In The Hidden Ones Nancy Madore deftly crafts a tale that encompasses present day terrorism, myths about the ancient world, and mystical scrolls found in Qumran in the late 1940s. As the story opens Nadia Adeire, CEO of a charitable foundation, is kidnapped by a cryptic group of men who believe she has knowledge of roaming djinn (spirits of the dead) who mean to unleash terror on the world. The men who abduct Nadia are anxious to learn about her grandmother Helene.
In 1948, at the age of 16, Helene traveled to Qumran with her father to witness a ritual meant to raise Lilith, an ancient warrior, from the dead. Lilith - tall, beautiful, headstrong, cunning, and cruel - was the first of the female Nephilim, the offspring of unions between male angels and human women. After the Qumran ritual Helene was orphaned and forced to marry an Arab man, a distressing event that completely changed her life. Helene eventually became ill and died but she left her descendants a legacy of stories about Lilith. These tales - which stir debate among the characters about truth vs. myth - fascinate Nadia's kidnappers. They fear the djinn left behind by Lilith and other Nephilim are currently planning murderous attacks on humans.
The story is told from three points of view: Nadia in the present, Helene in the mid-1900s, and Lilith in ancient times.... but the reader can easily follow the threads. I found the stories about the ancient world engaging, with massive Nephilim battling for control of cities and forests, and benevolent angels at first helping mankind and then becoming harsh masters trying to evade the wrath of God. Helene's life in a strict Muslim household was also absorbing and instructive. Nadia's storyline was the least developed, largely being a vehicle to talk about Helene and Lillith.
The book is described as partly science fiction but I didn't find much evidence of this genre in the story other than speculation that the 'angels' may have been aliens. Some of the characters, such as Lilith, ancient warrior/king Asmodeus, and immortality-seeking Gilgamesh are captivating and memorable. Others, like Helene's father and his traveling companions, are more two-dimensional and functional.
There's a bit of romance in the book, some of it not quite credible in the context of the story. I also felt that Nadia and her abductors got unrealistically chummy and that the ancients incongruously spoke in very modern lingo. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the sequel. I'm curious to see what happens to the remaining characters and to learn how the conflict between humans and djinn plays out. I recommend the book to all readers, especially fans of adventure, legends, and myths.
Rating: 3 stars