Do Not Awaken Love (The Moroccan Empire)

Written by Melissa Addey
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1068 Galicia, the 32-year-old Sister Juliana (birth name Isabella) travels from the Convent of the Sacred Way to Santiago de Compostela to collect a novice girl for the convent. During the journey, her party is ambushed by Norse raiders. Isabella is kidnapped and taken south to the coast of Maghreb (present-day Morocco) and sold as a slave. Her buyer takes her to his villa in Aghmat, and Isabella spends her time doing housework with other slaves and plotting her escape. She manages to thwart her master’s advances, and, fortunately, he is away a lot on business. Her salvation comes when Yousef bin Tashfin, the leader of a vast Muslim army, the Almoravids, captures Aghmat and Isabella becomes Yousef’s slave. She cultivates herbs and becomes a healer. In the new city, Murakush, Yousuf assigns her a small house. While Yousef will go on to conquer large portions of Spain, Isabella plays an important role in the establishment of the Almoravid dynasty.

Melissa Addey has penned a fascinating account of the rise to power of the North African Almoravids. Although it’s the fourth book in a series, it can stand alone. Addey has brought to life the story of a slave woman mentioned briefly in Arab historical literature (the al-Bayān al-Mughrib, or Book of the Amazing Story of the History of the Kings of al-Andalus and Maghreb, by Ibn Idhāri of Marrakech): “Yusuf left his Muslim empire of North Africa and Spain to Ali, the son of a Christian slave…” While not much is recorded, Addey’s recreation of this lady feels plausible and realistic.

Furthermore, Isabella’s determination, and her efforts to keep her vows and faith, as well as her chastity, are well presented. Also, the character of Yousef, known to be religious and a warrior and yet a humble, simple man, is fittingly portrayed. Addey’s extensive knowledge and research show in the vivid descriptions of North African landscapes, life, customs, and religions, not only Muslim but Christian and Jewish as well. Highly recommended.