The Blood of Flowers: Anita Amirrezvani

★★★

Although this is the second novel I’ve read by Anita Amirrezvani, it was actually her debut, which drew on her rich Iranian heritage to create a story of love and loss set in dazzling 17th-century Isfahan. It’s a tale of overlapping relationships, largely between women: those between mother and daughter; between friends; and between an established woman and her poor relations. But, most of all, it’s a tale of craftsmanship – of carpets: the sumptuous Persian carpets designed by masters in the workshops of Isfahan and knotted with painstaking patience, which are splendid enough to be venerated as works of art in themselves.

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Equal of the Sun: Anita Amirrezvani

★★★

In 1576, when Tahmasb Shah of the Safavid dynasty dies unexpectedly, there is no designated heir to the Iranian throne. Sensing the chance to consolidate their power, factions within the ruling class weigh up the contenders. Pari Khan Khanoom has all the qualities of a brilliant Shah – intelligence, political acuity, generosity and compassion – but one major flaw negates all the rest: she is a woman. And yet she is determined to play a role in the struggle for the succession. As Tahmasb’s beloved daughter and most trusted adviser, she has helped to direct the empire’s policy for fourteen years and resolves to carve out a place for herself under the new Shah. But which of her brothers will succeed in claiming the crown? Based on the true story of Tahmasb’s ambitious, fratricidal sons, Amirrezvani’s novel turns the spotlight on their remarkable sister, as remembered by her loyal vizier, the eunuch Javaher.

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