The Empty Kingdom (The Mark of Solomon Series #2)

The Empty Kingdom - Elizabeth Wein OK, GOODREADS -- Why did you eat my review? Well, here we go again.This book is fantastic -- I loved it, and I'm so glad I finished reading it. I almost didn't. I admit, there was a scene right in the middle of the story that I found so horrific that I had to stop and put the book aside. But after that, the pace picked up and the book came to such a satisfying conclusion -- I can understand those who cried at the end (I didn't but I do understand why someone might -- so beautiful!)So...I want to keep this spoiler free, but still give an idea of what the book was like.1. It's really beautifully written, like everything Elizabeth Wein puts out. No annoying grammatical errors or unhappy turns of phrase anywhere.2. The characters are amazing! And everybody is really well described, but nobody (and that's nobody!) is exactly as they appear to be. But yet, nothing is hidden -- a typical Elizabeth Wein trick, I begin to think -- just like [b:Code Name Verity|11925514|Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein||16885788].3. The plot, also amazing, is completely character driven. For me, this made all of the developments seem very realistic, no matter how fantastic they actually were. Who will like it? And who should read it? Well, anybody who likes a really well crafted, twistily plotted adventure story with great writing and memorable characters. Which would be everybody, of course. But people who do not like to see young children in difficult/terrifying situations, or people who just cant stand a slow build of tension and need the action to start right away will probably not like it as much as I did. Before I end this review, I want to leave you with four thoughts -- one is a reflection, two are quotes, and one is "in conclusion," and will tell you whether this story stands alone.First, in our podcast interview with Elizabeth Wien,she told us that she was writing The Mark of Solomon after 9/11, and it became a book about fear, and dealing with fear. This book is #2 in The Mark of Solomon. And yes, there's a lot of fear in it.I was struck by the biblical quote that prefaces the book: "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death." ~Song of Solomon 8 : 6 It is not immediately clear what this means in the context of the story, but when it becomes clear, it's amazing.Then there's the title. I don't know whether I should quote the passage it comes from, now that it comes to it. I don't want to spoil it! But it's gorgeous, and it's about perception, and double and triple meanings. I nearly cried at this point -- even though I didn't yet understand everything in the (did I say twisty?) plot. Oh, and did I mention the ending? And the characters? Telemakos and Athena, I love you so much!!Finally, does it stand alone? Well, I don't think so. You definitely wan to read the first Mark of Solomon book, [b:The Lion Hunter|982391|The Lion Hunter (The Lion Hunters, #4)|Elizabeth Wein||967280], before you read this one. And I think the story gains power if you've read the rest of the series first, starting with [b:The Winter Prince|962821|The Winter Prince (The Lion Hunters, #1)|Elizabeth Wein||87868]Highly recommended! And you'll definitely like it if you like [b:Code Name Verity|11925514|Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein||16885788], or [a:Megan Whalen Turner|22542|Megan Whalen Turner|]'s Queen's Thief series.