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The Woman Behind the Legend - an Editorial Review of "The Last Magdalene"



Book Blurb:


The Last Magdalene does for the New Testament what The Red Tent did for the Old Testament.


The temple of Asherah has existed in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, disguised as a benevolent society for widows and orphans. Within the sheltering walls, priestesses are taught to honor the goddess through rites of passion passed from mother to daughter and from priestess to priestess. Into this world, Miriam of Bethany, is born.


Miriam longs to become The Magdalene, High Priestess of Asherah, as her mother and grandmother before her, but learns she is to marry an obscure rabbi from Galilee, Yeshua bar Yosef. Determined to control her own life, she runs away and is brutally attacked in the streets of Jerusalem. Broken in body and spirit, she resigns herself to her fate.


Yeshua, hailed as the Messiah, teaches love and acceptance, and places Miriam in the forefront of his followers. Together they find the courage to face the hostility of the priests and the brutality of Roman occupation. But Rome is a power unlike any the world has known, and Rome deals harshly with those who oppose its rule.


The Last Magdalene is an exquisite story of passion and love, and the lasting power of one woman’s voice which refuses to be silenced.



Author Bio:



Donna Conrad is an award-winning author, journalist, activist, and teacher. Her core values revolve around the concept of individual empowerment, a sustaining ideal running through the books she writes. Her writing interests are varied and include articles for fine-art periodicals, memoir/narrative non-fiction, as well as historical, flash, and paranormal fiction. She is a regular presenter at writers' conferences.


Her first published book, "House of the Moon: Surviving the Sixties," is a memoir that explores life in the tumultuous decade that changed the world.


Donna's life is as varied as her writing. She embraces change as an exciting adventure. She has studied writing with the likes of Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jack Whyte.

Her upcoming four-book historical fiction series, The Magdalene Chronicles" has been acquired by Cold Creek Press. Book One, "The Last Magdalene," will be released April 9, 2024


She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their three cats. When she's not writing, you can find Donna cruising the back roads in her black-on-black Miata MX-5, Maya - named for one of her favorite poets, Maya Angelou.



Editorial Review:


"The Last Magdalene," written by D.D. Conrad, takes us on a journey full of mystery and

shrouded in the secrets of time and human deceit. The prologue introduces us to the world of

the protagonist, Miriam of Bethany, the last Magdalene, who lives in a cave in southern

Galilee. Despite rumors of her madness, Miriam decides to reveal her story, leading us on a

path of intertwined truths and lies.

“I have heard tales of my madness. The village wives bring them to me with requests for potions and charms. They tell me my madness is of Satan. My madness is Divine trance. That I take neither food nor drink, for Angels sustain me. That I am a great sorceress. That I raise the dead. Truths and lies tangled in a web of time and man’s deceit. Yet, I shall try to unravel the threads of my life for you.”


The story begins with the protagonist's primary memories, interwoven with divine and

mystical voices from the darkness before dawn. Miriam, the daughter of the goddess

Asherah, tells us about her life dedicated to the Queen of Heaven, contrasting with the denial

of goddess worship in her people's sacred texts. As the story unfolds, we learn about her

childhood in a temple and her relationship with her mother, the High Priestess of Judea and

Israel.


A crucial moment is presented when Miriam, at the age of five, is handed over to the care of

High Priestess Abana to begin her formal training. This change brings internal conflicts and a

painful rupture between her and her mother. Despite the temple traditions and a deep

connection with the goddess Asherah, Miriam feels the pain of abandonment and seeks to

understand the reason behind her mother's decision.


Conrad manages to outline Magdalene's story in a captivating way, gradually revealing the

secrets of her life and hidden history. The atmospheric descriptions and well-drawn

characters create a vivid picture of the ancient world and the protagonist's intense

experiences. Authentic dialogues and rich details add authenticity to the narrative.


And I knew in that moment I must write the story of my life, and of lives greater than my own. For you have been told only half-truths about the man, Yeshua bar Yosef—he who was crucified on Golgotha, in the land known to Rome as Judea. And you have been told only lies about me, Miriam of Bethany—the last Magdalene.”


As the story unfolds, we witness Miriam's struggles with her own suffering and revelations

about Yeshua bar Yosef. Despite the difficulties, Miriam finds the strength to maintain her

faith and explore the truths about the life and death of Yeshua.


The novel continues to explore Miriam's life in later chapters, revealing childhood memories,

connections with the goddess Asherah, and sacred initiations into the Order of Qedeshah.

Each detail adds depth and authenticity to the central character, creating an emotional

connection between the reader and Miriam.


The vividly colored descriptions of landscapes and the culture of that time enrich the reader's

experience, while well-constructed dialogues and well-defined secondary characters

contribute to the complexity and richness of the story.


A notable aspect of the novel is the sensitive approach to delicate themes such as sacrifice,

spirituality, and cultural traditions. The author constructs a world in which Miriam faces

challenges and difficult choices, and the reader is invited to explore these aspects from her

perspective.


As "The Last Magdalene" unfolds, the author takes us through the protagonist Miriam's trials

and difficult choices. In the chapters "Tides of Destiny," "Prophecies and Promises,"

"Lessons and Legends," we witness the character's evolution and how she confronts the

dilemmas of her life. We feel the burden of the choices Miriam makes as she navigates

through sacred duties, forbidden relationships, and personal desires. Her relationship with

Barabbas becomes a thin thread that connects her to the external world of Rome, adding a

complex layer to the story.


The book reveals Miriam's internal struggle with her destiny and the role she plays in the

prophecies of the times. The idea that Barabbas could be the key to saving her people adds a

captivating element and makes the reader wonder what the future holds for Miriam. We also

discover the teaching and leadership side of Miriam, who tries to better understand the world

in which she lives. Perspectives on the Roman occupation and the sufferings of her people

provide an intriguing historical depth to the novel.


The moment when Miriam decides to renounce the Order of Qedeshah marks a turning point

in the story, emphasizing her strength and independence. The gesture of smashing the goblet

and decisively leaving Salome Magdalene's chambers shows the courage to live life on her

own terms, independent of the constraints imposed by the religious order.


Then I renounce the Order of Qedeshah, my service to Asherah, and to you, Salome. I shall choose my own path and follow none that you have laid.” I grabbed the precious goblet from the table and smashed it to the floor, then turned sharply and left her rooms. I did not look back at the woman I had loved, and silently swore that I would never again do her bidding. I returned to my rooms and went to my clothes chest, ignoring Naomi’s frantic questions. I snatched the heavy cloak that bore the broach Barabbas had given me and fled into the night, determined to find Barabbas and become his wife.”


The author explores themes such as destiny and personal freedom. Miriam reflects on how

destiny guided her steps and how she came to recognize destiny's intervention in her life. Her

experiences, including escaping from the temple and facing her own vulnerability, add depth

to the character. There is also a highlighted regret that she did not realize this intervention of

destiny in her life sooner. The author addresses topics like fears related to marriage and

uncertainty about the future. The preparations for marriage and interactions with the

characters provide a continuous drive to the story.


Beyond personal struggles, the story expands and presents the tumultuous historical context

with political intrigues, conflicts, and social changes. The entry of Roman troops into

Jerusalem and the arrest of Yeshua pave the way for a tragic and dramatic ending.

The narrated fragments about the crucifixion of Yeshua are remarkable, offering a vivid

picture of his suffering. The story also captures the impact on those close to him:


Their presence alone was a miracle, for crucifixion is abhorrent to all Hebrews. Whenever a crucifixion took place, Hebrews would cover their faces and turn away. Whenever possible they would shun the path to Golgotha as if it were haunted by daemons. How they knew of Yeshua’s crucifixion is still a mystery and yet they were there, in unprecedented numbers, to honor the death of their Mashiach. For many in Jerusalem had been touched in some way by Yeshua.”


Ultimately, the book raises profound philosophical questions about faith, death, and human

existence.


Does the story continue for those who have passed? I no longer ponder the question that consumed my thoughts following the death of my mother. Tales are told for the living.”


"The Last Magdalene" is an emotional journey through the ancient world, filled with intense

experiences and events that shape the destinies of the characters. This book successfully

blends historical, spiritual, and dramatic elements, providing the reader with a profound and

memorable experience. The author skillfully combines elements of history, mysticism, and

love in a fascinating story about a woman searching for her own identity and path in the

world.


The essential message about the love and sacrifice of Yeshua, and their impact on those

around him, remains a central element of the story. Overall, Miriam's captivating tale offers

readers a glimpse into a world full of internal conflicts, political intrigues, and personal

growth.


*****


“The Last Magdalene” by Donna D. Conrad receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


Award:



 

To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit www.thehistoricalfictioncompany.com/book-awards/award-submission 



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