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Equal of the Sun

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From the author of the internationally bestselling The Blood of Flowers comes a compulsively readable and gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, intrigue, and love in the royal court of sixteenth-century Iran.

Legendary women—from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots—changed the course of history in the royal courts of sixteenth-century England. They are celebrated in history books and novels, but few people know of the powerful women in the Muslim world, who formed alliances, served as key advisers to rulers, lobbied for power on behalf of their sons, and ruled in their own right. In Equal of the Sun, Anita Amirrezvani’s gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, and love in the royal court of Iran, she brings one such woman to life, Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi.

Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégé, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but the princess’s maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, are in possession of an incredible tapestry of secrets and information that reveals a power struggle of epic proportions.

Based loosely on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, Equal of the Sun is a riveting story of political intrigue and a moving portrait of the unlikely bond between a princess and a eunuch. Anita Amirrezvani is a master storyteller, and in her lustrous prose this rich and labyrinthine world comes to vivid life with a stunning cast of characters, passionate and brave men and women who defy or embrace their destiny in a Machiavellian game played by those who lust for power and will do anything to attain it.

431 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2012

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About the author

Anita Amirrezvani

4 books508 followers
Anita Amirrezvani is the author of the forthcoming novel Equal of the Sun, which was published by Scribner in June, 2012. Her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, has appeared in more than 25 languages and was long-listed for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction. She teaches at the California College of the Arts and at Sonoma State University.

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5 stars
573 (23%)
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952 (38%)
3 stars
710 (28%)
2 stars
188 (7%)
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42 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 480 reviews
Profile Image for Lyndz.
108 reviews346 followers
June 5, 2012
If you are like me and love your historical novels but are sick to death of reading about the same historical eras over and over, this is the novel for you. I had no clue about how much I DIDN’T know about Iranian royal politics until I started reading Equal of the Sun.

This is one of those books that when you are not reading it, you are thinking about it. And when you are reading it you are fully submerged in the atmosphere. Anita Amirrezvani does an excellent job of fording a believable and realistic world.

Like many of my other most favorite historical novels, Equal of the Sun does take some heavy groundwork and character development before the story can actually get rolling. If you are one of these people who cannot be patient while the background is painted and wants immediate gratification and action right off the bat, you will probably struggle a bit with the tempo of this book.

The story is told through Javaher, a eunuch servant to the royal court. Javaher is telling the story of Pari, a princess that he serves and admires.

I absolutely loved Pari, our female protagonist. She is the quintessential strong-willed female going against the grains of society. Her relationship with Javaher is distinctive and very fun to watch as it progresses. The story follows Pari as she navigates the dangerous waters of the Iranian court.
Equal of the Sun has all the elements you want to see in a good historical fiction; drama, strong characters, touching interpersonal relationships, heartrending sacrifices, surprising plot twists and turns.

The book is followed with an index of resources that were used for factual references throughout the book. Which I always find fun to read through. The novel is based loosely on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom who was indeed a real Iranian princess in the 1500s.

4 strong stars! & I highly recommend it to my fellow historical fiction fans.

I am going to see if my library has The Blood of Flowers (Amirrezvani's first novel) right now. Thank you very much to Scribner Books for the copy of this book and the opportunity to read it. I received this book for free through goodread’s first reads program, but that in no way influenced this review.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,973 reviews1,983 followers
September 9, 2012

Rating: 2* of five (p68)

The Book Description: Legendary women—from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots—changed the course of history in the royal courts of sixteenth-century England. They are celebrated in history books and novels, but few people know of the powerful women in the Muslim world, who formed alliances, served as key advisers to rulers, lobbied for power on behalf of their sons, and ruled in their own right. In Equal of the Sun,Anita Amirrezvani’s gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, and love in the royal court of Iran, she brings one such woman to life, Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi. Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégée, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but the princess’s maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, are in possession of an incredible tapestry of secrets and information that reveals a power struggle of epic proportions.

Based loosely on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, Equal of the Sun is a riveting story of political intrigue and a moving portrait of the unlikely bond between a princess and a eunuch. Anita Amirrezvani is a master storyteller, and in her lustrous prose this rich and labyrinthine world comes to vivid life with a stunning cast of characters, passionate and brave men and women who defy or embrace their destiny in a Machiavellian game played by those who lust for power and will do anything to attain it.

My Review: This is not at all a poorly written book, and it's not at all an uninteresting one. It's so overwritten that I would swear an oath on my mother's grave it was written by David Mitchell in a burka.

There is a difference between lush, ripe word-seduction, the kind that leaves you juuusssst on the edge and doesn't leave icky sticky puddles on your person, and the splattery overripe sloppy seconds kind of writing this book is.

Give me Sexing the Cherry over this any darn day.
Profile Image for RM(Alwaysdaddygirl).
456 reviews68 followers
October 10, 2018
Somewhat Spoliers:

It was a great book. It took me way longer to finish because of a certain character death. It just made it harder for me becaue I am going through it. Life can be worst. I also learn new things with the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bonnie Shores.
Author 1 book371 followers
January 30, 2018
This story takes place (mostly) in the palace of the Shah of Iran back in the 16th century and is told in the first person by a eunuch named Javaher. First person narration, imo, always makes a story feel more intimate and that intimacy is definitely realized in Equal of the Sun.

I wanted to show this beautiful Audible tapestry cover because it more clearly conveys the richness of the story. Vivid details of tapestries and rugs and clothing and accessories really paint a complete picture of palace life.


Javaher is born into a noble family—his father worked for the palace. However, he was accused of something treacherous and was put to death, leaving Javaher to care for his mother and sister. After his mother died, he sent his sister to live with a relative, and decided to have his parts cut off at the (way too old for that) age of 17, in order to secure a position within the palace. This desire was two-fold: (1) to find out who framed his father and exact his revenge, and (2) to support his sister.


Javaher is hired at the palace and works his way up the ranks, earning praise and trust for his efforts. He is finally given the opportunity to work for Princess Pari, the favorite daughter of the Shah, in an important position. The two quickly discover they have much in common and the Princess comes to rely more and more on Javaher.

Until this point, I must admit that I was a little bored and considered not finishing this book. But I'm definitely glad I did. It's a "slow burn" that ends up being really exciting and the author did an amazing job of making me care about all of the characters.


Back to reviewing... So, the Shah is murdered but he leaves no instructions regarding a successor. The logical choice would be Princess Pari, as she was her father's protégée, familiar with the inner workings of the state. But, remember, this is a Muslim country in the 16th century, and women were supposed to be seen and not heard. In her attempts to quell the chaos and bring order back to the palace, she exhibited natural leadership qualities that made high-ranking officials nervous. They would not be told what to do by a woman!


Court intrigue abounds—eyes and ears are everywhere, alliances are formed and broken, and it seems that almost everyone is looking out for their own interests. Who can Pari trust? What does her future hold?
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,945 followers
May 16, 2012
I did not like this. I'm no longer giving specifics for books I don't like, because answering comments from disagree-ers steals too much of my time. Good Reads needs to add another check box option, "Allow comments on this review?" yes/no. Until that happens, y'all will just have to guess at my reasons for low ratings.
Profile Image for JulieLaLa.
686 reviews
June 5, 2012
Fascinating historical novel based in Iran during the late 1500s. The drama surrounding a woman, Princess Pari, who should be the ruler but can't because she is a woman, and her eunuch, Javaher, is intense. The author is able to convey so much through her words. Everything about this story is sensory. We can hear the lilting cadence of the dialogue, we can feel the soft carpets under our feet, we can easily visualize the bright colours of the clothing and jewels, we wish we could smell and taste the cardamom tea, and we feel the drama and the tension as factions within the ruling class in Iran intrigue to gain and retain power. Powerful story, based on true historical persons. A must-read.

I received this book for free through Goodreads' giveaways, but that did not influence my review (can be confirmed by my review of "The 2012 Project" that I also won from Goodreads)! Thank you to Scribner Books for this advanced copy and the pleasure/opportunity to read it.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
124 reviews8 followers
June 4, 2012
This book was on my radar because I completely enjoyed her first novel, the Blood of Flowers. Even now, years after reading her lyrical descriptions of the main square in Isfahan I can still picture the scene. If I was unfamiliar with this author I probably would’ve completely missed this incredible read, because the plot descriptions didn’t interest me. The publisher sent me an electronic galley to read so I decided to give it a try. The beginning of the novel is full of so many strange names and without any knowledge of 16th century Iranian politics it took me awhile to become immersed in the story. But once I was able to identify the major players I couldn’t put the book down until the end. The storyline was utterly engrossing and I felt her depiction of the princess was realistic, she allowed the faults of the princess to shine through—something that is often underplayed in historical fiction. There were many passages that were so descriptive the images she depicted practically jumped off the page. I will definitely read the next work by this author—no matter what the topic!
Profile Image for The Lit Bitch.
1,252 reviews391 followers
June 17, 2013
If you have spent any time in the historical fiction section of your local library or bookstore you will find that most of the genre is dominated by Tudor era and WWII era fiction mostly set in England.

Let’s face it, those are the post popular periods and settings for HF. So if you are like me, you probably get really excited when you spot something of a new setting and era!

That’s exactly what happened when I discovered Equal of the Sun! Since I don’t know much about near/middle eastern history I was really excited to read this book! What a refreshing read!

I will point out, the story does take a while to get into. It begins a little slow and if you aren’t familiar with some of the lingo you might find this novel a little daunting. Sometimes the prose was a little thick and sometimes it felt a little over done….perhaps less is more?

While I enjoyed Javaher’s character and his telling of the story, I really wished it was told from Pari’s POV. I was so intrigued by her and reading about her through someone else just didn’t have the same impact for me.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews598 followers
September 6, 2012
A terrific historical fiction, bursting with vivid characters! Fascinating period of history--Storytelling at its best! (addictive read).

I read this the week it came out ---not sure why Goodreads asked me to 'update' that I've read it....(oops...........forgot to check 'read')........ lol

Profile Image for Annette.
798 reviews382 followers
August 19, 2019
The story of Princess Pari is told by her eunuch Javaher. He begins the story of Princess with the time how he was employed to work for her and even his earlier beginnings for the family. From the very beginning the story is tedious, not too grasping. I had a hard time getting into it.

It is a vivid portrayal, full of details, but it is pretty descriptive, making the pace slow.

Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book27 followers
September 24, 2019
All things considered, three stars is a pretty good rating for me here.

This book is beautifully written. I don’t think it’s overly written, as one reviewer suggested, it’s just that if you’re going to set a novel in a time and place where poetry was the national pastime, things are probably going to get a little flowery. In that respect, I think it’s just right. Personally, I prefer Amirrezvani’s earlier book, The Blood of Flowers. The body count was easier for me to handle.

That really is my problem. I didn’t watch Game of Thrones for a reason. I don’t enjoy stories where one person after another is killed off and I’m wondering who’s going to survive in the end. I don’t enjoy stories were my favorite characters keep getting rubbed out. I get that it’s true to the historical events. This was a very bloody period in Persian history, especially if you were royalty. I just don’t care for palace intrigue and plotting, who’s telling the truth and who’s playing a game and who will come out on top.

I’m happy that there were some positives in the end and I don’t regret having read this. There just aren’t enough historical novels set in this time and place, at least not that are available to me. I hope Amirrezvani continues to mine Persian history for more such novels.

All things considered, if you don’t mind the streets running red with the blood of characters you like and if you don’t mind intrigue so complicated that it’s hard to keep all the players straight, then I imagine you’ll enjoy this one. It’s very well written and it has something to say about how we’ve egregiously wasted the talents of the female half of the population through the ages.
Profile Image for Justė.
363 reviews93 followers
December 29, 2022
(ne)lygi su saule

‘Lygi su saule’ buvo pats tas skaitinys paplūdimyje po žydrosios pakrantės saule – itin paprasta kalba, lengvai skaitoma taigi kaip tik tiko ilgam skaitymui be atokvėpio, įdomi, bet poreikio ryti neatsitraukiant. Bet pažiūrėjus iš kitos pusės, dalis šių dalykų labiau neigiami, nei teigiami.
Kaip visuomet su tokiomis populiarią istorijos įvykių ar veikėjų interpretaciją pateikiančiomis knygomis, autorę neabejotinai reikia girti už pasiryžimą kurti tokį įpareigojantį kūrinį, už kantrybę renkant faktinę informaciją iš istorinių šaltinių ir magišką sugebėjimą istoriją vėl paversti tikrove. Ne kasdieną ir šiaip į rankas patenka šiuolaikinė būtent arabišką istoriją apdainuojanti ir tokia populiari knyga. Žinoma, turint omenyje, kad pati rašytoja yra iraniečių kilmės amerikietė, nieko keista nei dėl populiarumo, nei dėl pasirinktos tematikos.

O ši pagyrų verta ne vien dėl istorinio konteksto. Daug ryškiau man šitoje knygoje jautėsi poreikis skelbti pirmiausia lyčių, vėliau ir apskritai žmonių lygybę. O tą idėją tikrai ryškiai ir be didelių sunkumų galima atskleisti XVI amžiaus musulmoniško dvaro aplinkoje, kur moteris ne tik negali palikti haremo be leidimo, o princesė su dvariškiais turi kalbėtis sėdėdama už širmos, bet kur moteris apskritai buvo beteisė būtybė, perkama, parduodama ir atiduodama kaip prekė. Na bet aišku suvis subtiliausia buvo pasakoti visą istoriją iš vėlokai kastruoto tarno pozicijos, kuris tarsi tampa tarpininku tarp dviejų priešingų lyčių, lyg pabrėždamas, kad viskas, kuo skiriamės – anatomija ir hormonai. Sutinki su tuo ar ne, sveikinu autorę už idėjas ir jų atskleidimą.

Tačiau didžiausias knygos masalas, kuris užkabino ir mane buvo ta didingoji princesė Pari, lyginama su Ana Bolein ir Elžbieta. Galbūt tikrovėje ji ir buvo narsi, galinga ir protinga moteris, kuri turėjo nemažai įtakos tuometiniam Irano gyvenimui, bet knygoj aš to nepajutau nei trupučio. Pirmiausia, aišku, niekas jai neleido nieko daryti. Taigi galbūt aš, labai mažai susipažinusi su tokia kultūra, tiesiog per daug tikėjausi, galbūt visa tai jau buvo daugiau nei moteris musulmoniškame dvare galėjo pasiekti. Bet prisiminkime, kad kalbant apie šią knygą minima moteris, dėl kurios anglai savotiškai pakeitė religiją, ir jos duktė, kuri viena pati be vyro daugelį metų valdė vieną galingiausių valstybių ir atvedė ją į didingus laikus. Na tai vargu ar labai jau didinga prie jų atrodo Pari – savo tėvo šacho numylėtinė, puikybės ir savimylos kankinama mergina, kuri svajojo tik apie poezijos ir grožio kupiną teisingą dvarą, kurios visi žygdarbiai yra keletą savaičių išlaikyta tvarka rūmuose ir (spoiler alert) spėjamas savo įbrolio naujojo šacho nunuodijimas. Taip, ji nebuvo eilinė mergina, puikiai gaudėsi intrigose, rinko ir manipuliavo informacija bei rūpinosi žmonėmis. Bet tai nepadarė nei jos, nei knygos didinga.

Didingumo nepridėjo ir skurdoka, bent jau vertimo, kalba, baisiai silpni dialogai – dirbtiniai, neįdomūs, vaikiški ir vietomis visiškai nereikalingi – nieko neatskleidė, tik užėmė bereikalingą pasakojimo vietą. Kai kurie epizodai ir siužetiniai sprendimai buvo jau bepradedą rimtai sudominti, bet tik paerzino šiek tiek ir liko neišnaudoti – su veiksmu glaudžiai, rodos, besisiejanti pranašystė, pamažu narpliojamos praeities paslaptys, rimtos intrigos, sujungusios iš pradžių pakrikusias pasakojimo dalis ir galimybė užkirsti kelią sąmokslui, kuri deja pats išsikvėpė. Kaip iš anglų kalbą ir kūrybinį rašymą studijavusios Anit Amirrezavni kažkaip tikėčiausi daugiau. O gal aš tiesiog labai išlepusi skaitytoja.

Ploju, energingai, už idėją, užmojį, ryškius visuomenės, kultūros vaizdus ir socialinį komentarą. Išpildymas man nebuvo prie širdies o ir šiaip laukiau daug didingesnio, dramatiškesnio ir visomis prasmėmis aistringesnio romano. Tiesa, retkarčiais stipriau pabangavus pagaudavau kabliuką, o pabaigoje, jau skaitydama tikrus faktus apie Pari, užčiuopiau kažką sunkiai įvardijama, lyg dvelksmą to, ką autorė knygoje atskleidžia ne taip akivaizdžiai – gal gyvenimo trapumą ir jį įprasminančius artimus žmonės. O gal tiesiog man imponavo pabrėžta konspiracinė istorijos klastojimo idėja. Iki saulės tiek knygai, tiek pagrindinei jos ašiai dar būtų kur pasistiebti, bet negali sakyti, kad užduotis buvusi visai bergždžia ir nenusekusi.
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews491 followers
May 18, 2012
Full disclosure: I won this through GoodReads giveaways, and received an ARC. The finished novel will be published in June, and the ARC instructed me not to quote as the text may differ from the published edition. I doubt it but have abided by those requirements.

We delve straight into the story from the first page, in the first scene alone Amirrezvani utilises show-don’t-tell to establish our first impressions of Pari and Javaher’s characters, and the writing is good. The first scene flows immaculately, complex and yet never lacking clarity, it is clever, idiosyncratic, and enjoyable. Already I could tell that I was going to enjoy this book.

I wasn’t let down in that first impression. The quality continues right the way through, from start to finish, never wavering or running out of steam. There is just the right dose of richness to bring the Persian court and its residents to life, without the language becoming too flowery and unwieldy. Almost the entire story unfolds through show rather than tell – tell is judiciously utilised only when a character’s reminiscences have relevance to present action or provide a salutary lesson regarding the situation at hand.

The device of Javaher as narrator at once solves the issue of the restrictive court etiquette Pari is confined by, and gives the story greater scope, both the outside perspective and the intimate inner knowledge needed to navigate the plot, but he is no mere messenger – Pari has her own ways of gaining information, and Javaher exists as a fully independently realised character with his own opinions and agendas.

I felt a little bit like the scope was a tad restricted - probably the nature of court life, but I would have liked to have heard a little more about what was going on outside the world of the court and how it tied in to the story. I also would have liked to have spent a little more time with Pari and her father, when she is in high favour and fully able to exercise her wise judgment. However, these are minor issues, more bonus wishes than complaints or problems in the book.

Amirrezvani’s previous novel, The Blood of Flowers, is set in a later period and follows the story of the weavers of the highly complex rugs Persia is famed for. Having not read it I can’t comment on it, but in Equal of the Sun, Amirrezvani herself is the weaver, weaving together the delightful exotic setting, the unexpected twists and turns of a relentlessly paced plot, and the lives of such subtle characters as Javaher and Pari until they become inextricably intertwined in each other’s stories.

The wonderful thing about Equal of the Sun is that, in addition to my describing the setting as exotic, Amirrezvani makes it familiar. Sixteenth century Persia is a place and period about which I knew virtually nothing – one of the many gaps in my historical knowledge – so I went into the book not knowing what would happen and being swept away to a place that was completely new to me. But the characters and the plot are familiar. Even as Pari adorns herself in colourful exotic attire and Javaher partakes of strange yet mouth-wateringly described foods, these are both inherently familiar characters. Their thoughts, feelings, reasonings and desires are so accurately rendered by Amirrezvani that they are instantly understandable and identifiable, and the context explained so smoothly – without the clumsy use of block information-dumping or awkward obvious exposition – that as a reader I quickly and easily comprehended the unique attitudes and customs portrayed. Amirrezvani illuminates this time and place with the best possible clarity – not only showing us one face of historic Persia, but highlighting the great achievements and tragic fallibility right alongside one another, her most partial agenda merely to draw attention to the existence of forgotten powerful, learned women of the times.

8 out of 10.
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,445 reviews203 followers
June 15, 2012
Okay, I know that I go on and on about how I like when historical fiction books that me to places that I've never been before. I seriously do like that so let me just gush about this book a little bit. Iran is someplace that I don't know a lot of older history about. I know a lot about the more recent history but not much prior to the 20th century. This book takes the reader back a few hundred years to the time of the Iranian royalty, in particular, the Safavi dynasty. It was a time of struggle between members of the family to claim the power that they believed to be theirs. The years of the Safavis seemed to be incredibly tumultuous. I knew nothing about this ruling family before this book. All of the royals that are mentioned in the book were actual people. The servants in the books, including Jahaver, the narrator, were fictional.

This book takes you right into the intrigue through Jahaver, a Eunuch whose allegiance is pledged to the Shah's favorite daughter, Princess Pari. Jahaver is a really fascinating character. He goes through a really painful process of becoming a Eunuch as an older teenager (can you say ow????) in order to be able to go into the palace world to try to figure out the mystery of who killed his father. It's a lot to give up but Jahaver is not afraid to do so. Slowly he begins to learn the trade secrets of the palace and how to get what he wants. He even is able to teach Princess Pari the way to work those surrounding her in order to get what she wants. I loved that Jahaver is the narrator of the story. I really thought that it helped to pull the reader in and to see through the eyes of someone that knows a lot about what goes on in the palace.

The writing is great. Amirrezvani does a great job of making you feel like you're right there where all of the action. The reader really gets a great view of what's going on. I loved how the author wrote about the settings. There are some really good descriptions.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
46 reviews1 follower
April 28, 2013
A story of secrets, intricate conspiracies, and various forms of love: Equal of the Sun is a well- woven tale. The tale of a beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious woman in a time where men are rulers, all told through the eyes of a trusted eunuch, Javaher. He describes his time working at a complicated Iranian court for princess Pari of the Safavid dynasty. Pari and Javaher connect to readers' hearts and minds with their exotic world and interesting ideas.
This historical fiction paints a wonderful picture of a time and culture that is rarely written of. Both actual and created characters are all crucial to the story and seem to be connected in various ways. Readers get to experience not only the brilliance of Pari, but the rise and fall of several other stars. Equal of the Sun is a must-read for those who seek sophisticated adventure and historical excitement.
Profile Image for Brian Griffith.
Author 6 books239 followers
January 3, 2021
Amirrezvani's novel rivals the great sagas of court intrigue in pre-modern China or Japan. The center of action lies not in the official male-dominated court, but among the ladies and eunuchs of the harem, who are fully engaged a struggle to save their country. Princess Pari and her eunuch viceroy Javaher emerge as heroes worthy of classical Persian legend in their battle of wits between meritocracy and back-stabbing greed. The novel is more powerful because it is built on the life of a real woman, Pari Khan Khanum, a Safavid court strategist who engineered the removal of the brutal shah Ismail II, and was murdered by men fearful of her brilliance in 1578.
Profile Image for DeB.
1,000 reviews252 followers
August 30, 2015
Somehow forgot to list and review this after I read it in 2014. I loved The Language of Flowers so was open to anything the author would write. It is an exotic tale, virtually A Thousand and One Arabian Nights sumptuously framed around biographical fiction of Persia in its cultured and educated history.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,405 reviews69 followers
June 2, 2012
I received a free advanced copy of this book through the First Reads program, and what an exciting, wonderful read it was! Set in 16th century Iran, this book gives life to a historical figure, Princess Pari, daughter of the Shah. When the Shah dies without designating an heir, the palace becomes a madhouse with multiple sons claiming the throne and only Pari truly in tune with the inner workings of the palace. Because she's a woman, there's no chance Pari can rule as Shah, but through clever maneuvers, she becomes powerful and a force to be reckoned with or threatened by.

The book is narrated by Javaher, Pari's eunuch and trusted servant, who's trying to clear the name of his own father, who'd been a trusted member of court until accused of treason and executed years before. Javaher is the only person Pari seems to fully trust, and it's clear that he is loyal to her because he must be - and because he wants to be. He is a strong narrator who, because of his status as a eunuch, has access to everywhere in the palace, including the harem, where men are not allowed. Because he is able to be everywhere, the reader is truly taken everywhere on this journey and get a full picture of what is happening and all the turmoil that occurs.

This book is a sweeping historical epic with a thrilling plot. I was enthralled throughout the book by all the plotting going on by the characters and all the ideas hatched for murders, treachery, and revenge. Though the book is historical fiction, it's based on historical figures and real history; the author did a beautiful job weaving together fact and fiction, creating a believable story that felt like it could truly have happened. It is fascinating to see how much effort went into putting together a coherent face of government and how trusted employees could be needed one day and disposable the next. I also loved all the layers of propriety and the various levels of positions that one could hope to attain. Because the narrator is an eunuch, there is a lot of reflection about how things have changed for him, including his outlook on life and the interactions he has with others. It was very reflective and interesting - a different perspective than usual - and he was such a likable character that I continually wanted to root for him, to have things finally go his way after all he'd lost and sacrificed.

The author writes beautifully, and it was easy to lose myself in this novel. She did a wonderful job describing everything and explaining how things worked so you could easily follow along without ever getting taken out of the scene. No doubt a lot of research went into writing this book, and it shows. There was so much attention to detail that I could almost see everything around me and also felt as if I were there, alongside the characters in the palace.

Because this is based on a true story, it does not wrap up with a nice, tidy ending, but it did leave me satisfied. I loved the fact that nothing had a simple solution and that things didn't always go exactly as planned, keeping me hooked because I had to find out what would happen next. Though I occasionally forgot a name or the relationship between certain characters, there was a handy "cast of characters" listing at the front of the book for reference, and this didn't lessen me enjoyment of the novel overall. From the very beginning of the novel, I was intrigued, and now that it's over, I don't know what to read next! Definitely a book I'd recommend to others.
Profile Image for Sarah Beth.
957 reviews34 followers
May 1, 2012
I won this novel as a giveaway on Goodreads. 4.5 stars.

I was excited to see that Amirrezvani has written another novel because I read her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, and really enjoyed it. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this one even more. Unlike her first novel, which dealt with an impoverished girl working her way to independence, Equal of the Sun is set at the palace and the very heart of the ruling class of Iran. The year is 1576 and across the world, Queen Elizabeth I is 20 years into her reign. But Iran is a very different place. Unlike Elizabeth, Princess Pari is unable to succeed her father, even though she is his favored child and is the most competent to rule. Because of this, the court is thrown into chaos and many lose their lives.

Although the book description only mentions him, this book is narrated by, and largely about, Javahar, an unusual eunuch and loyal servant of Princess Pari. Unlike most eunuchs who become so as children, Javahar chooses to become unsexed at the age of 17 to try to win back a place at court after his father's mysterious and disgraceful execution. Because of his late transformation, he still resembles a man and still desires women. His goals are to serve his princess, find out the truth behind his father's death, and bring his much younger sister to court to secure her future.

I love historical fiction, but much of it deals with European sagas. Amirrezvani's novel was a breath of fresh air and an interesting look into a story inspired by true events and people. The court of Iran is heavily based on protocol and flowery language and I loved learning more about the culture of the time and place. Furthermore, having an eunuch as a narrator was quite unusual, yet entertaining. Javahar is easy to like and I was rooting for him the whole story. Although, I really wonder what Freud would think of a female writing a story about a man who is constantly troubled by the loss of his manhood.

A very entertaining novel that will hopefully inspire other writers of the historical fiction genre to branch out and explore other countries and historical figures.

Profile Image for Beverly.
1,640 reviews351 followers
March 31, 2013
This was a 3.5 star review for me.

My thoughts:
• I enjoy reading the stories of women who are left at of his history, especially those who influenced or participated in the political turmoil of their times – so this was an enjoyable informative read for me.
• It started off slow and as this was an audio book I had to get use to the names and roles, but once the pace picked up it was a good “read”
• To help me acclimate to the times and the some of the players – I googled to see who were the shahs during the time period for the book and this helped me to understand about what I was listening to.
• I know very little about Iran and their history during this time period and know I feel a little more knowledgeable
• There are several storylines, all are intertwined and the outcome of one can affect others at times – sometimes with deadly consequences
• Javaher, a eunuch, is the narrator and he became a “cut” man later in life than most other eunuch and it was his decision. The process and his feeling are well-done (not gory) but does give insight into what is endured.
• Lots of political intrigue and not sure who you can trust and who is your friend or enemy in the short-term and long-term. I like how the women are portrayed and what they contributed to the political intrigue.
• Also liked how the book told about the food, protocols, and the lives of those who lived in the palace and/or provided services to the palace. Because Javaher was “cut” late he liked women and so his “love” scenes were an interesting touch.
• Overall it was a good audio read – and was sad when it was over as wanted to know what happened to the next shah and how that affected Iranian history and the history of the area.
• I would read future works by the author – especially if it about Iran.
Profile Image for Lyd's Archive (7/'15 to 6/'18).
174 reviews37 followers
April 3, 2016
God demanded that his leaders rule with justice, but what if they did not?... Must we fear draw a breath?
If you wanted but didn't get a really awesome immersive Middle Eastern setting from The Wrath and the Dawn, then this is your book. Granted, it is adult historical fiction without a lot of romance, the narrator is a eunuch, and there's a whole lot more politics, which is confusing to follow, and there really isn't that much of a happy ending, it's a really good book with not that many flaws and I highly recommend it.
At dawn, a weak, useless, sun fialed to brighten the dim sky.
As it always is, there's a certain quality to the writing that makes it exceptional. Initially - I guess it was a culture thing - I felt like the characters were a bit insincere in all their poetic flattery, but I got used to it and somehow it didn't seem awkward or dorky the way she always threw in lots of exclamation points in her dialogue. I know I've read a lot of books with a similar premise as this, but it was done quite well, other than the main character's constant reminding the reader that he has no male private parts with which to do you-know-what. Nevertheless, eunuchs are overlooked, so it was an interesting perspective.

Some of the twists in this book also seemed unprecedented, as if a third-person narration could flesh it out better. Nevertheless, sometimes it was just the way history works.
Jalileh and I had no one else, and that knowledge made us treasure each other like priceless pearls plucked from the stormy depths of the Persian Gulf.

Profile Image for Theresa Leone Davidson.
657 reviews30 followers
April 20, 2013
Another beautifully written novel by Anita Amirrezvani, whose novel The Blood of Flowers was exquisite and led me to read this one, a novel of historical fiction about a princess in sixteenth century Iran named Pari, upon whom this novel is loosely based. It is narrated by her assistant, and later vizier, a eunuch named Javaher (I now know more than I ever thought I would about how a man becomes a eunuch...horrifying). When Pari's father, the Shah, dies without naming an heir, she is the most likely choice to rule but at that time women were not allowed to rule here (interesting, too, they mention that Elizabeth at the same time is ruling England) so Pari's half brother, an opium addict, comes to rule and begins murdering anyone he thinks might be out to usurp him, and paranoid as he is, that's a lot of people, including family. Pari's reaction to this, and what she and Javaher do to save their beloved country, make up the novel, and I loved it. It was suspenseful, written in a moving, lovely way that makes you feel as though you are there, in the royal court, a witness to all that takes place. I love some writers of historical fiction, like Jean Plaidy and Margaret George, but other writers get bogged down in extraneous details that take away from the story: not so with the best of them, including Amirrezvani. Highly, HIGHLY recommend!!!
411 reviews16 followers
February 3, 2012
Amirrezvani transported you to another time and place with THE BLOOD OF FLOWERS, and she succeeds once again here.1500's Iran comes to vivd life in her wonderful new work, and once again the story is centered around a strong-willed young woman. Based for the most part on very well-researched fact, the story or Pari Kahn Khanoom is riveting from the begining chapters. Told by her servant Javaher, a ficticious character who also happens to be a eunuch, Amirrezvani weaves fact and fiction into a glorious historical tapestry.The relationship that Pari and Javaher share is beautiful. Master/servant is broken and they are soon comrades fighting a common cause. Their storys are well told with Amirrrezvani's deft detail for history, atmosphere and detail. Insh'Allah Anita continues to create such gorgeous works for years to come. EQUAL OF THE SUN is well worth reading.
Profile Image for Michelle.
94 reviews11 followers
January 24, 2018
Iran 1576: an intriguing setting where success was based on loyalty and betrayal, paradoxically. The narrative, woven with the poetry of Ferdowsi, one of Iran’s greatest poets and author of the 60 000 line Shahnameh, is one of love affairs, gender roles and political despotism. Equal of the Sun loosely mirrors the tale of Kaveh the blacksmith, the protagonist within the Shahnameh, but transposes him with Pari as justice seeker. It is all strung together with scholarly research and is narrated by a eunuch who serves sassy Princess Pari Khan Khanoom - an actual princess from the past. Their relationship gave much of the story its heart.

The story is mostly dialogue, but this did nothing to undermine the story’s colour and characters.
Profile Image for Amy Kamel.
7 reviews
November 15, 2017
A slow start, but well researched and I loved Amirrezvani's use of language.
Profile Image for Carla.
69 reviews6 followers
September 21, 2022
Gestopt halverwege het boek. Heel irritant dat het alleen maar over geslachtsdelen gaat. Of die er nog wel, of niet meer zijn. Onder het wandelen dacht ik waar ben ik naar aan het luisteren.
Profile Image for CinnamonHopes.
185 reviews
December 3, 2015
'Equal of the Sun' was a surprisingly enjoyable read. Although set in a time and place far from what I know, I quickly became enmeshed in the characters' world. Ms. Amirrezvani has a true talent for transporting her reader; I luxuriated in the opulence of the palace, I felt the heat of the spices in the food. And, even more importantly for myself, I wasn't able to predict the ending of the book easily.

The novel is described as a surprising story of the depth of friendship between an Iranian princess locked away in the harem in the 1500s, and her eunuch man-servant. And it is so much more than that. Based on the real-life princess Pari Khan Khanoom, I found myself wanting to learn more about this world so alien to myself. The power struggles after the Shah's death, and the grasps for power were dazzling.

I really liked this one!

I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway.
Profile Image for Sharon Huether.
1,502 reviews10 followers
March 14, 2014
Equal of the Sun By Anita Amirrezvani I won this book through Goodreads. This was a time in history in the middle east when women could not go places where men could go. Thus they needed a loyal man to here and see all. This eunuch had wise suggestions to the young princess after her father the Shah died. She appreciated him. She also had a lot of famly that muddied the waters politicly. Life was not simple.
Profile Image for Angela.
115 reviews
May 2, 2012
I had a really hard time getting through this book. The historical aspects are interesting, so you learn what life was like in Iran hundreds of years ago. The way it's written makes it hard to feel like any of the characters are real. Not that the writing is bad, just dry and totally unemotional.

Won through Good Reads.
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