From behind her curtain, Pari said, “Curious rumors are always circulating amoung you men about the royal harem. You seem to imagine it as an opium den full of connivers, but it s more like an army regiment organized by rank and task. How could you know what goes on in the harem? Have you ever been inside?” “Of course not,” said Khalil Khan. “Then I think you are best off leaving such concerns to me.” p. 339I was also fascinated by the long-term orientation of the characters in the book as they created and destroyed alliances based on their own goals. Amirrezvani presents the reader with a ruthless world where the Shah was truly all-powerful, with the fate of his subjects literally in his hands, to dispose of as he saw fit. Individuals in the palace are shown constantly balancing their own needs against the Shah’s, advancing often by the destruction of others. As a historical novel, Equal of the Sun has exactly what you’d ask for: strong, likeable characters, exotic locations, believable relationships and lots of intrigue. Even at more than 400 pages it’s a quick read, and lots of fun, although the unfamiliar names and shifting alliances were sometimes confusing. I really enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it highly for those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in Middle Eastern history. Another one for the Historical Fiction Challenge! I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and received a free copy of the book in return for my honest opinion. For links to other opinions, look here.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Book Review: EQUAL OF THE SUN by Anita Amirrezvani
Growing up one of my best friends had a dad from Iran. Only the family never referred to it as Iran. They referred to themselves as “Persian.” Over the years, spending time at their house, “Persian” came to stand for a beautiful (though unintelligible) language, sweet desserts and colorful carpets. And over the years, as more and more bad news came out of the Middle East, I think I’ve compartmentalized my beliefs: Iran as a political entity, and Persia as a culture. Little wonder, then, that I jumped at the chance to read Anita Amirrezvani’s Equal of the Sun, a historical novel about Imperial Safavi Persia. The book tells the story of Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi, a powerful daughter of Shah Tahmasb, as told by her faithful eunuch servant, Javaher. Pari is both a diplomat and a poet, a woman of great importance. In fact, during her father’s reign she was one of his most trusted advisors. But her father’s death turns her world upside down, and she and Javaher have to negotiate a completely different world than the one they have previously inhabited. This book was the first I’ve read about the Safavi dynasty, and I was surprised and intrigued by the power of the women in the book. Yes, they were part of an Islamic world. But according to Amirrezvani many were able to wield a behind-the-scenes power I never imagined. In fact, Pari uses her gender to her advantage. At one point, her former guardian vaguely suggests that Pari might have been involved in her brother’s death: