City of Jasmine
Deanna Raybourn’s latest novel, City of Jasmine, is set in the Middle East shortly after the end of the First World War. Famed aviatrix Evie Starke, still grieving the loss of her husband Gabriel five years earlier, embarks upon a quest to travel the Seven Seas and, in the process, get her life back on track. But when she receives a mysterious photograph of her supposedly dead husband, Evie puts her quest on hold and sets off for Damascus in the hope of learning the truth behind the photo. Evie’s search leads her into the heart of the Syrian Desert, where opposing forces are racing for possession of a priceless relic. While her time in the Syrian Desert may give Evie the answers she so desperately seeks about Gabriel, the dangerous game of intrigue she finds herself involved in ultimately could cost Evie her life.
Interesting, well-drawn characters and a vividly described setting are hallmarks of Deanna Raybourn’s novels, and City of Jasmine is no exception. Evie Stark is a likeable heroine, one who is willing to defy society’s expectations and follow her own path in life. The novel’s secondary characters are endearingly quirky, especially Evie’s loveable Aunt Dove. One of the novel’s greatest strengths is Raybourn’s ability to seamlessly weave colonial Middle Eastern politics into the narrative. While the novel is a work of fiction, much of the political and historical context described in the book is real. Although some aspects of the plot are a little far-fetched and convoluted, the story is still entertaining. My only disappointment rested with the romantic subplot, which, although billed as passionate, didn’t work for me.
Recommended to fans of Deanna Raybourn’s previous novels, as well as to readers interested in historical fiction set in the Middle East.