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Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite
Zenobia by Don Maker is a meticulously researched historical thriller. If you like historical tales that contain an element of romance and an inside look at the internecine strife that was an intricate part of all feudal societies, then this is the book for you. Zenobia starts with a scene between the young Zenobia and her dying mother. We can see where the future queen gets her drive, ambition, and political savvy. Zenobia is from a noble family, supposedly a descendant of Cleopatra. Her mother instructs her to make sure she is noticed by Lord Odaenathus, the recently widowed ruler of Palmyra. Palmyra is the center of Rome’s Eastern Empire and Odaenathus is Rome’s vassal and Governor. Zenobia succeeds in getting Odaenathus' attention in spectacular fashion by saving his life in battle. Thus begins her journey into the pages of history as a legendary warrior queen.
I love well-told stories about intricate details of Roman politics and this one is great in that aspect. One gets the feeling that Rome fell not so much because of the efforts of barbarians as the strife between the patrician families and generals of Rome itself. We see that in Zenobia. Don Maker paints a vivid picture of the treachery, jealousy, assassination, and betrayal that preceded the fall of Rome. The characters are fully developed with both their strengths and flaws on display. Zenobia herself is a strong, passionate, and brilliant woman living in a time and place when such women were rare, a heroine excelling in a man’s world.