Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Shadow of the Swords - A Review
Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by FSB Associates for review. The views expressed here are honest and are in no way influenced by the publisher or the author.
Saladin, a Muslim sultan, finds himself pitted against King Richard the Lionheart as Islam and Christianity clash against each other, launching a conflict that still echoes today. In the midst of a brutal and unforgiving war, Saladin finds forbidden love in the arms of Miriam, a beautiful Jewish girl with a tragic past. But when King Richard captures Miriam, the two most powerful men on Earth must face each other in a personal battle that will determine the future of the woman they both love—and of all civilization. Richly imagined, deftly plotted, and highly entertaining, Shadow of the Swords is a remarkable story that will stay with readers long after the final page has been turned.
Shadow of the Swords is a true historical fiction, steeped in facts but yet serving to fill in the gaps that history ignored with political intrigue, suspense and romance. I really enjoyed reading this novel simply because it was really well written and well laid out. Admittedly the author did have a substantial background to work from since many of the events that were described in the book actually took place. However they were heightened in some instances with so many twists and turns that made putting this book down for even 10 mins difficult.
The story is set during the Third Crusade (1187 – 1192) that is launched against the Muslim world. With this book we look at the crusades from several perspectives including Muslim, Jewish and Christian and I really appreciated that. I think that often we get a western perspective on historical events and they do not always give us an unbiased point of view. However by writing Shadow of the Swords in the third person, I believe that Pasha is allowing the reader to gain an overall understanding of the event.
The two figures central to the story King Richard 1 and Sultan Saladin were quite opposites in every way and I think if you decide to look up both men, that's one of the first things you would notice. The author did a great job to show the side of these men that history has recorded but Pasha went one step further in making them complex and multi-dimensional characters that were a joy to get to know. There are instances where the characters were entirely fictional however you could hardly tell because they were so neatly weaved into the story that without a doubt, they were real men and women written in the annals of history.
I think that it’s for that reason that it was so hard for me to have a favourite character in this book. Saladin’s chivalry, kindness and his devotion to Islamic practices were sometimes incredulous but do your research and you would realize that it is all true. I loved Miriam simply because she was a woman that was ahead of her time. She was fiercely loyal and independent, out spoken and brave. The author in his note stated that Miriam embodied the resilience of the Jews but I think I connected with her because she represented the modern ideals of women and who we all should strive to be. The cherry on the ice cream would have to be Sir William of Chinon. His character is rightly so, a sympathetic Christian and his disagreement with the crusades is how one can imagine most sympathetic Christians felt during this period.
I thought that this entire book took a stab (no pun intended) at the current conflict between the Muslims and the Western world and by extension the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media. There were some quotes that I found bearing truth to this for example:
“All human conflict was fundamentally premised on those two emotions, hatred and fear, bound painfully together and forced to dance to a grim tune played forever on the Reaper’s tune.” Pg 237
“Perhaps there will come a time when the West will be powerful again and the Arabs will fight to restore their lost glory” pg 202
For what it is worth, I do think that Pasha succeeded in shedding more favourable light over Muslims. Saladin truly embodies the core of what Islam stands for however the real question is how much of Saladin’s principles and by extension that of Islam is still maintained.
Shadow of the Swords is a really good read, not just for history buffs like myself but for anyone who appreciates how past events continue to shape our future. It’s also a great story about showing love, compassion and tolerance in a world that is as diverse as ours is. I am definitely going to give it a second read before I pass it on to my friends.
Author Chat with Kamran Pasha
Next week from July 26th to 30th we will be chatting with the author over at the book club. Everyone is invited to since I know that many of you will have a lot of questions for Kamran. The chat forum will open at 8 am (GMT - 4:00) on July 26. Later this week I will be posting the link to the thread so that you can access the forum.
Let me remind everyone that there is no need to join the book club to access the author chat. Simply log in with any domain such as Yahoo, Gmail, Facebook or Twitter. Its that simple.
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