The Khalifah’s Mirror

Written by Andrew Killeen
Review by Katy O’Dowd

This is a sequel to The Father of Locks (HNR 48 , p. 24).

Abu Nuwas the poet, also known as Father of Locks for the way he wears his hair, is about to meet his end for the crimes of treason and murder. But as is the custom, the Khalifah grants him one last wish, expecting him to pick something that other prisoners would, such as a final meal or a tumble with a woman – or a man. But the Father of Locks asks instead that his friend, the storyteller Ismail, tell the Khalifah how he came to be in front of him begging for his life.

Intrigued, the ruler agrees, and what follows is a beautifully written blend of history and fable. It’s all here: adventure, murder, mystery, sex, death, treachery, spying and assassins, set against a very exotic, ancient backdrop. Reading The Khalifah’s Mirror is like taking a trip to a foreign country you’ve never been to before, immersing yourself in sights and smells and sounds that are utterly outside the everyday that you know. An absolutely marvellous book.