cover image Akmaral


Judith Lindbergh. Regal House, $19.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-64603-469-7

Lindbergh (The Thrall’s Tale) draws on Herodotus’s Histories for a crackling novel focused on the lives of ancient Central Asian women warriors known as the Sauromatae, descendants of escaped Amazon captives. The story centers on its eponymous lead as she reflects on her crowning achievement: turning her people from “a disparate multitude of wandering herders” into a nation. Flashbacks to the future queen’s childhood reveal that when she was five years old, a shaman prophesied she would become someone important. Though Akmaral grows up in a society of women fighters who serve Targitai, their warrior god, even her mother’s combat prowess is no match for a group of depraved raiders whom Akmaral eludes by hiding under a yurt. As a young woman, she becomes romantically involved with two men: Erzhan, a fellow fighter and hunter who approves of her for having “sipped the enemy’s blood”; and Timor, a peaceful Scythian prisoner whose story she gradually picks up as they learn each other’s languages. Lindbergh brings her protagonist’s ancient world to life with compassionate depictions of Akmaral’s love interests and frank portrayals of the savagery around her—especially in Erzhan’s brutal treatment of a young foe. Admirers of Laura Shepperson’s Phaedra will be riveted. (May)