Daniel Phalen, author
Under the watchful eye of a deadly cobra, a temple empath consorts with a renegade lion hunter to secure a clairvoyant breakthrough before a power-mad priest deposes the ruling matriarchy and plunges civilized humanity into chaos.
Phalen (the Rose Doolitle Mystery Series) takes a lively look at 3200 BCE Nippur, Sumer, where a queen’s power is threatened by an invasion while she endures a macabre mating ritual. Uruna Kumta, 26, is queen of the temple Ekur, where she engages in a dangerous sexual routine dictated by the deity Inanna, meant to bring on a clairvoyance that will show her the way to “lasting peace and prosperity” in Sumer. Uruna has undergone the ritual for 14 years with numerous suitors, who are meant to keep her satisfied after she drinks a mixture of wine and cobra venom—if the men cannot, they are killed by the four cobras surrounding her bed. A landowner’s council advises Uruna to marry the ruler of another city to help protect Sumer, but she falls in love with Anu, a fearless lion hunter who pleads to be given a chance with the cobras. The path to love with Anu and sustained power in Sumer is threatened by the sacrilegious machinations of Bull Priest Engudak, leader of the Gunzek army, which leads to a dramatic confrontation. A basic understanding of Sumerian mythology would help readers decode some of the themes, but Phalen’s prose maintains a kinetic energy as the action unfolds. Written with authority, this manages to convince and bewitch. (Self-published)