Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: Equal of The Sun

Equal of the Sun
By Anita Amirrezvani
Scribner March 2013
431 pages
From my shelves

Equal of the Sun

In 1576, the Shah of Iran dies without naming an heir to the throne. The one with the most skill and savvy to rule the kingdom is his daughter Princess Pari. She knows that she herself cannot rule, but she can continue to be the power behind the throne, It will take everything she learned from her father and all of the secrets she can learn through her adviser, the eunuch Javaher, to bring stability to her beloved kingdom.  Equal of the Sun brings a virtually unknown woman into the limelight she deserves.

This story walks a tricky line of knowing and not knowing. We learn about Pari not from her own point of view, but from that of her most trusted adviser Javaher. He is a eunuch, one of the few people who can navigate both the world of the harem and that of the men in the royal court. Anita Amirrezvani presents us with a fictionalized portrayal of a real woman, but we really know little about her because women of that time were not considered to be important.

Equal of the Sun is fascinating because it shows gender as a construct and family as something you create in a time when your gender and familial connections determined the kind of life you would live. Pari shuns suitors as she works towards bettering her country. Javaher is devoted to Pari, to his fellow eunuchs, and to restoring his family's honor instead of finding a wife and continuing his line. They find themselves in unique circumstances, where their worth to each other and to others is based on what they do, not their lineage or who they have married. The two eventually become very close friends, determined to create a better Iran. 

Reading about Pari gives way to an all-too familiar frustration in historical fiction - meeting a woman who was smarter and more capable than her male counterparts, with the knowledge that no happy ending can be in store. Javaher tries to temper Pari's passion but she is caught in the circle that dooms many women who challenge the conventions of their time: she speaks and acts with confidence and authority in an effort to be heard, but those exact traits are the ones that cause her male counterparts to condemn her. 

I was thrilled to read historical fiction not set in Europe, but it took me a while to really care for Pari and Javaher. Equal of the Sun has a bit of everything for its readers, though. It has plenty of romance and palace intrigue throughout and a mystery that Javaher is determined to solve, regardless of the consequences. Amirrezvani has written a detailed description of life in the Iranian court and introduced us to two unforgettable characters. 


  1. Excellent review! I haven't ready any historical fiction set in the ancient Mid-East, and this sounds quite good.

  2. I've had this in my sights for a very long time. Thank you for such a balanced review.

    1. You're welcome! I would love to hear you thoughts when you read it. :)