I purchased this and another book from Wein's list. I thought she was going to do a fair job. Instead I discovered an extremely sloppy storyline and even worse facts. Wein seems to be running interference for the recent Ethio Eritrean war and on the Eritrean side. Everyone that is familiar with Ethiopian history knows that the region that we know today as Ethiopia is but a shadow of what those ancient Ethiopians and Axumites ruled. Yet Wein repeatedly misses this. She insists on a dubious and outright falsified peering of the Axumite Empire with what at that was Roman and Byzantine ruled Brittania. Axumite's contemporaries of Byzantine and numbered only 3rd in power next to the Persians and Chinese are reduced to entertaining with the barbarians from Brittania to the extent of intermarrying with them.
The ridiculousness doesn't stop there. Wein insults the history she writes about by not even respecting the hard facts that remain of it. When taken to task she argues her work is a work of fiction not history, but then rounds about and testily remarks that it is as factual as the records of that time allow it to be. Not so fast.
There was no record, NONE, of any interruption between the reign of Kaleb(Ella Asbeha) and Wazeb(Ella Gebre Meskel). She creates one just to insert her British caricature and gives him the title Ella Amida, yet another of Axum's kings. Is she trying to tell us in her non-historical history that no Ethiopian could suffice and we had to, alas and alack, rely on a barbarian to rule us.
So after all the claim of Ethipians never to have been colonized is false, after all Elizabeth Wein says so.
But not so fast. The entire Britanic saga is not just unlikely but impossible. Axumite coins may be found in britain for a number of reasons including commerce, but Britannic journey's to Axum were impossible. None were made. There were no records of "white hairs or blue eyes" anywhere in Axum's hagiography until well after the Solomonic restoration.
Finally Wein's politics gets in the way of her story telling, she seeks to give Eritrea, the 19th century Italian creation footing in 4th Century Ethiopia. This may be done to give the Eritreans a sense that this is their history too. Admirable but the story should not suffer for such political ambition. The contrivance of Telemakos as a white haired child is insulting to say the least. And the choice of names for people, "Ras Meder", "House of Neber" is inexcusably in its sloppiness. Those are not Axumite names or even names people would give to people. And Ethiopian monarchy are not organized by "houses". This is an imposition of a British mindset on a poor attempt at an Ethiopian story. Finally the contrivance of Goewin as a British Ambassadress that defies the age old customs forbidding females from entering monasteries is perhaps the most damning. Such thing would be punished by immediate and instant death to the offender. Axumites then were fervent about their rules. It is telling how disrespectful Wein is to the people she writes about, typical of the inculcation British education had one her, that she choses their most sacred institutions as the battleground for ancient feminism. Such acts would not have occurred and again had they occurred the Emperor or king would have been powerless to stop the guardians of the holy places from exacting swift and terrible retribution.
Overall while Wein writes well in general, she writes badly about Axum and overall about the Ethiopian Empire. She chooses to weave her own unfulfilled fantasy into the stories than to subsume her ego and her politics to the deserving and demanding story that needed to be told.