Monday, June 4, 2012

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Title: Equal of the Sun
Author: Anita Amirrezvani

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Iran / 16th Century / Court Intrigue / Royalty / Eunuchs / Rebellion)
Publisher/Publication Date: Scribner (6/5/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked a great deal.
Did I finish?: Yes -- in a few days.
One-sentence summary: In 16th century Iran, a brilliant princess and her loyal eunuch struggle to survive court intrigue, betrayal, and the possible fall of the empire.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I do, very much: the embroidery and patterns of the character's clothing is often described and I love that the book cover resembles one of the royal robes.

I'm reminded of...: Jeanne Kalogridis, Matt Rees, Sandra Worth

First line: I swear to you on the holy Qur'an there has never been another woman like Pari Khan Khanoom.

Did... I want this book to be never-ending?: YES. Pari was a fascinating woman and I wished her story never had to end!

Did... I wish there was a glossary?: YES. Amirrezvani uses what I presume are Farsi terms peppered through the story; it definitely adds flavor and I think I understood the gist of many of the phrases, but I would have loved a glossary.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you love tangled court intrigue!

Why did I get this book?: I love fiction set in the Middle East.

Review: Set in 16th century Iran, this rich and detailed historical novel follows Javaher, a eunuch who becomes confidante, spy, and vizier for the Shah's brilliant, passionate, and greatly underutilized daughter, Princess Pari Khan Khanoom. As the novel opens, Javaher has just joined Pari's household, and as the Shah's favorite daughter, both Pari and Javaher have enormous access to the Shah's household staff, the courtiers, and the other nobles. For Pari, this allows her to better understand the factions worming for power; for Javaher, it is an opportunity to research the man who caused his father to be branded a traitor, leading to his execution. Everything changes, however, when the Shah dies unexpectedly without naming an heir, and Javaher and Pari are no longer in power, but find themselves in a precarious place at the edge of court.

There's a bit a culture shock at the start of the novel -- names, places, dynasties, factions all thrown at the reader with a minimum of context -- but by the third chapter, I understood the general gist of who to like and who to dislike, and I raced through this book. Amirrezvani's strength lies in her dialogue, her ability to convey character and morals in someone's appearance, behavior, or manner. Longer descriptive scenes, like battle or sex, felt a bit obfuscated and muddled. Court intrigue is here in spades, enough to rival the most sordid Tudor historical novel, and I think fans of Tudor fic will actually really enjoy this one (Elizabeth, reigning monarch of England at this time, is mentioned!). Javaher's life as a eunuch (and his life before becoming one) is explored as well, and it is horrifying and fascinating.

Despite the heftiness of this book (340ish pages), I really did race through it in about two days -- I loved Pari and I wanted to remain with her for a long time. As with the best historical novels, I teared up at the end and I closed the book feeling as if I had to leave a friend. Best feeling ever.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer one reader a copy of Equal of the Sun! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 6/22.


  1. Looks interesting, and I love the cover work. : )

    1. It was really so fun to read -- v novel in terms of locale -- but familiar with all the court intrigue!

  2. What a timely review! I read her first book "Blood of Flowers" a few months ago and enjoyed parts of it. I'll definitely pick up "Equal of the Sun" to see how the author has matured as a writer!

    1. Would love to know your thoughts if you do get to this one -- I'm so picking up her earlier book now -- I really enjoyed her writing!

  3. I just finished this today and I LOVED it. I think your review described it well. I had the same problem at the beginning of the book but once I got settled in the book really took off for me. I enjoyed her first book just as much. I was reminded of books by Pauline Gedge.

    1. I've never heard of Pauline Gedge -- will have to look for her immediately because I so enjoyed this one!

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday, I am now a new follower of yours :)
    This book sounds amazing! I really enjoy fiction set in the middle east, but there isn't much of it around. Love the cover too.

    1. Sam -- thank you for the follow!! I love fiction set in the Middle East and it is hard to find -- so this was a great treat. Historicals set in non-traditional eras is something I just adore!

  5. I haven't written my review on this one yet, but I do whish I could write one like yours. I'm thinking that historical ficiton is just not for me. I keep trying and trying it, but for the most part....

    Anyway I do like The Burning Times by Jeanne Kalogridis. I have it but haven't read it in a long time, I think I need to go back to that one soon.

    1. For whatever reason, hist fic does seem to be something a reader digs or doesn't dig -- I adore it although I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why as the plot often imitates the arc of genres I'm less wild about -- perhaps the historical setting -- costumes, unusual locales -- is enough for me. I'm finding, in fact, that the handful of books featuring split story lines have only half my interest -- the historical story lines I'm liking but the contemporary ones are boring me. I'm not sure what that says about me!

  6. I'm glad to know that the author conveys the necessary details about the time period because I know basically nothing about this time and place. Sounds like a fascinating hist fic!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.