Books for the Holidays


The holidays are coming. What better present than a book? You can purchase The Throne in the Heart of the Sea and The Stars in their Courses in three ways: if you live in Portland, you can go to St. Johns Booksellers. Both books are also available through the publisher’s website, And if you prefer to read that way, they are now available on Kindle—thanks to technical help from Sylvia Allen!

Here are some recent reviews:

1) In The Stars in Their Courses Martha Shelley illuminates the world of Biblical figures such as Jezebel and Elijah, leading to great understanding of their places in history and what brought them there. In this captivating series, she vividly portrays their lives (what did they eat? Where did they live? What was the land like, or their art?), their motivations, their loves and hates, and how they become swept up in bigger social and political movements. Shelley’s touch is personal and immediate, fleshing out her characters fully and making the reader care deeply about them. This is a great and thrilling book. – Nadine Fiedler, poet, editor

2) I received The Stars in their Courses as a gift and it was a while before I picked it up and started reading. What I discovered right away is that, while I had not yet read the first novel in the series, Martha provides just enough background that I was able to connect with the characters and understand and enjoy them even without having read the first book.

Initially my favorite character was Jezebel—which is surprising for me. As the novel progressed I began to appreciate the authenticity Bez brings to the story and she became the character I identify with the most.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but let me just say that I am eagerly awaiting the third book in this series. Martha does leave the reader wanting more. In the meantime, I will be ordering the first book because I want to learn the details of how these characters, some of them historical figures, got to the place I found them in The Stars in their Courses.

Martha Shelley interweaves history with fiction to bring ancient ways to life. She is a skilled researcher and beautiful writer. – Mary Ann Aschenbrenner, President, Waterlink Web

3) The Stars in their Courses, the second book in Martha Shelley’s historical trilogy, is every bit as superb as the first.  The first, The Throne in the Heart of the Sea, takes us into the 9th century BCE world of her four major characters. We follow the training of Tamar, a would-be physician. We get to know Bez, the palace guard, Tamar’s protector and friend. We understand the fears and longings of young Princess Jezebel, about to become Queen of Israel. And we walk along with Elijah the prophet, lost, scared, powerful, distrustful and distrusting. The adventures and misadventures of these four people are embedded in a rich tapestry of 9th century life.

The second book, a wonderfully good read, full of amazing historical detail and breathless cliff-hanging moments, draws these four towards each other and almost to their deaths. The King of Israel conscripts Tamar into service as an army doctor, and she and Bez follow the troops into battle. Jezebel competes with the royal concubines in order to produce heirs to the throne. Then, when her husband goes to war, she takes his place, becoming the power in the land.  Finally there is the problematic prophet Elijah, family to Tamar, in and out of love with Jezebel, puzzled by Bez, and unable to stay out of trouble. Dramatic tension builds until the terrible moment when we all realize that war is coming. Always there are wars, but this one is with Assyria, the most dreadfully cruel empire of its day.  Seldom are novels this gripping, its characters so unique and the story so rich.  Read it and be amazed. – Barbara Joans, author, Bike Lust

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