Maji, The Untold Adventure of the Men of the East is a fictionalized tale which will remind many readers of the Christian story of the three wise men seeking out Jesus in Bethlehem. However, the story is much more than a quaint retelling of this treasured event. Instead, it is a look behind the scenes at not only the journey of the three wise men, but also a coming of age tale about Zebedeo, a young Maji in training who accompanies the men on their journey. It is Zebedeo who drives the plot of the story as he must make a series of decisions which have life and death implications for the men of the Maji.
Zebedeo is at an age approaching manhood when he joins his father Majid, Balthazar (a warrior-priest from Babylon) and Liu Shang (a Chinese mystic and astronomer from the east) on a journey across the desert following the King Star to see the fulfillment a prophecy about the birth of a new king.
In Jerusalem, the party of men are brought before the jealous and tyrannical King Herod, who is anxious to learn of the location of this “new king.” Zebedeo is moved by Herod’s cruel idea of injustice against a young boy who suffers the loss of his hand for stealing. Zebedeo finds out where the boy lives and meets a beautiful girl named Rhia. Zebedeo can’t get her out of his mind and falls desperately in love with her.
The situation becomes even more precarious in Jerusalem when Zebedeo learns that the captain of Herod’s guard, Severo has abused Rhia and means to take her on as a wife. He means to protect Rhia and her siblings at any cost and it jeopardizes all of the Maji’s safety.
Besides wanting possession of Rhia, Severo also means to stop at nothing for power and wealth and learns about the Maji’s trip to Bethlethem to witness the new king. Severo orders the slaughter of all the first born children in the region. Zebedeo must come to the toughest decision of his life when he must choose to save the life of the new king or to save the love of his life, Rhia.
I struggled getting into this story and felt a bit bogged down at times in the early going as Meier was laying the foundation for the future events of the story. That said, Meier writes extremely well and once the story began developing, it took on a better pace and I was hooked.
There’s a lot to like about this novel, especially if you’re into historical fiction. The main characters are strong and very likable, but written in a realistic manner as they have flaws many readers will be able to relate to.
Despite my initial struggles getting into the story, I’m intrigued to try out the sequel (Order of the Maji).
If you’re a student of history or middle eastern culture, I’d highly recommend getting the expanded edition for your Kindle, Nook or iPad. It includes an appendix of interesting historical information as well as a timeline compiled by the author and is well worth the time.