Title: Equal of the Sun
Author: Anita Amierrezvani
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Princess Pari Khan Khanoom is a Safavi princess in 16th century Iran. Though she is a woman, she has been trained by her father, the Shah, to be a capable and smart leader. But when her father dies, Pari finds her place at court jeopardized; people are afraid of her power and would rather silence her than use her as an ally. Along with her eunuch servant, Javaher, Pari must machinate behind the scenes in order to gain the power she was born to wield.
Equal of the Sun is told through the eyes of Javaher, a eunuch who faithfully serves Princess Pari Khan. But Javaher has his own agenda, about which Pari and everyone else at court are unaware: Javaher’s father was a court accountant, and he was accused of embezzlement and murdered by someone at court. Javaher has made it his life’s goal to find out what happened and avenge his father, even going so far as to become a eunuch at the age of seventeen. This personal vendetta provides a connection for the reader to the story. The political machinations in this novel are so widespread and large that it’s easy to become lost in the story. Javaher provides a firm anchor for the reader and gives them something to relate to personally, such that they become emotionally invested in the story.
While Javaher is a well-written, three-dimensional character in Equal of the Sun, Pari is a little more difficult to get to know. I wouldn’t say she’s a flat character, because she’s vibrant and cunning. But because the reader only sees her through her servant’s eyes, they never really get to know her or personally care for her. She’s ambitious and brilliant, to be sure, and she deserves a place advising the shah. But her temper and refusal to play the games of the court seem to stymie Pari at every turn. It can be frustrating for the reader, as it is for Javaher, because she has so much potential but is her own worst enemy.
The novel also provides an inside view at the court of the Shah in the 17th century. Amirrezvani writes with such detail that readers will be able to see the court, in all its colors and splendor, come alive before their eyes. The political dealings are interesting as well, but some readers might be turned off by the emphasis on court politics rather than character development. Pari had no interest in lovers, and her personal life was the business of being Shah. There was no room for anything else. While she makes for a refreshing woman in historical fiction, it makes for a lot of intrigue and plotting.
If you’re interested in strong, ambitious women in history or life at the court of an Iranian shah, then Equal of the Sun is an absolute must-read. It’s a fascinating, eye-opening story of a woman who has been lost to Western history. The novel does put an emphasis on history at the expense of character development (especially of Pari), but it’s still a book that’s well worth reading for any fan of historical novels.