Garden of Madness By Tracy L. Higley (Mom’s Bookshelf)

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The untold story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter 

For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has waited for the mad king Nebuchadnezzar to return to his family and to his kingdom. Driven from his throne to live as a beast, he prowls his luxurious Hanging Gardens, secreted away from the world. 

Since her treaty marriage at a young age, Tia has lived an opulent yet oppressive life in the palace. But her husband has since died and she relishes her newfound independence. When a nobleman is found murdered in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the macabre death, even if her own freedom is threatened. 

As the queen plans to wed Tia to yet another prince, the powerful mage Shadir plots to expose the family’s secret and set his own man on the throne. Tia enlists the help of a reluctant Jewish captive, her late husband’s brother Pedaiah, who challenges her notions of the gods even as he opens her heart to both truth and love.

In a time when few gave their hearts to Yahweh, Tia must decide if she is willing to risk everything-her possessions, her gods, and her very life-for the Israelites’ one God. Madness, sorcery, and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion as Tia chooses whether to risk all to save the kingdom-and her family.

T.L. Higley is one of my all-time favorite fiction authors. I’d never heard of her until I was asked to review her novel Petra: City of Stone. It was fantastic! As soon as I finished it, I ordered copies of all her other titles and read them. She has a real talent for writing page-turning historical fiction, and I love the concept of incorporating a historic location into the storyline, as she does in her “Seven Wonders” and “Lost Cities” series.

I just finished reading her latest offering, Garden of Madness, set in ancient Babylon and featuring the famous hanging gardens. Garden of Madness elaborates on the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years of madness, described in Daniel 4, as seen through the eyes of his daughter, Princess Tia.

Once again, I couldn’t put the book down. I was up way too late reading! To begin with, I was intrigued by the idea of building on the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s years of madness. I’d never really considered before what exactly went on in Babylon during those years. How did his advisors and family handle the situation? How is it that the kingdom wasn’t taken from him during those years? The Bible doesn’t give us any of these details. Garden of Madness fleshes these specifics out in a creative, dynamic story.

Ms. Higley imagines that the king was kept in the upper levels of his magnificent gardens while the royal family and their closest advisors manage to keep the public from discovering his condition. However, with the murder of a nobleman within the palace, it becomes apparent that someone intends to expose the family’s secret and put their own man on the throne. Princess Tiamat (Tia), the king’s youngest daughter, is forced to choose between the self-centered, luxurious lifestyle she has been accustomed to or giving up everything she knows for the sake of her kingdom and family.

All the ingredients for a great story are here: intrigue, adventure, conflict, romance, sacrifice, faith…and the list goes on! The twists and turns in the story kept me guessing until the end. I love a story that isn’t predictable. Ms. Higley’s attention to historical detail and vivid descriptions made me feel like I was really there in ancient Babylon. I so appreciated her portrayal of the prophet Daniel…she truly put flesh and personality to what we know of his character from the Biblical accounts. Once again, the reality of spiritual warfare is incorporated into the storyline impressively. These scenes are some of the most intense; the spiritual world is nearly palpable.

Once again, T.L. Higley has brought ancient history to life. Well developed characters and unpredictable plot twists along with the skillful blending of history, suspense, romance, and intense spiritual warfare make for a powerful, unforgettable story. There is also less sensuality in Ms. Higley’s books than in some similar books I’ve read, which means that even my thirteen year old, the Dancer, has read and enjoyed them as a fun addition alongside her history studies. She’ll be adding this one soon.

Garden of Madness is a must for lovers of historical and Biblical fiction! I give it my highest recommendation!

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Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing a review copy of this title. I was not required to provide a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
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