Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree by Lisa J Yarde


Queen Aisha al-Hurra was married to Ali abu al-Hasan. After numerous machinations and maneuverings, she succeeded in placing her son, Abu ‘Abdullah (Boabdil) also known as Muhammed XII on the throne. For all her efforts, sadly, he lost his power and the kingdom, and became the last Sultan. 


Abu ‘Abdullah (Boabdil) Muhammed XII

Aisha's love for her husband faded fast when he abandoned her for a Catholic concubine named Isabella. Isabella later converted to Islam and took the name Zoraya. Having to endure the woman's presence was not the only thing that was worrisome about the relationship. Catholic armies by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand threatened their sultanate, and the Sultan's love for a Catholic woman made everyone nervous as they feared her influence over him. Her husband's new lover thrust Aisha into direct competition with Zoraya to ensure her sons would not be supplanted by Zoraya's when it came to ascending the throne.   

When her husband was away on a prolonged voyage, took matters into her own hands. Aisha set out to turn nobles, citizens, and the military against her husband. In this she succeeded, and saw her eldest son, Boabdil, crowned as the new Sultan. 

But Isabella and Ferdinand were eager to seize Granada and make it Catholic. In 1492, they succeeded in driving Aisha and her entire family out. As they all rode out of the city, Boabdil stopped to cast one last look at Granda, taking in beauty for the last time. “Allahu akbar,” he said and then began to weep at all he had lost. Unsympathetic, angry, and disappointed at her son's inability to hang on to power, Aisha responded with, “Weep like a woman for what you could not defend like a man!”

Aisha's poignant biography is re-imagined in Lisa J Yarde's Sultana Series - Book 5 - Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree. 

Book #5 of the Sultana series. In fifteenth-century Moorish Spain, Aisha, the descendant of the Sultans of Granada endures a life imperiled by dynastic warfare, loss, and cruel fate. Enemies descend on the kingdom from all sides and threaten to tear it apart. To preserve a fragile peace, Aisha suffers a sham marriage to a cruel tyrant, forever divided from the love that once ruled her heart. Years later, when a trusted confidante becomes a powerful rival, Aisha must fight for the future of the next generation or witness the destruction of her family and the last vestiges of Moorish rule in Spain. 

Snippet: “I spoke so you would never forget who you are again. You have a proud heritage and Nasrid pride, the pride of lions who lived and ruled for centuries before your existence, and the Sultanas who would not let fate or circumstance bend or break them. Their blood flows in your veins! Saad and his son have taken from you. Show them that you are as fierce as Jazirah, Butayna, Fatima, and even Maryam the viper. As strong as the lioness upon the plains. A lioness of Gharnatah. You have not forgotten. You do not forgive. You shall have recompense for the lives they have ruined and the blood they have shed."

If you are looking for a passionate, gut-wrenching, exotic historical fiction series to read, then start reading The Sultana Series by Lisa J Yarde. Each novel is set in different eras in Moorish Spain. Fastidious research into the family history of the Sultans of Granada and the Nasrid dynasty yielded these utterly compelling and engrossing tales of intrigue, love, massacre, poisonings, and murder. Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree is Book 5 in the series. The main protagonist in this novel is the last queen of Granada, Aisha al-Hurra. Hers became the last generation of the Nasrid dynasty as it was her son who relinquished the kingdom to the Catholic Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. 

Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree depicts the life of Sultana Aisha's rise to power with all the passion and emotion she experienced among the court's intrigues and machinations. As always, the author's uncanny ability to express her heroine's most intimate inner thoughts and aspirations, truly bring to life this fascinating women. Through Aisha's narrative we experience her sense of fairness, her love for her family, her strength and convictions, and all this during a time of political chaos. 
Aisha lives in the harem in the Al Hambra, a dangerous world, where a wrongly uttered word or a careless act can result in death. Beautifully described surroundings and wonderfully realistic characters evolves into a larger than life tale that is nothing less than page-turning. There are eunuchs, sultans, slaves, concubines, guards, and powerful women who will do anything to garner the attention of the great Sultan and seize power. What I really enjoyed were the many descriptions and small reminders of past history (from past books) sprinkled throughout the story. It helped keep the entire series and history foremost in my mind. Like the other books in the series, this book explores themes of profound love, immense tragedy, deadly rivals, utter betrayal, and ultimate victories. Each story is rich with plot twists and complex characters that fascinate. Lisa Yarde writes with great lyrical beauty and compelling revelations. I have loved each and every books in the series and highly recommend them to everyone.  

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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