Book Review: “The Queen of Sheba,” by Roberta Kells Dorr

I know I usually do these on a Friday, but I had some time to kill tonight, and I have things that need procrastination. So, here you go.

Grace & Peace,

Queen of ShebaQueen of Sheba by Roberta Kells Dorr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Queen of Sheba is the story of the famous queen (christened Bilqis) who visited Solomon during his reign in Israel. It paints a vivid backdrop of historical and political context under which the visit likely took place, drawing on the biblical narrative, as well as many other historical resources from Josephus to Egyptian histories. This book also seems to take place while Solomon was writing the book of Ecclesiastes, and even touches briefly on the love story between himself and the Shulamite woman, which is forever immortalized in the words of the book of Song of Solomon.

I really enjoyed this book, and while it isn’t going to go down in history as great, classic literature, it is a very worthy read. It treats the biblical source with respect and dignity, probably because it comes from a Christian author. The character portraits of both Solomon and Bilqis are painted with depth and richness not often seen in much of today’s Christian fiction. I often don’t finish a lot of these types of books, because their character development is shallow, basic, and predictable, as if each person in the kingdom of God is cut from the same cloth.

I also appreciated the supporting character of a local merchant, whose two wives find themselves in the well-known story of the two women fighting over a living child after one of their children had died. They come to Solomon, who is determined to seek out the truth: which woman is the rightful mother? I love the way the book portrays Solomon’s desire to seek the truth, and to do what was right as the root of the wisdom God had supernaturally given to him.

It also looks honestly at the root of his idolatry, and its clear link to his many pagan wives and concubines. In his desire to keep the peace, both at a national and a household level, he strays into idolatry, caring more to please his wives than his God. His sins are not glossed over, and we watch as Solomon struggles with the conundrum he has created for himself because of his disobedience.

Romance. This book is filled with its many guises. All accurately and honestly portrayed. I don’t generally care for romantic stories, as I think they are almost all ridiculous, but this author writes her romance in the vein of Francine Rivers. Her pen seems more subtle still, and the true romance glows softly from the page in a genuine way–anything shallower than real love is painted with a garish brush, and feels as unappealing as it really is. I appreciate that. Romance is not glorified over Love in this book.

For such a short book, it really does pack in a lot of detail, but I don’t want to tell you the whole story. If you enjoy historical/biblical fiction, this is a book you might enjoy. I’m sure there are inaccuracies and mistakes in this story–it’s not the Bible, after all–but I believe the story holds true, and fits well. It brings biblical characters to life, and reminds us that they were real people, who lived in a real place, at a real moment in history, and had real struggles not much different than we do today. As the wisest man who ever lived once said: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

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