Published June 2012 by Scribner
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours
I've found myself drawn to books set in the Middle East in the past few years so when TLC Book Tours approached me about reviewing a work of historical fiction based in Iran, I jumped at the chance to learn more about the history of this region.
When the Shah of Iran dies in 1576 without naming an heir, his court is thrown into chaos and two camps quickly emerge. One camp favors Haydar, a son who immediately steps up and claims the position. The other favors Isma'il, the son who was sent to prison more than twenty years ago by his father. Among his supports is his sister, Princess Pari, their father's protege. Pari knows more about the workings of the court and, though she is not allowed to serve as shah, she quickly steps up and works to instill order in the court and to bring Isma'il to power. But resentment and anger build within the court toward Pari. It will take all of the secrets and information that Pari, and her closest advisor, the eunuch Javaher, possess to keep them safe. But Pari's temper and sense of what is owed her and Javaher's quest to find the killer of his father make it harder and harder to escape the killings that surround them.
What I Liked About It: Amirrezvani has clearly done her research and learning about life in Iran in the 16th century and the inner workings of the royal court. It was certainly a different court than the English court we are so used to reading about. Javaher, the eunuch who narrates the story, is certainly the most interesting character - when his father was murdered for treason, Javaher submitted to becoming a eunuch in order to prove his loyalty to the Shah. It allows him to become part of the court in order to work to find out what happened to his father, but it was his relationship with Pari that made him such an interesting character.
What I Didn't Like About It: The lush and descriptive writing that initially impressed me started to grow old around the middle of the book. While details about the clothing and food can make a story come alive, I began to tire of reading the specifics of what each of the women was wearing. I think the side story about Javaher's hunt for the killer could almost have been left out of the story other than the need to have a reason why this man was so willing to do whatever it took to be in the court. The real story was always the struggle to find a shah and stay in favor. I felt, throughout the book, that different editing would have enhanced my appreciation of this book. Almost from the start, this story was nonstop action but, for me, the tension was not consistent and I felt that there was quite a lot of repetition.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!