This is not what I was expecting. Instead of focusing on historical facts about Zenobia, a little known Palmyrene empress who stood up against Rome and took back Egypt before her defeat, this is a fictionalized account of what her life might have been like. Granted, there is more myth than facts about Zenobia, and what facts exist are scant at best, so putting together any story of length would require a lot of guesswork.
I never heard of Zenobia, and I was interested at first. Hawker clearly is familiar with the time and place in which this history takes place and describes it all with vivid detail. But things quickly started to drag it down.
I'm not usually one to quibble about POV and verb tense because certain stories and characters just work better in 1st person vs 3rd person, or present tense vs past tense. However, writing an historical fiction in present tense felt awkward, especially when paired with the 3rd person omniscient. Present tense works best with 1st person POV, which gives the story an immediacy and intimacy. The 3rd person took away the intimacy, even though we're told what the characters are thinking and feeling, and the slow pacing took away the immediacy, so it felt like the tense was constantly fighting with the story being told. Add in the random head-hopping and there was too much disparity for the story to flow.
I soon found myself wishing that the story would cut through all the theorizing and get to the point. So I jumped to the author's notes at the end where she details the research she did and why she made certain narrative choices, and that was all I really needed. :D