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Bertrice Small

Ballantine, 1983
Barnes & Noble


plot summary: Life of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra recommended: mature readers caveats: explicit sex scenes, rape, kinky sex practices This novel begins with the birth of Zenobia. A Chaldean astrologer predicts that she will be beloved of men and gods. According to the author, she is the beloved of Odenathus, Aurelian, and (fictitious?) Marcus Britainus. The author's sympathies are with Zenobia as a woman in a man's world. Zenobia supposedly hates Romans because she witnessed the murder and rape of her mother by rogue legionaries. When she marries Odenathus, the two dream of freeing the eastern empire from Rome's dominion. They are preparing to break openly from Rome when Odenathus is murdered. Zenobia assumes the regency for their son Vaballathus. She decides that she needs more territory as a buffer against Rome. When she crowns herself and Vaballathus in Alexandria, the emperor Aurelian leads an army against Palmyra. When Palmyra surrenders, she becomes the unwilling concubine of Aurelian in order to save her children. Aurelian is portrayed as an arrogant insensitive peasant who does not deserve to rule. Marcus Britainus, her true love, is forced to marry the emperor's debauched niece, which enrages Zenobia, as Aurelian intends. Zenobia declares war on Rome, with disastrous results. Eventually, the lovers are reunited, Aurelian is murdered, and the couple flee to Britain and obscurity. For those who enjoy romance novels about ancient royalty, this might be a good book. The history seems correct, although the Senate is depicted as having more power than the army. There is a description of Alexandria, its history, and why they accepted Zenobia as their queen. Despite the author's partiality to Zenobia, the emphasis is on the queen's love life rather than her many accomplishments. - Roz Harper 7/99

- Roz Harper, 7/1/1999

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