Present word count of WIP: 55,312
Back Cover Copy
Naiva, daughter of the dethroned King Jared II, lives in the shadow of her privileged elder sister, Asherah. But when Asherah develops a secret plot to return their father to the throne, Naiva’s resentment turns to fear. Thwarting the scheme becomes more complicated when Naiva discovers that Akish, the first man who has shown interest in her, is an integral part of the plan.
(I’ve decided not to quote the rest of the back cover copy because it gives too much away, in my opinion, and part of the fun of reading this, or any, book is not knowing in which direction the story will twist.)
Two things stood out in this novel, besides the fact that it was well written.
First, the author certainly knows Meso-American culture and history. Having read a couple of her other works set in the same general area and time, I wasn’t surprised, but I must say that her research here really shines. Her descriptions of dwellings, clothing, makeup, food, and rituals easily transported me into the world and story scripturally described by Moroni in the the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Some may argue about the need or even the propriety of fictionalizing scripture, but I, for one, have no problem distinguishing between a work of scripture and a work of fiction. Besides, the story of the daughter of Jared has everything a novelist dreams of: love, betrayal, secrecy, murder…and a happy ending (at least for the good guy). And that’s just the scriptural account!
This leads me to the second aspect of Moore’s work that stood out for me. In taking the brief outlines of a story provided in the eighth chapter of Ether, she wisely introduced a fictional sister of the “wicked” daughter of Jared–Naiva. Unlike her older sister, Asherah, Naiva is appalled at the idea of assassination, but isn’t sure enough of herself to argue. Indeed, she is so tied to her sister that when things become difficult and there appears to be an easy way out for her she somehow can’t force herself to take it, even though the reader is screaming for her to do so. (In fact, if there is a weakness to the novel, it is that the reason for that bond wasn’t established clearly and firmly enough early on in the story.) I didn’t like her decision at first, but had to admit later that it gave a certain complex depth to her character. (Also, the author no doubt felt tied to the chronology of the scriptural story with regard to the fate of Naiva’s nephew, Shez.)
Moore could have chosen to tell the story through Asherah’s point of view (with no fictional sister), showing the change in her character as the terrible decisions she makes lead to horrific results. That might have proven a more interesting approach. It would have been challenging, however, because she’s hard to like for much of the story.
I only wish the book had been longer. I would have loved even more detail about the plotting, their royal life, and so forth.