Book Review: Ismeni by Tosca Lee
Author: Tosca Lee
Genre: Biblical Fiction/Christian Suspense
Publisher: Howard Books
Last year, I read my first Biblical Fiction (Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar), and it opened up a new genre for me. Ever since I have wanted to read another one and have silently been adding to my collection. After watching a booktuber mention it, I downloaded this short prelude on Kindle for free. It is the story of Ismeni, the mother of the Queen of Sheba. I have three other books waiting for me to read by Tosca Lee, who was kind enough to give me free codes to read them during the quarantine. While just a short 31 pages (not including a note from the author and a teaser for the next book), this book had me on the edge of my seat and rooting for a happy ending that heartbreakingly never came.
I will mention, while I call this book Biblical Fiction and it is categorized as Christian Suspense on Amazon, technically, there is no mention of the one true God or Christianity in this book. You have some reference to biblical towns, and I’m expecting that the next book, The Legend of Sheba, should have more biblical references. You do get mentions of other gods that were worshiped at that time.
The story of Ismeni starts with her birth. She is born under what is known as the Dog Star, which is described as confusing men and an ill omen. Her beauty has the potential to kill, causing people not to be able to look at her. At the age of five, she meets her kinsman, Prince Agaziah, the son of the King, who is the cousin of her father. A couple of years later, she also meets Wahabil, another kinsman of hers. While only meeting Prince Agaziah once, she stricks up a friendship with Wahabil, but it comes to an end when a beloved mare that they both admired died. Ismeni thought Wahabil blamed her and her omen, while Wahabil didn’t want her to see him as weak. This caused a gap of five years to go by.
It is after that five-year gap that she not only runs into Wahabil but also Prince Agaziah again when her family goes to the temple to worship one of the gods. Shortly after, she is called to enter the Queen’s, Prince Agaziah’s mother, service. It is then that she learns Wahabil is the Prince’s best friend, and it seems they both have a crush on the beautiful Ismeni. But living in the palace gives her the chance to once again become friends with Wahabil, who makes it known his feelings for Ismeni. He is on his way to war along with the Prince and wants Ismeni to wait for him, who agrees. During that time, at age 15, she receives a message that she is to be wed to someone who is away at war. She prepares and assumes it is Wahabil, only to be disappointed and find out that it is Prince Agaziah.
But her marriage to Prince Agaziah, who is loyal and adores her, doesn’t come without its problems. Still wrapped up in a war, one by one, all of the Prince’s brothers are killed, and the King is severely wounded. Ismeni is to be queen. But not everyone is happy since she had that ill omen over her. They want her to be put away while the Prince marries someone more suitable to be queen. Ismeni and the Prince fight this hard until Wahabil comes back and convinces Ismeni that if she is put away, he will finally be able to claim her. Unfortunately, once Agaziah became King, he is keeping his queen. And from that union was birthed a child, named Bilqis.
Ismeni cherishes Bilqis, knowing due to the rough nature of her childbirth and previous miscarriage, that this may be her only child. Even when she became pregnant again, this time with a son, she spoke of what would happen to Bilqis when Ismeni died. It was then that she decided she needed Wahabil one last time. She asked him to leave the King, to only come back when her son is born safely. And if not, and she also parishes, he is to fight to make Bilqis queen. It is in this heartbreaking moment that we see the love they still have for each other, although fate did not put them together. A few days later, Wahabil leaves the King, and Ismeni is left praying for Bilqis, ending with these words, “Seek wisdom and rise.”
This short prelude definitely has me wanting to read The Legend of Sheba. I’m hoping to get to it before the end of the year. Tosca Lee writes beautifully and you can tell that she has done thorough research when it comes to the history in her story. I couldn’t help but give this read a 5-star rating!
*As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases using the links included in this post.