Solomon's Bride, by Rebecca Hazell, is the continuing story of Princess Sofia, a young Rus girl we meet first in The Grip of God. It is a series of books, called The Tiger and the Dove, and it is best read from the start to fully understand Sofia's life progression and why she is where she is at the beginning of Solomon's Bride. You can read my review of The Grip of God HERE and an interview I had with Rebecca HERE.
Sofia, escaping the Mongols to Persia in the 13th Century, finds she is in a land that is also being destroyed by the Mongols. Kept inside an Iranian palace, our story turns toward the culture and life in Iran during this time period as we discover it visually through Sofia's eyes. Rebecca's writing is gorgeous and authentic, visual and engaging, so that as a reader I feel drawn into the story as if I were truly there as well.
She brings to light the Islamic faith and creates an understanding of it, as Sofia and her servant, Anna, are Christian, they both ask questions about what they are seeing around them. I was pleased that Rebecca wrote such understanding and insight of the faith into her novel. I am not Muslim, but I am very familiar with the religion and as an encourager of all faiths coming together in harmony and peace, I was very pleased with Rebecca's writing. I also enjoyed reading about the history of Iran, and the Arabic world, as much of the same battle is still happening stemming from the eternal battle between the Sunni and Shi'a factions of Islam.
There is such a wealth of well-researched historical fact in this novel from an ancient area that many don't write about yet. It was refreshing to read of this intense history with Sofia as the narrator, creating romance, strife, suspense, and action. Sofia, first innocent and shy, has gone through such a journey in a few of her teenage years that she now has a strong voice, independent nature, and the spirit of a fighter. She must do so not only to stay alive, but to remain true to herself and her people. She keeps hope that she'll one day be joined again to her Rus family. Her goal is never forgotten, no matter what she endures.
I can't help but cheer on Sofia in her journey. She has passion, virtue, and respect for herself as a woman, as well as for other women. As a reader, I feel happy for her strong moments of assertion, sad for her times of despair, and alarmed for her during times of fear or altercations. Though this novel had less intense times of gore, there were still a few heightened times that Sofia had to go through and she becomes quite a fighter for herself and those she values.
As her journey leads her to meet Sir Joscelin, a love story ensues between them, and also by the last section of the book her main goal begins to be realized and we think there might be closure. But there is always something in the way of her complete happiness and it just tears out my heart for her. Life doesn't seem to go exactly how she wishes it to, but she is always in the right place to bring understanding to people of various religions and cultures. I really like that about Sofia, she is so non-judgmental and accepting of others, as well as their beliefs and opinions, yet men never understand her completely, various cultures don't understand her independence, until her true love, which she is denied.
Ah, the ending! Of course! It leaves us unable to wait very patiently for the third book! Through all of Sofia's treks across miles of various lands and cultures, I am a reader who is ready to continue the journey with her. I highly recommend this series if you love medieval history of the Far East and Asia, and even European areas, or enjoy reading about ancient cultures and religions. Solomon's Bride was even more well-written than Rebecca's first book, stringently researched, artistically detailed, heartfelt, and exciting.
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.