The Lion Hunter: The Mark of Solomon, Book One

Written by Elizabeth E. Wein
Review by Ray Thompson

This novel for young adult readers is the fourth in Wein’s ongoing Arthurian/Aksumite cycle, which began with The Winter Prince (1993). In 6th-century Aksum (Ethiopia), Telemakos, the twelve-year-old half-Ethiopian grandson of Artos, King of Britain, struggles to survive the dangers that lurk behind the friendly facades presented by animals and humans, both.

In an attempt to protect him from the sinister threats upon his life, his father, Medraut, and his aunt Goewin (Artos’s daughter), both of whom now serve the Aksumite Emperor, send him and his baby sister across the Red Sea to stay with kindred in the kingdom of Himyar in southern Arabia. This, however, places him in even greater danger by the conclusion of the novel. The second book in the sequence, The Empty Kingdom, should provide a resolution to his predicament.

Wein writes elegantly, and she generates suspense by viewing events from the perspective of her young protagonist, anxious and vulnerable in a world where, despite individual acts of kindness and generosity, the adults behave ruthlessly out of what they perceive to be political necessity. Against this harshness, the fierce devotion that exists between Telemakos and his sister Athena seems like a fragile desert flower threatened with destruction by a rising sandstorm.