King of Gold and Blood plunges the reader into a fascinating, important era in the history of the eastern Mediterranean basin, laying out before us the days of the reign of Herod the Great, the King of Judea who built the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the amphitheater in Caesarea. Herod was a monarch knew how to get along smoothly with his masters in imperial Rome, but who treated subjects who he thought were threatening his reign with great cruelty, including members of his own family. The book begins in the turbulent times that followed the death of Herod, delves back into the period of his monarchy, and ends with the marriage of his offspring and the murder of John the Baptist. In so doing, it highlights historic events that affected the future of Christianity and the entire western world.
Gavriella Avigur-Rotem has constructed an extravagantly dramatic plot for the most significant historical novel written in Hebrew in recent decades. With a plot steeped in intrigue and conspiracy, it is reminiscent of the labyrinthine political world of works such as the “Game of Thrones.” It is narrated by Herod’s scholarly counselor and advocate, Nicolaus of Damascus, who became a major figure in the historical events of his times. After tutoring the children of Anthony and Cleopatra, Nicolaus performed the same role for Herod’s children.
The author succeeds impressively in blending into her prose the language of the Hebrew Sages as well as words and phrases in Latin and Greek, in order to evoke the unique 2,000-year-old style of Nicolaus. She has written a historical novel that deals with societal issues but also probes the nooks and crannies of the individual soul. She depicts, credibly and convincingly, a bygone world, rich in detail, in a manner that makes it relevant to our own times.
King of Gold and Blood is Gavriella Avigur-Rotem’s fifth book.
With great skill, Gavriella Avigur-Rotem describes the man and his times... she has created a multi-dimensional drama that feeds on the tensions in local political life as well as those that typified the Roman web of interests and powers...She has endeavored to create a Herod of her own, and Avigur-Rotem’s Herod has been transformed by her pen into a near-Shakespearean figure: a victim of both his own nature and of fate.
The compelling plot and the meticulous depictions of the characters are accompanied by Avigur-Rotem’s lucid and virtuosic language: a combination of modern Hebrew with more ancient expressions that add to the sense of authenticity that the ostensible memoirs of Nicolaus are meant to evoke.
I have followed the writing of Gavrierlla Avigur-Rotem from one novel to the next … and I can definitely state that she and Leah Eini are the strongest poetic forces in the field of prose that have appeared here since the 1990s … Avigur-Rotem is a great artist of language and of prose.
Ran Yagil, Haaretz
Avigur-Rotem’s writing is beautiful, rich and rewarding, both in the layered language, vocabulary and syntax and in her erudition and the variety in the book. Each sentence and paragraph in the book is a delight. Avigur-Rotem’s book is worthy of standing alongside the masterpieces of historical novels by Robert Graves (I, Claudius and The Golden Fleece) and the superb epistolary work by John Williams, Augustus. I cannot recall any other Israeli historical fiction deserving of this flattering comparison, but his book is worthy of it without the shadow of a doubt.
Any book by Gavriella Avigur-Rotem is a monumental masterpiece … She has attained an achievement the likes of which we have not seen before.
Tsur Erlich, Hashiloah