This is the story of Uqnitum, she is the daughter of a musician and has a family with her husband who plays the lyre, she lives with her son and pregnant daughter in Kahat, a city in the Mitannian Empire and they are under siege from the Assyrians and have been for months, they are running out of food and water and the relentless pounding of the battering ram against the city gates has become the norm, they toil away in the daytime moving rocks to the gate, everyone plays their part, the women and children moving the rocks and the men breaking the buildings down and piling the rocks behind the gate. At night, she thinks about the past, how she met her husband, defied her father and ran away to start a family, also the differences in their personalities and how they can sometimes work against the other and resentment creeps in, but she knows she has to be string in the circumstances for them all regardless of whether they can be strong in return.
The daily routine has been the same until one night when the gate is breached and all hell breaks loose in the small city, it turns out that the Assyrians have been undermining the city walls and now they are collapsing along with their houses, as Uqnitum wakes in the middle of the night, she realises what is happening and herds her family out of the house in an attempt to escape the soldiers, they however become surrounded by the soldiers as well as the fires their arrows have ignited in their neighbours homes and after declaring that they are musicians and singers, hoping for leniency, they are moved and grouped with the other residents of the city, where they are all bound together and led through the city gates, all the while stepping on the bodies of their neighbours and outside to the army camp where they are separated from her husband.
A water flask is passed round, she manages to get her son to drink despite his fear, they then begin to march in a long line as the day heats up, they are exhausted, thirsty and hungry, but they have to keep moving onwards, the soldiers seeing that they do by hitting them with their swords flat edge if they fall behind and those who do fall are left where they fall for the vultures. Eventually they come to a river and are forced to cross, Uqnitum and her daughter carry her son across, he can’t swim and has a fear of water, fortunately, he keeps his eyes shut and they make it across, but as he becomes more tired, she is worried that he may start to cry and scream, he prays that he won’t. Later on they all stop marching and the men are brought back, only for them to be blinded by the soldiers using hot pokers,Uqnitum’s husband is spared when she repeats that he is a musician, but nobody else is as lucky, after this horrendous event, they are allowed to rest, the water flask is passed round again, as is some dry bread, her sons still struggles understanding what is going on and this all comes to a head when the worst happens and he attacks one of the soldiers for taking the water away, all too quickly it is over, her son is dead and Uqnitum flies into a rage over it and because of this her husband is blinded, as the march continues, he loses hope and as the pain and despair overtake him, he goes mad and shouts at a soldier with all the insults and curses he can think of, the soldiers retaliate, he is beaten to death and left at the side of the road as well.
This is just the beginning of their journey when an escape is made and another long journey begins when the rains arrive and a deluge starts, they manage to avoid soldiers, hunters and dogs by crossing rivers, bridges and rolling hills, but they are weak from lack of food, water, shelter and are thankful, but wary when they find the Hittite army and are taken in and taken to the court of Ugarit, however safety is not yet theirs as Uqnitum feels the guilt in her part in the deaths of her family and is struggling to come to terms with it, but will her mind shatter from the grief, or will it make her a stronger person who is able to deal with whatever the future holds? This is a story of tragedy, determination, grief and love, it will leave you heartbroken and yet hopeful at the same time and you will want to read until the end to see what happens to the family on this hard road they take.
Reviewed by @roxsannel