Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review: Tree of Pearls

The title of the book "Tree of Pearls" by Jurji Zaydan is said to be based upon the first Muslim Queen of Egypt - Shagrat al-Durr, concubine to Al-Salih and mother of his son, who came to rule Egypt at the time of the Crusades under Louis IX.  She was said to have gained power with the aid of her favourite, 'Izz al-Din Aybak the Turk - who was also her confidant and lover.

However, the book is actually set in the latter years of her life - the Sultan is dead, news has just reached Tree of Pearls that her son has been killed by rebelling Mamluks.  Tree of Pearls is acclaimed Queen but her reign is short-lived as a rival plots her downfall - and so the story revolves around two new female characters - Sallafa (the rival) and Shwaykar (the handmaiden of Tree of Pearls).

It is around this same time that a new player enters the field - Rukn al-din Baybars - and the story moves to the court of the Caliphs of Baghdad as Baybars pursues his stolen love from the clutches of a jealous rival.  

And this really is the last we hear of Tree of Pearls until the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols when we learn the fate and future of all the main characters.

It is part historical fiction part historical narrative.

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