The Secret Book of Kings- Yochi Brandes

I was chosen by Netgalley to review the book “The Secret Book of Kings” by Yochi Brandes (translation by Yardenne Greenspan). Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all. The Secret Book of Kings scheduled release is August 23, 2016.

I requested to review this book on a whim. What attracted me? Growing up in a religious household, I was enveloped with bible stories. To read an adult version of a bible story, with more detail enthralled me. I wasn’t sure how much non-fiction would be distorted by fiction, so all I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Again, Yochi Brandes is a new author for me to read. Upon further investigation, Brandes is a well published author in Israel, and The Secret Book of Kings is actually a re-release. Now, before there is anymore confusion, The Secret Book of Kings is first and foremost known as Kings III in Israel, and was published in 2008. It is being released for the first time in the United Sates on August 23, 2016.

This book is broken up into 3 sections, and each section opens thusly:

  1. The Soldier- “Mother took me to the lepers’ cave for the first time on the fifteenth day of the eighth month.”
  2. The Princess- “Still staring at me with that same angry helplessness, my wild wolf.”
  3. The King- “When I was a child I liked to embellish.”

I guarantee you that each section is vastly different, however they all connect and form the main story line. We open with the main character Shelomoam, a boy of 8. Throughout the chapters we live in his life struggle of growing up, learning secrets, keeping his own secrets bottled up, and running away from his problems. And like any kid, he thinks that spiting his family, and doing the exact opposite of their wishes will hurt them the most. The only thing Shelomoam cannot foretell is that his spitefulness will actually set him on the path that was originally meant to be his.

The second part of the book was an extremely fast read for me. If you are familiar with (and enjoy) the story of David, I think you’ll enjoy this part of the book as well. Although David is a main character in this particular section, the perspective is told from Michal, daughter of King Saul. Michal relates the tale of her family; growing up in the palace, falling in love with soldiers, supporting her brother Jonathan, falling in love with David, wanting a child, helping David escape the clutches of her father’s army.  The brief story of David and Goliath is wrapped up in there as well, but it’s nothing like the Sunday School stories you heard. Again, this was my absolute favorite section in the entire book. Mainly because it was so heartfelt, and human, that the reader could just connect with Michal, whether you’ve been through her tragedies or not.

The last installment of the book wrapped the story up in a nice little bow. It brings now only the first part of the story to a head, but ties in the second part, and leaves no question unanswered.

Now, I could absolutely be reading into things, but a theme that I picked out, and absolutely resonated with (even if that theme was just a quick idea) was that of adoption. 2 second background on me, I am adopted. Now, that being said, one of Shelomoam’s family secrets is that the parents that raised him are not his biological parents. He sets out on a quest to find his heritage. As most adopted children can relate, there is either a drive to find out about your family, or a detour, where you just do not take the same road, and it is of no consequence to find out. During the second part of the book, Michal adopts her brother’s and sister’s children, due to unfortunate circumstances; it does not mean that those children are loved any less. The story in it’s entirety is not only of a boy coping with being raised in a lie, but a family forced to live in a lie concocted by the king’s scribes to preserve the family name/ideal.

Would I recommend this book? ABSOLUTELY! I loved this book. I would definitely re-read this book. In fact, I am planning on buying the physical book to grace my bookshelves. It is my sincerest hope that Brandes continue to have her books translated, because she is quickly becoming a favorite. I also am REALLY hoping that Brandes would make an appearance here in the States, because I would LOVE to meet her, and also have my book signed. Remember! The Secret Book of Kings is scheduled for released August 23rd! You are NOT going to want to miss this biblical historical fiction on the line of King Saul!

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