AUTHOR: Kimberley Griffiths Little
SERIES: none listed on GoodReads, but sequel is required to finish the story
PUBLICATION DATE: November 4, 2014
GENRE: historical fiction, historical romance
GIVE IT TO: HS, adults
SUMMARY: At sixteen, Jayden’s life in ancient Mesopotamia has already been planned for her. Within the year, she is to marry Horeb, the handsome tribal prince, and settle into her role as the tribe’s princess. But when tragedy strikes in the middle of the unforgiving desert, Jayden’s life takes a dramatic turn. After meeting a handsome stranger, Jayden begins to question her life’s course and whether she can possibly change it.
REVIEW: Engrossing! I devoured this book and loved every minute of it. It’s a character-driven story with tons of action, sword-fighting, murder, dancing, and romance against a stark but beautiful ancient desert background. I really enjoyed the writing style and Little’s descriptions of the desert and dances and silk dresses.
The characters, particularly those of Jayden, Leila, and Horeb, are complex and realistic. I love that the characters each have their own contrasts. Jayden is strong and confident, yet she also worries about others’ opinions of her and how her actions will affect the tribe. Leila, while sometimes weak and often lazy, also shows strength in her support for Leila and her desire to decide her own future. And Horeb, no doubt evil and crazy, has moments of hurt and fear in his eyes. My only wish for the characters would be better development of Kadesh, the handsome stranger who steals Jayden’s heart. He just seems too perfect, too much like Wesley in The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure. He’s rich, he’s smart, he’s hot, he’s sensitive, he’s an excellent fighter. All the other characters have weaknesses…where are Kadesh’s?
The worldbuilding is excellent, and I love the ancient Mesopotamia setting. I could picture the scorching desert sand, the soft camel fur, the crimson sunrise, the pitch-black skies littered with stars, the vast stretches of open space. The desert setting is crucial to this story, and Little does a fantastic job making the desert almost like a character itself. I also love the inclusion of historical figures such as King Hammurabi and the Queen of Sheba.
And that cliffhanger ending! I was so engrossed in the action, I did not notice my Nook pages were about to run out. Nooooo!!! The end of the book is only a small pause in the story. At the time of this writing, Goodreads lists no sequel or series name for Forbidden, but there is bound to be one. It would be tragic if Jayden’s story just ended here.
My copy of Forbidden does not include any historical notes at the end. I read a review copy, so its possible these will be added in the final version. I would love to know more about Mesopotamia, frankincense, Ashtoreth, Hammurabi, Babylon, Mari, and ancient nomadic desert tribes.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Well-written with a beautiful setting and complex characters. Lots of action and romance keeps the plot moving along at a clip, and a cliffhanger ending promises a sequel.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: While there is no language, there is a good bit of sexual innuendo. It’s appropriate for this setting, as the Temple of Ashtoreth is historically known for the prostitution of temple priestesses. I advise MS librarians to consider the literary maturity of their students before purchasing Forbidden. No sexual activity is explicitly described, but students will get the idea.
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: medium–nothing is described, but there is attempted rape, prostitution, innuendo, childbirth, girls bathing together (not sexual), and barely-clothed dancing
- Violence: medium–sword fighting, murder, attempted rape, “branding” of people with a knife
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild–drunkenness