Cover image for Horses of heaven
Horses of heaven
Bradshaw, Gillian, 1956-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Doubleday, [1991]

Physical Description:
viii, 448 pages : map ; 25 cm
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Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Centuries after the death of Alexander the Great, Hellenistic natives or ethnic Greeks continued to speak the language, perform the plays, and worship the gods of a culture whose roots were thousands of miles away. Bradshaw, a Cambridge classics graduate, shows us one of these far-flung outposts of Greek culture. In the valley of Ferghana (in present-day Afghanistan), Greeks and an assortment of other ethnic groups survive and function in an uneasy, fragile equilibrium. Against this backdrop, a love triangle unfolds amongst Hellokleia, a Bactrian princess; Mauakes, a barbarian king; and his son, Itaz. Bradshaw's characters lack the fire, vividness, and historical credibility of some of her earlier portrayals (e.g., Theodora and Justinian in The Bearkeeper's Daughter). Nevertheless, this is a solid, often exciting "semi-historical" adventure that illuminates an obscure but fascinating corner of the ancient world. ~--Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

British novelist Bradshaw ( Imperial Purple ) has created a richly detailed, absorbing historical novel of the ancient world, with strong, well-developed characters and all the right plot elements: love, war, courtly life and the magic of the gods. In 140 B.C., narrator Tomryis, age 18, is chosen by Saka King Mauakes of Ferghana (now Afghanistan), to attend his new wife, Heliokleia, a Greek from the kingdom of Bactra. The marriage is a political alliance, and Mauakes makes it clear that beautiful, intelligent Heliokleia is to have only limited powers. The aloof queen decides to seek her soul's release by being the perfect ruler. Mauakes's grown son Itaz, devoted to his father, is sensitive to both the king's isolation behind the mask of power and Heliokleia's emotional suffering. Eventually Mauakes falls in love with his wife, but he can't demand her affection, which has settled on Itaz. Aided by their sun god patron, Heliokleia and Itaz must confront the paranoid, embittered Mauakes and endure a horrible confrontation with a supernatural creature. Well-researched, interesting details on the cultural and religious customs of the period provide background for the noble characters, who fulfill the promise, good or evil, of their true natures. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Bradshaw continues the tradition of excellence begun in her earlier historical novels ( Imperial Purple, LJ 11/15/88). Here she takes us to the kingdoms of Ferghana and Bactria (present-day Afghanistan) about 140 B.C. The widowed King Mauakes seeks a wife to assuage his loneliness and to create political alliances. Beautiful young Heliokleia of rival Bactria is selected to be the old man's queen. Unfortunately, the young woman, who has studied meditation with Buddhist monks and who prefers prayerful solitude to royal fanfare, seeks escape and serenity through meditation. Mauakes, in his insecurity, refuses to let her function as the queen she was trained to be, and she emotionally slips away from him. This so infuriates the king that he abuses her. Of course, there is an admirable younger son to soothe her, plus ambitious and corrupt council members. Ultimately, the gods reward the just in this satisfying contemporary story about an ancient land. For most fiction collections.-- Joan Hinkemeyer, Englewood P.L., Col. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- A fine story, set in Central Asia 200 years after the time of Alexander the Great. Warring barbarians want their rulers to conquer and rule as Alexander had once done. Faction against faction sets the region on fire with war. One ruler, stronger and smarter than the others, tries to secure his borders by treaties and royal marriages. His Greek border is peacefully aligned to his kingdom by his marriage to the sister of the Greek ruler. All is fine until she arrives; not only is the princess mounted on elephants that terrify even the soldiers and their horses, but she is beautiful, too. The tale begins as the aging ruler, amidst great pagentry, marries the young princess. His lack of personal hygene offends her, but loyalty to her people and a great sense of duty keep her from fleeing or killing herself. The story takes on new dimension when the son of the king falls in love with his stepmother, and she with him. Colorful ceremonies and romance set against antiquity's landscapes make this involving historical fiction. --Linda A. Vretos, West Springfield High School, Springfield, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.