The Mark of Solomon, Part 2: The Empty Kingdom
A Kirkus Reviews Best Continuing Series title, 2008
The Horn Book Recommended Summer Reading 2008
About the book:
In The Lion Hunter, Telemakos—the half-British, half-Aksumite grandson of King Arthur—was sent for his safety to stay with one of Aksum’s former enemies. When Abreha, ruler of Himyar, allegedly the boy’s protector, catches him in the midst of what appears to be treachery, he compels Telemakos’s obedience by threatening him with a traitor’s death. But the practical punishments that Abreha administers in addition to this warning seem harder to bear than execution. Telemakos is guarded as a prisoner. Not only is he forbidden to see his beloved younger sister, Athena, but he is also commanded to reproduce the maps that Abreha plans to use in order to invade Aksumite territory. Separated from his own people by mountain and sea, lacking any way to tell his family what has happened, Telemakos must bring all of his subtle talents to bear in order to regain his freedom.
The Empty Kingdom is the riveting conclusion to the Mark of Solomon duology.
“I opened The Empty Kingdom and found myself as drawn to Telemakos’s quest as I was in The Sunbird and in The Lion Hunter. Once again, Elizabeth Wein artfully launches her quill across kingdoms, intrigue and risky alliances. Once again, Telemakos endures unspeakable trials to heart and breath. Surely this isn’t the last of this richly imagined world, or its heroes.”
—Rita Williams-Garcia, author of Like Sisters On the Homefront and No Laughter Here
Reviews for The Empty Kingdom:
t "Wein's precise and powerful prose brings the tale she began in The Lion Hunter (2007) to a fitting close. These two titles are also part of an extraordinary series that marries the Arthurian legend in Britain to ancient Aksum (Ethiopia) and Himyar (Yemen). Telemakos is captive to Abreha, ruler of Himyar, as is his small sister Athena. Although only about 14, Telemakos is deeply gifted as a spy, a tracker, a student of the heavens and a trainer of both dog and lion. Abreha keeps him from Athena, even though she is wild and uncontrollable without Telemakos. In the wary dance that Telemakos and Abreha perform, there are wheels within wheels, secrets and lies, but Telemakos is the grandson of Artos of Britain and by the thrilling conclusion comes into his own. Wein's evocation of the desert, of the memory of torture, of the forged bond between a possibly autistic child and her older sibling and of Telemakos's fierce intelligence and cunning, make this extremely riveting."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Telemakos has endured trials that would have broken men and women twice his age, and yet he emerges ever more worthy of the faith his royal family has placed in him. Caught spying on his protector in The Lion Hunter (BCCB 7/07), he now lives under the threat of imminent execution should he give Abreha reason to suspect his loyalty. Nonetheless, he strives to send coded messages of Abreha's plans against the Emperor of his home kingdom in letters to his family. The problem is that his loyalties are conflicted. Clearly, Abreha has broken the Emperor's quarantine in the past and is now plotting to attack his fleet, but he has also shown great favor to Telemakos, despite the fact that Abreha keeps the boy under guard and holds his life in his hands. Indeed, while he treats him harshly, he also honors him as he would his own son. Wein pursues an ingenious plotline in this conclusion to the Mark of Solomon duology: as she has done throughout the tales of Telemakos, she maintains a breathless suspense while developing a character of true weight and greatness. On the one hand, Telemakos is an aspiring adolescent, eager to please the powerful adults in his life and prove himself worthy of their love; on the other, he is a vulnerable victim of past abuse, haunted by dreams and in need of the adoration and loyalty of his baby sister to soothe his pain and anchor him. Mostly, though, he is a future king in the tradition of T.H. White's fully human Arthur, a person of great strength, wisdom, and daring who is nonetheless flawed, perhaps fatally, by an inability to discern who to trust. Surely readers haven't heard the last of this worthy yet accessible hero."
—Karen Coats, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"Picking up right where The Lion Hunter's (rev. 7/07) cliffhanger ending left off, this sequel plunges readers back into the intricately conceived and portrayed world of post-Arthurian Africa and the political intrigue therein. Imprisoned by Abreha, the duplicitous but charismatic king of Himyar, for spying, and separated from his beloved young sister Athena, Telemakos sends coded messages back to his family in Aksum while Abreha attempts to win his loyalty. The escalating mind game culminates in Abreha marking Telemakos as his son and sending him on a mapping expedition as his trusted representative, forcing Telemakos to commit to action against Abreha even as he gains a deeper understanding of his enemy's motivations and responsibilities as a leader. Abreha is a masterfully written foil; his fatherly love for Telemakos and contradictory willingness to punish or even execute him are equally believable, and it's easy to imagine him the hero of a different tale. Yet readers' sympathy remains squarely with Telemakos. Persevering through fear and remembered trauma to seek an honorable solution to an irresolvable conflict, he is the embodiment of steadfast bravery. Throughout, Wein deftly balances the political and the personal, so that the inevitable pain of Telemakos and Abreha's final break is offset by the joy of Telemakos and Athena's reunion, a pitch-perfect resolution to a unique, epic journey into adulthood."
—Claire E. Gross, The Horn Book
“This reminds me somewhat of the brilliant series by Megan Whalen Turner that starts with The Thief, about court intrigues in an exotic other world. Elizabeth Wein writes about an Arthurian/Aksumite cycle. Her hero is Telemakos, the grandson of King Arthur himself, trying to survive by his wits and courage as a prisoner in the court of Abreha, who appears to find it necessary to humble Telemakos, but perhaps has need of his brilliance. The most precious person to Telemakos is his little sister Athena, and we met both of them in the first book in this part of the saga, The Lion Hunter. It’s impossible to summarize this challenging story in a brief review…. Clearly, Wein is a unique writer whose work elevates the field of literature for adolescents.”
—Claire Rosser, Kliatt
“This second volume of the Mark of Solomon duology in Wein's alternate history series picks up two weeks after Lion Hunter (Viking, 2007/VOYA August 2007) left off. Telemakos, son of an Aksumian (Ethiopian) noblewoman and British Medraut (Modred), son of King Artos (Arthur), is still in the palace of Abreha Anbessa, King of Himyar (Yemen). Telemakos and his baby sister, Athena, were sent to safety in Himyar after their family was threatened. Telemakos feels more like a prisoner than a guest, especially because, as a result of his actions at the close of the last book, he is forced to wear a bell-covered bracelet and is confined to the scriptorium. As his season of confinement progresses, Telemakos tries to get coded messages to his family (and through them to the Aksumite Emperor) about the secret plans of Abreha Anbessa. All is not what it seems until the final chapter. Wein deftly continues the stories of her characters in this series that is a mash-up of British Arthurian legend and ancient Ethiopian history. It is the fifth story about Artos’s descendants. Fans of the series have likely been chomping at the bit for this since Lion Hunter closed with a pause rather than an ending, leaving Telemakos in peril. They will be amply rewarded with twists and turns and secrets revealed. Readers new to the series might make it through, but should at least begin with Lion Hunter if not Sunbird (Viking, 2004/VOYA April 2004) for maximum enjoyment. Family trees and maps are great reader aids.
—Timothy Capehart, Voice of