The year is 70 C.E. and Roman armies are destroying the desert villages in Judea one by one. Four women, each with her own secrets and superstitions, toil in the dovecotes, tending to the sacred birds and fertilizing the fragile mountain soil near the fortress of Masada.
Red-haired Yael, born to a dying woman, impregnated by a dying man, dreams of a burning tree and worships silence. Revka, who was forced to watch her daughter’s brutal death at the hands of Roman soldiers, protects her two mute grandsons. Aziza becomes a hardened warrior after falling in love with a soldier. Shirah, a wise and brazen outcast, practices her witchcraft openly despite threats from Jewish spiritual leaders in Masada. Which of these women will survive the legendary battle of Masada?
Alice Hoffman has created a well-researched and epic work of historical fiction with subtle elements of magical realism sprinkled throughout. Though the setting is biblical, the tone is deeply mystical, and readers who appreciate intense and poetic writing will not look back once they dive into this tale of survival in the harshest of worlds.