If you have spent any time in the historical fiction section of your local library or bookstore you will find that most of the genre is dominated by Tudor era and WWII era fiction mostly set in England.
Let’s face it, those are the post popular periods and settings for HF. So if you are like me, you probably get really excited when you spot something of a new setting and era!
That’s exactly what happened when I discovered Equal of the Sun! Since I don’t know much about near/middle eastern history I was really excited to read this book! What a refreshing read!
Princess Pari is an Iranian princess living the lifestyle of wealth and privileged in the court of 1576.
The princess has just hired a man to be her eyes and ears at court–a eunuch named Javaher. Pari is the Shah’s favorite daughter and as such, she is granted access to situations and conversations she would normally not have access to–a privilege extended to Javaher once he joins her service.
However, shortly after joining the Princess’s household, the Shah suddenly dies not naming an heir. Pari quickly steps in to take control of the household and day to day ruling of the kingdom, but as a woman she finds it difficult to wield any kind of true power and respect.
She is a strong leader though and commands the court well. She is hoping her favorite brother, I’smail, will ascend the throne and take her father’s place and she by his side as she did for her father.
She continues to hold court while she waits for I’smail’s return to the city, but without the Shah’s backing, she soon discovers how little the male politicians respect her. Not only do the men not respect her, but the other women at court dislike her as well. She has not always been easy to get a long with nor has she always been just which has put her as an outsider among the other women.
Her brother, I’smail, was a skilled warrior who was sent into exile by their father for an number of years but she remembers him for his valor. When he arrives at the palace after a much anticipated journey home, she finds him rather altered and much different than the boy she remembered from her youth.
As times goes on, it becomes clear to Pari that she will never get the respect she deserves as a leader and with and incompetent I’smail leading the dynasty, Pari soon realizes there is only one solution to the situation at hand: she should be the new Shah. Though she knows that her gender will keep her from ever being the Shah, she decides to go for it anyway.
Her noble servant, Javaher, means to help her make this possible. Together the plot, scheme, and manipulate their way to the top. But like most people at court, Javaher came with ulterior motives– serve the Princess, solve the murder of his father and secure a future at court for his sister….by any means necessary.
I enjoyed Javaher’s character a lot. He was full of depth and easily likable. With every great character, there is a great ‘back story’ and with Javaher, there is no denying his tale is one of heartbreak.
When he recounts the story of how he was ‘cut’ for the Princess, it is so heartbreaking and sad…..I can’t imagine giving all that up and going through all that pain to redeem the honorable name of his murdered father. Touching is the only word that comes to mind.
I really really loved Pari’s character. She was not the typical ‘noble’ heroine which intrigued me. She was cut-throat and ruthless but at the same time she had moments of tenderness and vulnerability. She is a little spoiled and often acts with a sense of entitlement but that didn’t completely put me off to her character.
One of the testimonials that caught my eye on the books cover was “a story of intrigue and action…its scheming and parricide rival A Game of Thrones“. As most of you know, I live for the ASOIAF series! One of the things I love about that series is all the scheming that goes on in King’s Landing…..and I would have to agree with this comparison, Equal of the Sun is rich in political spying and scheming…..fans of ASOIAF will find comfort in this novel for sure!
I will point out, the story does take a while to get into. It begins a little slow and if you aren’t familiar with some of the lingo you might find this novel a little daunting. Sometimes the prose was a little thick and sometimes it felt a little over done….perhaps less is more?
While I enjoyed Javaher’s character and his telling of the story, I really wished it was told from Pari’s POV. I was so intrigued by her and reading about her through someone else just didn’t have the same impact for me.
I found myself referring to the list of characters at the beginning….without it I think the novel would have been more difficult to navigate. Any time you are reading a book with a culture and history you aren’t familiar with, those little extra tools are a god sent!
I love that the book is based on a real historic figure….as with many HF novels, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction but either way, I find myself wanting to learn more about the Iranian culture and history after reading this book. It seems like the region and culture have a lot to offer authors and readers looking for something ‘different’ to read! It’s clearly an untapped market in literature!
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Scribner (first published June 5th 2012)
ISBN 1451660472 (ISBN13: 9781451660470)
- Review copy provided by: Publisher (Scribner) in exchange for an honest review
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (a refreshing new HF novel set in a dazzling country rich in untapped history)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Memorable lines/quotes: NA