Shadows in the Shining City

Written by John D. Cressler
Review by Viviane Crystal

Enter again the world of Muslim Cordoba in the 10th century, depicted by this talented author in this fictional prequel to Emeralds of the Alhambra and the second book in the Anthems of al-Andalus series. Life and Muslim rule are precious and amply conveyed in the Caliph’s and his people’s love of women, books, research, discovery, architecture, design, and style. Every page reveals exotic and normal beauty and intelligence, so well described that it never gets repetitive but instead is thrilling.

However, underneath the positive side of humanity lie ambition, lust, power and other temptations which call forth challenges. Wars rage across Europe, with rival tribes vying for control of Cordoba and thereby the entire Arab world. The new love between a royal princess and a freed slave is threatened by those who supposedly have better, self-serving plans for the young woman. A plan to eliminate a knowledgeable lover of books from antiquity is carried out to the chagrin and suffering of many. The discovery of a scientific problem worked on by Aristotle carries learned scholars into an encounter with parallels to the reality behind modern photography and science. Most of all, the novel evokes these wise men’s love affair with great, old books which they cherish reading and translating into Arabic so that all may share the abundance of learning and great thinking.

The battles are vicious and cruel beyond one’s imagination. Physical love and intellectual love are celebrated, reverberating through the reader’s mind and body. This is superb historical fiction and a delightful read!