Equal of the Sun
Amirrezvani’s novel of 16th-century Iranian court politics centers on Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, favored daughter of the Shah, and her quest for power. When her father dies, Pari sees herself as his heir in all but name — as a woman, she cannot inherit the throne, but she is the most intelligent and politically savvy of all of the Shah’s children. The sexes are segregated, so Pari’s servant Javaher, a eunuch, is one of the few men able to pass between the worlds of women and men. Pari comes to rely on Javaher as her spy and her confidant. When the cruelty of the Shah’s heir is revealed, Pari conspires to assassinate him — a move that, done well, would place someone friendlier to Pari’s cause on the throne. Though Pari and Javaher are successful, the new Shah is not friendly to Pari, and she finds herself fearing for her life.
As she did in her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, Amirrezvani illuminates the inner lives of women in a society where their roles are highly restricted. Had she been born a man, Pari could have been one of the great shahs of Iran, but as a woman, she was relegated to “power behind the throne” roles. Equal of the Sun is a fine political novel, full of rich detail and intrigue, but it’s also a thought-provoking study of the intersection between gender and power.