Heart of a King

Written by Jill Eileen Smith
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

King Solomon of biblical fame is the king referred to in the book’s title. As the main character, the book follows him and four of his many women. The setting is the ancient Middle East from the first millennium BC. Solomon is a grown man at the book’s start, pacing the halls of the palace and longing for the day he will be crowned co-ruler with his aged, weakening father, King David (of Goliath fame). He complains to his mother, Bathsheba, about his uncertain position. And he frets in his own mind about it. Again. And again. And yet again. Due to his one-track mind, I found it hard to sympathize with his plight and care about his eventual ascension to the throne.

For those without a background in Christian scriptures, Solomon was the purported author of three of the Old Testament books: the Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Scholars have suggested that he wrote them in like order: youth, middle age, and old age. The sensual content of Song of Solomon certainly argues for authorship by a young, passionate man. The other two books argue for a thoughtful seeker of wisdom. Indeed, Solomon is practically a synonym for wisdom.

With such a legacy, the reader may expect to find Solomon characterized with depth as a devout, scholarly man who nevertheless indulges in the pleasures of the flesh. The reader would be disappointed by this novel, then. This Solomon seems little interested in intellectual pursuits. While the author frequently quotes from the Song of Solomon’s beautiful love poetry, it seems shoehorned in, the cadence of the prose juxtaposed with it.

If you can overlook Solomon’s annoying characterization and focus on the rotating points of view from his lovers instead, you may find this a satisfying read.