Equal of the Sun: A Novel by Anita Amirrezvani

Title:  Equal of the Sun - A Novel

Author: Anita Amirrezvani

Publisher:  Scribner (Simon & Schuster)

Pub Date:  June 5, 2012

Pages: 431

What it's About:  Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégé, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but the princess’s maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, are in possession of an incredible tapestry of secrets and information that reveals a power struggle of epic proportions.

My thoughts:  Equal of the Sun is very different from most of the historical fiction that I read. I was very excited at getting a chance to read about a powerful woman who wasn't a Tudor or Queen Victoria.  Historical fiction nowadays tends to be very Eurocentric, focused primarily on 100 years of history.  It's a rare treat that readers get to enter a world that is not familiar. Equal of the Sun is an intriguing look behind the scenes of 16th century Iran or Persia. Before reading this book, I had only been familiar with the Ottoman Empire thanks to the historical romance novels of Bertrice Small! Anita Amirrezvani pulls back the curtain to reveal the manueverings and jockeying for position that takes place after the death of the previous Shah. Her descrip­tions of the ancient tra­di­tions and the cul­ture of Iran is one of most cap­ti­vat­ing aspect.

While the inside cover of the book indicates that the novel is about Princess Pari Khan Khanoon Safavi, the book is really more about her eunuch Javaher.  He narrates the story of what happens during this pivotal year.  I found this to be both one of the books strengths but also it's weakness.  We never really get to know Princess Pari because Javaher never really gets to know her.  He's her servant as well as her eyes and ears in the outside world. I felt that by focusing on Javaher so much, and not at least having the book narrated by Pari at least in part, the reader is kept at a distance, as male visitors are kept by the lattice when they come to speak with Pari. What the readers does get to know about Pari is fascinating. Here you have a dynamic, intelligent woman who because of the culture and traditions of her country is never able to fully use her talents.  It's clear that Pari would have made a most excellent Shah if it had been possible for women to rule. She's also stubborn, and is always convinced that she is right, which is one of her less attractive qualities.

Javaher is a unique character.  Unlike most of the eunuchs at the Palace, he chose to become one, at the late age of 17. While he is intensely loyal to the Princess, he also is not afraid to tell her things that she might not want to hear. I quite enjoyed reading his take on all the politics and the royal family.  The book is filled with excerpts from Persian poetry which I also found quite enjoyable.

Amirrezvani is a mesmerizing story-teller, I was enthralled by this new world from page one. While I was never bored while reading the book,  I did however become increasingly frustrated because the book revolves a great deal around Javaher as well as his quest to find out the truth of his father's murder. There's also a great deal of background concerning the various tribes that took up a great deal of the book. I found myself constantly flipping to the front of the book to remind myself who the various characters. However, the strengths of the book far outweigh the weaknesses.

For anyone who loves historical fiction and wants a change of pace from European settings and characters, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this book. Hopefully this book will give readers more of an insight and knowledge into the country of Iran.


Marg said…
I really enjoyed Amirrezvani's previous book too!
Anonymous said…
So much of the HistFic I've read is focused on European history so this book would definitely give me new insights into a time and place I know little about!

Thanks for being on the tour.

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