Destiny is just another one of those dime-a-dozen books about 4,000 year old Sumerian priestesses who also happen to be immortal witches...just kidding, there. Actually, amidst the seemingly incessant parade of cowboys, secret babies and undercover spies, Maggie Shayne's distinctively original plots are a welcome relief. Although the execution isn't always smooth, this third novel in her immortal witch series
will not disappoint those who like emotional romances mixed with New Age fantasy.
"Of all the men he'd ever been, he thought he liked Nathan Ian King the best." Nathan, an immortal witch who was once Eannatum, King of Sumer, lives a quiet life until he discovers that Nidaba, the high priestess he loved and lost in 2501 B.C.E. may actually still be alive. A newspaper headline indicates that a woman apparently attempted to commit suicide, but miraculously survived a 400-foot plunge off a rooftop.
Authorities have no clue to her identity. Nathan recognizes Nidaba's picture, rescues her from the mental hospital where she is being held, and nurses her back to emotional and physical health. As he fosters her recovery, he recalls their doomed love affair.
Nidaba was a novice priestess, and Eannatum was a prince when they first met as children in the ancient Babylonian kingdom of Sumer. They were always special friends, but as they grew older, they realized that they wanted to be together as lovers. But political reality dictated that Eannatum marry Puabi, queen of a nearby kingdom, to strengthen Sumer and protect its people from destruction by outside enemies.
Nidaba suffered the worst loss imaginable after they parted, and blamed Eannatum for her pain. Neither realized that they shared an unusual trait. Both were immortal witches, who cannot die unless an evil Dark Witch cuts out their heart. Now, in modern day America, it's time to find out if their love has survived the millennia. But they might not have the luxury of waiting to find out. Eannatum's wife of old, Puabi, is also still alive and burning with the desire to kill Nidaba for stealing her husband's love eons ago.
I give Maggie Shayne credit for creating an emotional, exotic story. Her unusual version of witchery is unique, and reaching back to an ancient civilization is a brave move. I'm not sure if it fully succeeds, however. It's hard enough to create believable time travelers or reincarnated lovers who date back a few centuries. Using characters from 4,500 years ago is even trickier. Shayne claims she is a scholar of Sumerian culture, but sometimes the dialogue from the flashback scenes is a little too modern to feel authentic. Yet I acknowledge the challenge she faced, because if she had utilized dialogue that was too
stilted, the characters wouldn't have come alive for the reader.
The flashbacks to Sumer are the strongest scenes in the novel, as Nidaba and Eannatum establish their unique relationship, but then watch it fall apart because of their diverse responsibilities and Puabi's sabotage. The scenes set in the present day aren't as effective. The differences between Sumer and our modern world of cars, telephones and computers is mind-blowing, yet Shayne doesn't give any indication of how Nidaba and Eannatum have weathered the changes that have occurred over this long period of time. Also, I'm afraid that our two lovebirds fall prey to that old Big Misunderstanding a little too easily for lovers who have carried the torch for each other for thousands of years. Finally, Nidaba's character suffers from being in a weakened state for most of the modern scenes. I wanted to see more displays of her allegedly awesome powers, but was frustrated until the final battle between good and evil.
A surprise plot twist during this dramatic confrontation provides a strong finish for an uneven novel. As usual, the author's creativity and passion almost outweigh her weaknesses. I don't know how many more immortal witches Ms. Shayne plans to introduce to her readers, but I commend her for boldly going where few, if any, authors have gone before. She may stumble along the way occasionally, but she's determined
to forge her own path, and that's no small accomplishment.
Destiny stands on its own fairly well, but to have a full understanding of Shayne's immortal witch world, read the series in order, starting with Eternity and Infinity, before this installment.