Fortune’s Lament (Anthems of al-Andalus) (Volume 3)

Written by John D. Cressler
Review by Ann Chamberlin

Set during the twilight days of Muslim Spain, this tale begins in 1488 CE; I’m immediately concerned that no nod is given to the Islamic calendar, not in character’s minds, nor in Eid celebrations. We have all the characters we would hope for: Ferdinand and Isabella, inquisitors, Christopher Columbus, Boabdil, lots of battles, masterful Grenadian physicians, a love story. The threads play out pretty much as you would expect: lovers meet; the course of true love does not run smooth. Young woman (fictional) faces prejudice but excels in a man’s world, in this case medicine. The glories of Islamic medicine are well elucidated; traditional magic, not so well. Militarized religion starts Reconquista; each side wins a few, loses a few, and rapidly evolving weaponry is smuggled, experimented with, used with devastating effect.

The unexpected comes when, after 576 pages, we learn that all is to be continued in the next installment; our plotlines do not reach satisfying conclusions.

Page breaks are erratic. Sometimes we get a heading listing time and place, sometimes a hiatus symbol. Sometimes just a space. It doesn’t help, especially with so many point-of-view characters, to start a new section with “he” or “she” without a name. Historical authors should eschew email punctuation for historicals set before the year 2000 CE: Periods. After. Every. Word. ALL CAPS. Also, recent American colloquialisms like “cute.”

The scene where Isabel’s Jewish councilors wonder if Columbus is a secret Jew was a highlight; more would help.

We are told that Andalusian culture is heavy on the protocol, never shown. Sufiism is really insulted by dumbing it down to—sex? And I was given no understanding as to how our fictitious hero and heroine can find “Great Love” in one furtive glance while the sultan’s love for his nimble concubine doesn’t rate.