by India Edgehill
When she was a tiny child, Delilah was given to the temple of Atargatis by her mother. She grows up in the temple, training to be a priestess of the goddess. Her best friend is a pretty girl named Aylah, a former slave, remarkable for her brilliant golden hair. As the two grow older, they become renowned as the twin dancers of the temple nicknamed “Night and Day”, and fame and honor shower down upon them.
Meanwhile, in the hills outside the cities unrest boils amongst the Israelites. A hero is needed to rise up and lead their warriors to overthrow the leaders of the Philistines. Samson is known by his people to be strong, kind and clever, and the rebellious agitators wish him to lead them. Although the handsome young man desires neither power nor war, he is thrust into the spotlight again and again by the viscous rumor-mongering of the Foxes, the anti-Philistine faction of the Israelites.
From the moment Samson and Delilah see each other, at a busy festival in the city of her temple, they are madly in love with each other. Unfortunately for young love, Derceto, the high priestess of Atargatis, wants Samson dead. Her machinations keep Delilah and Samson apart until great tragedy gives Derceto the perfect chance to convince that Samson's death will right the great wrong, and the events of one of the Bible's most famous stories are set in motion...
This isn't exactly a retelling of the Biblical account of Samson and Delilah; it is more of a reinvention of the story. Obviously, the biggest change is the focus on Delilah as main character. Instead of appearing as a vampy seductress who nags the secret of Samson's strength out of him, Delilah is fleshed out. We learn about her childhood and adolescence in the temple of Atargatis, and it's a very rich and lavish world that Edgehill has developed. Now, my knowledge of the historical Philistines is virtually nonexistent, so I can't say how accurate this depiction of their world is. They refer to themselves in the book as the Five Cities, and that seems to be an accurate depiction of their worldview. Certainly, they never use the term 'Philistine' and why would they? Their culture is cosmopolitan and sophisticated, while the Israelites seem crude and violent by comparison.
Samson, too, is radically altered from his Biblical self. I mean, Bible Samson is violent and angry, ready to lash out at the slightest insult, it seems; Edgehill's Samson is practically a hippy, he's so peaceful and laid-back. Instead of killing a lion he encounters on the road, Samson tames it for a pet. Rather than pulling down a pagan temple through pure brute strength, he uses his knowledge of the temple's poor design to bring it crashing down. He's a much more sympathetic and romantic hero than normal, which makes him far more pleasant to read about, but anyone looking to find insight into the Samson of the Bible will be sorely disappointed.
4 out of 5 stars
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