Priestess of Ishana (Tesha Series)

Written by Judith Starkston
Review by Sara Dahmen

In Priestess of Ishana, author Judith Starkston dives into the little-known Bronze Age world and dresses it up with a heavy layer of fantasy. In a time when magic and sorcery were considered real, and demons and gods were worshipped in temples, Starkston’s high priestess of Ishana, Tesha, must unravel a murder, a political plot, her father’s constant blustering, her sister Daniti’s blindness, and her mother’s plan to marry her off. Tesha makes enemies and friends from unlikely sources, and uses the power given to her by the goddess Ishana wisely—most of the time. Her journey to romance is certainly flooded with danger, and the twists and turns in the novel will keep the reader uncertain of the outcome throughout the pages.

Unfortunately, those very twists and turns make for a very long novel that could have benefited from a heavy edit. I felt as though I reread the same conversations between Tesha and Daniti and Tesha and her father several times over, and characters seemed to populate simply to help with the plot. The fantasy element is well done, but this book should be considered that: a fantasy novel, set in a fantasy world that is very loosely based in history. I also felt that the author could have spent more time creating the world and characters, and less time with repetitious interactions. What I did like was the note about how Tesha is modeled after a real-life ruler, Puduhepa, a woman who ruled for decades over the Hittite Empire. I look forward to historical stories about this real-life queen, and appreciate the author discovering her story.