Emeralds of the Alhambra

Written by John D. Cressler
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In the 1360s, Grenada is the last surviving stronghold of Muslim rule in Spain. Between 1367 and 1369 the Castilian Civil War is being fought between the Muslims of Grenada, united with King Pedro of Castile, against King Pedro IV of Aragon. William Chandon, an English knight fighting for Aragon, is wounded, captured and becomes a prisoner of the Sultan of Grenada. At first he is treated as a prisoner of war, but eventually the Sultan decides to learn more about the Englishman and his language, and in return, instructs Chandon in Arabic and the Muslim religion. His teacher is Layla al-Khatib, daughter of the Jewish physician who nursed his injuries. They fall into a forbidden love, and Chandon must choose sides in the war.

The novel includes a list of characters, maps, many photographs of key locations in the book, a historical primer, and a bibliography. The author has written a well-researched story set in an era of history not well known outside of Spain. The settings and locations are described in great detail and accompanied by relevant photos. Even though there are many minor characters with Arabic names, it was not difficult to follow the plot and storyline or the number of characters introduced throughout the book. Cressler has written a debut novel full of intrigue, war and romance that will begin a proposed trilogy of books under the title of Anthems of al-Andalus. I look forward to reading the other books in the series. Highly recommended.