The Judgment, by D. J. Niko. Medallion Press. 292 pages. Trade paperback $14.99.
An ambitious historical novel, The Judgment spans the years 965-925 BCE, the reign of King Solomon after the death of King David. It is a tale of gigantic personalities, huge ambition, fervent nationalism, fragile treaties, and multiple betrayals. Solomon, charged with ruling the united monarchies of the Hebrew people, is also charged with establishing David’s goal of a colossal temple in Jerusalem. It is envisioned as a place with the God of Israel will dwell, and thus its design and materials must match that aspiration.
Upon visiting Egypt to make a bargain with Pharoah Psusennes II for huge quantities of gold to adorn the Temple, Solomon is smitten by the Egyptian leader’s beautiful daughter, Nicaule. The marriage between the King of the Hebrews and the Pharoah’s daughter creates an allegiance of mutual benefit to both nations. However, Nicaule – who has been forced into the marriage – is resentful of her situation, lavish though it is. She loves another, the Libyan warrior who will in time become Pharaoh Shoshenq I. He, in turn, is most desirous of her.
Nicaule’s resentment at finding herself the virtual slave of what she considers a lesser people whets her appetite for revenge. She uses her considerable sexual prowess to blind Solomon to her schemes to undermine his power. Solomon is shown to be a weak, soft, self-indulgent leader, as well as a man whose behavior suggests a loss of faith.
Basemath, Nicaule’s daughter by her lover Shoshenq, has been raised as Solomon’s daughter. This subterfuge was Nicaule’s first betrayal.
The novel is structured so that we meet Basemath first. That is, we first see the crisis facing the people of Israel from Egypt’s attack in 925BCE. Then we are taken back to the time of Solomon’s ascent to the throne and follow the action until we catch up with 925BCE once again – and then move forward to the resolution. This is a standard point of attack and it works well for this material.
Basemath is perhaps the only character in the novel who is truly likeable and admirable, yet she is reserved for the opening and closing sections of the novel. Other characters – certain Egyptian and Hebrew military leaders; the estimable high priest (Kohain Gadol) Zadok; the temptress Queen Makeda of Sheba; Nicaule’s friend, attendant, and counselor Irisi – are among those of ongoing interest. Indeed, Ms. Niko populates her story with a large cast that is needed to fulfill a wide range of functions at upper and lower levels of the principals’ actions. Many are simply go-betweens; others have more important duties. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the May 25, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the May 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – The Judgment