The Biblical book of Daniel contains familiar stories such as the fiery furnace and the lion’s den, but also less well-known ones, such as Nebuchadnezzer’s insanity after setting himself up against God Most High. Garden of Madness focuses on the story through the eyes of Nebuchadnezzer’s daughter Tiamut. I enjoyed this imaginative retelling of a less-familiar Old Testament story, especially the details of how the monarch’s madness would have affected the kingdom’s stability. The author admits that her sources may not have been accurate, but draws the story skillfully.
The main character, Tiamut, starts out a bit stereotypical, a “rebellious princess” sort who enjoys running around the walls of Babylon as a way to escape from her mother’s watchful eye, but develops depth throughout the course of the story. She learns what is worth fighting for at any cost, as well as the truth of Babylon’s religions. The author manages to present the difference between Babylonians and the captured Jews without being overly preachy towards either side, working it naturally into the conflict.
While this book is based on a Biblical story, it’s possible to enjoy it without the background information. In fact, the tension is increases that way, making it more suspenseful.