religion was not yet developed as it has come to be and values and ethics were just being explored.
Jezebel had dreams of her succeeding her father on the throne while at the same time, Elijah was determined to see things differently. He is very bitter and very angry about his father’s death and the annexation of his family’s lands by the king.
There is another character, Tamar, a poor, dark-skinned young woman who yearned to be a scribe yet who is also a lover to Jezebel.
I am totally in awe of author Martha Shelley ’s prose and her command of Biblical facts here and I cannot even imagine the amount of research that went into the writing of this book.
We enter the worlds of Ancient Israel and Canaan as well as the lives of the three main characters. For those of you who know your bibles, you also know that the role of women was almost totally not existent. It was a world ruled by men and for men and to challenge that required great strength and self-assuredness. What Shelley has done here is create characters that although they lived at a very different time in history, somehow seem to be quite contemporary and whose lives mirror ours to a degree. Jezebel, for example, dared to question her father and, in effect, doing so made her also question the status quo. As readers, we get to watch her development just as we watch Elijah transform from an Israelite farm boy into a prophet. (All I can say is WOW!!!).
I have spent a great of my life studying the Hebrew Bible (The Five Books of Moses) and Elijah has always been one of the most mysterious characters in it but here he comes to life and seems so real that I believe everything he says and does. The three major characters come across as being very real and there was a moment when I looked up from the pages of the book and expected them to be in my study with me. I also must mention that the prose is gorgeous and he fact that we read a story of long ago in contemporary prose makes this a book that must be read. It is not often that we get a treat like this and the best news of all is that there are another two volumes to complete the trilogy.