It’s a wonderful feeling.
Here’s for a short summary from the dustjacket: “On an escapade in the marketplace in Menfe, Mara, the mistreated slave of a wealthy jewel trader, attracts the notice of a mysterious white-hooded man who buys her to use as a spy in the service of Queen Hatshepsut, half-sister of Thutmose. On the Nile river boat, The Silver Beetle, Mara becomes acquainted with Sheftu, a youth who describes himself as 'a scribe’s apprentice' but is in reality Lord Sheftu, leader of the movement to depose the profligate queen and to put Thutmose on the throne of Egypt. Sheftu also decides to employ Mara as a go-between at court for himself and Thutmose.”
And I’m sorry, they go on to give some tremendous (and I mean tremendous) spoilers, so that’s really all I can share of that, but suffice to say the whole story is rich and gripping and vibrant, moving purposely forward with layers upon layers of sparkling brilliance and complexity. And, fresh and vivid -- with a flavor of swirling intrigue in the very manner of the telling -- it’s all most deftly and superbly rendered, with an easy tossing back and forth of narrative like a juggler’s golden balls.
There isn’t a single superfluous character and -- while it’s rich with detail -- it’s all utterly and perfectly balanced. Listen to this description:
“He grinned down at Mara, and her retort died on her lips. As he turned to murmur something to Nekonkh, she struggled to regain her composure. What was it about his smile? Its warmth? Its sudden intimacy? It rushed to the head like strong wine.
“She was aware of nothing but him, as he stood there outlined against the noisy, torchlit room. All day she had nerved herself for this meeting, fearing to find him again the curt and glittering stranger he had been in the lotus garden. Now, all in a moment, her fears had vanished. Here was no gold-hung lord, but her companion of the Beetle—warm, teasing, dangerous. Her spirits rose like a sail.”
There isn’t a single moment where Mara herself changes all at once. It’s imperceptible. You can feel it happening. As for Sheftu. . . he now fits right in with some of my favorite heroes: the strong and silent men with a mission -- serious, passionate and hard to read, yet oft-times showing a gentleness, flashing forth too with a startling, winged smile -- Mr. Thornton (Gaskell’s N&S), Baudouin (Leighton’s Journey for a Princess), Bjorn (Sutcliff’s The Shield Ring) Barney Snaith (Montgomery’s Blue Castle), and Cedric in my own WIP.
As for the romance. . . Obviously, the political overcurrent of intrigue intensifies the romance between them (creating even further depth in all the running under and cross currents of their purposes and desires), but -- what I’m also getting at -- is that you can see the romance by their choices and actions -- by what they are and are not doing, what they are or are not saying to others -- and then it makes the actual moments between them so razor sharp and intense! It’s breathtaking.
Of course, I love immersing myself in the ancient world -- here particularly Egypt, Egyptian history, and archaeology -- but I think I’d love Mara anyway. The characters (major and minor), the fluidity of the narrative and the evocative language, the beautifully crafted conflict, the intensity, the romance. . . it’s all magnificent.
So yes, it most definitely has my thorough and ongoing stamp of full love and approval, has joined my top favorites, and I’m quite certain will be read again and again and again!!! :)