BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

 

Equal of the Sun“Based on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom” seems to be the dominant short-hand description (even on its own back cover) of Anita Amirrezvani‘s historical novel set in 16th-century Persia, now modern Iran. Some might find that description misleading, and expect this to be Princess Pari’s story, told in Pari’s voice. The narrative actually belongs to her chief eunuch and advisor, Javaher, who Amirrezvani reveals in the “Author’s Note” is one of several “invented characters.” Lest you feel deprived, don’t: Javaher makes for an excellent protagonist (especially as voiced by a perennial audible favorite, Simon Vance). He takes immediate control with the very first words – “I swear to you …” – as he declares his unwavering intention to “set down the truth about the princess.” He explains, “As Pari’s closest servant, I not only observed her actions but carried out her orders. I realized that upon my death, everything I know about her would disappear if I failed to document her story.”

Scant documentation survives about Princess Pari who was the favored daughter of Tahmasb Shah (1514-1576), the second ruler of the Safavi dynasty which reigned over one of the most significant Persian empires. In Sun, the few known major events of Pari’s royal existence are a vehicle for Javaher to share his enthralling, detail-laden experiences – and Amirrezvani makes exceptional use her fictional freedom – both inside the carefully-guarded harem and considerably beyond the palace gates.

Javaher joins Pari’s service, personally chosen by the revered, celebrated Shah. In order to prove his loyalty to the same royal court that accused and executed his father on distorted charges, Javaher has shockingly emasculated himself as a young man – much later than his fellow eunuchs who were made so in early boyhood. Javaher is determined to reclaim both his shattered family’s honor … and their former power. When the Shah dies unexpectedly without naming his chosen heir, Pari (and much of the court) knows that as his favored protegé, she is by far the best prepared, most knowing successor … if only she were not a woman. More and more, Pari’s brilliant, dangerous machinations rely on Javaher’s silence, his devotion, his intelligence, and his access to outside connections.

Because this is Javaher’s story, Sun moves beyond his royal service with intriguing subplots that include his personal quest to seek revenge on his father’s accuser, his determination to save his younger sister from their greed-driven aunt, and (with enough detail to make one blush at least a few shades of grey) his surprising romantic liaisons (birth control measures not required). Untethered by recorded facts, Amirrezvani’s fictional hero is a fascinating creation, fully aware of his Machiavellian choices, unbending in his determination to succeed: “If this book were discovered by the wrong man, I could be executed, for I have committed monstrous deeds and made mistakes that I would prefer not to reveal – although what man hasn’t?” he muses. “Man is flawed by his very nature. His ears hear only what they wish; God alone knows the absolute truth.” Amen to that.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

Discussion

  • http://loveatfirstbook.com RebeccaScaglione

    I’ve never read a book about a princess before (at least, not one that wasn’t sleeping on a bunch of mattresses and a pea, or another fairy tale) but this book sounds pretty intriguing, since it seems to go into a lot of different aspects and from a really cool point of view.

    • http://bookdragon.si.edu/ SI BookDragon

      You won’t find anyone like Princess Pari in ANY Disney fairy tale, that’s for sure … in the words of fabulous historian and MacArthur “Genius” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (she of the Pulitzer Prize for A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812 which I read so long ago, I clearly need to read again!), “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Truth to that!

      • http://loveatfirstbook.com RebeccaScaglione

        And not-well-behaved women are much more fun to read about!

        • http://bookdragon.si.edu/ SI BookDragon

          TRUTH!!!

          • http://loveatfirstbook.com RebeccaScaglione

            I’m reading Pride and Prejudice and I’m bored out of my mind when they’re acting all stuffy and proper, but the second the women step out of their shell, I’m riveted!

            • http://bookdragon.si.edu/ SI BookDragon

              One of my ‘must-read’ piles consists of feminist classics I plan to re-read … someday, ahem.

              Austen, the Brontë Sisters, Shelley, Eliot, even Alcott (after reading Geraldine Brooks’ March — which I thought was the weakest of her fiction, although of course that’s the one that got her the Pulitzer, so what do I know?), etc. etc.

              Did I mention the ‘someday’??!!!

              • http://loveatfirstbook.com RebeccaScaglione

                I started March and was bored out of my mind, so I put it down for a “later” pickup!

                • http://bookdragon.si.edu/ SI BookDragon

                  I think I’ve read all the Brooks titles thus far … if I had to rank Brooks’ fiction, I’d go with Year of Wonders, Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, with March clearly relegated to the bottom of the heap.

Top