Books

WHORE OF BABYLON by Azaria Frost

I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I hated the title, but loved the cover (designed by the author herself.) One thing I was curious about was how the author would handle Sumerian and Babylonian names. Anyone who has dipped a toe in the ancient history of Mesopotamia knows the names are not kind to English readers. Names such as Marduk-mussalim, Ereshkigal or Messkiaggaser are almost impossible to pronounce and instantly forgettable.

But Azaria Frost did a wonderful job of finding names that both sounded Sumerian/Babylonian while being easy for English-speakers to digest. Sometimes she shortened names (Samsu’s name was originally Samsu-Iluna. Eshu’s name was Abi-Eshuh.) Sometimes she used place names (Mari or Susa) as names for her minor characters. Others, I assumed she had to make up (like Eliana) but in any event she somehow managed to find names that were easy on the reader while conveying Ancient Mesopotamia.

As for the story itself, it was gripping from the start. We see a terrified 19-year-old (Kisha) being married off to the conqueror of her city (Samsu) after a Bride Show. Eliana (the protagonist) is Kisha’s younger sister, and has to watch helplessly as her sister is hustled away to her raping at the hands of her new master.

From then on, it is hard to put this book down. I should warn anyone reading this (in case it is not obvious) that there is a great deal of violence and brutality in this novel, so it is NOT suitable for the faint of heart or for children. Even so, I still give it 5 stars for vivid characters and interesting plot.