Two women were standing on high places, shielding their eyes from the blazing sun with their hands, peering into the distance in search of messengers from the battlefield. Each knew that her life depended on the outcome of the battle; but their lives depended on opposite results.
When author Eva Etsioni-Halevy emailed me offering to send me a copy of her book The Triumph of Deborah, I was intrigued. I had never read any book in the category of "biblical fiction", but I'm always keen on reading historical fiction, so I accepted to review the novel. What I got was much more than I expected, for The Triumph of Deborah, far from being only a historical account of the life of the judge and prophetess Deborah, is also a real page-turner.
Contrary to what the title might led you to believe, the novel has four main characters: the prophetess Deborah, judge and leader of Israel; the Israelite warrior Barak; the Canaanite princess Asherah; and Nogah, daughter of the Canaanite king Jabin and of an Israelite slave.
At the beginning of the book, war is looming between Israel and Canaan. Deborah, the prophetess and judge, coerces the warrior Barak into launching an attack against the Caananites. Against all odds, Barak succeeds and brings back to Israel with him the two daughters of king Jabin, Asherah and Nogah. While he is imemdiately taken with Asherah's beauty and plans to make her his wife, it's Nogah who truly loves him. A complex love triangle develops between the warrior and the two princesses.
Deborah, who has recently been rejected by her hisband Lapidoth, develops a strong affinity with Barak. Yet she has to rebuild her life on her own terms, while at the same time guiding her people towards the peace with the Caananites.
The Triumph of Deborah is a rich, entertaining historical novel, full of details about the life in ancient Israel. Moreover, it's the engaging story of Nogah's love for Barak. Nogah was my favourite character, and I really wanted her to get the man she so desperately loved. At the same time, I wanted Deborah to fulfil her aspirations and reach the peace between the Israelites and Caananites.
This book was a true surprise. I never thought Biblical fiction could be so passionate and full of life! I'd definitely recommend this book.