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3.0 out of 5 stars6
3.0 out of 5 stars
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on 26 May 2010
This is the fourth installment of Tariq Ali's Islam's Quintet.

I have only read the much lauded Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree in the same series, and I must say that the writin style remains simple, the plots simplistic and the language corny at times, particularly when describing the sex scenes, though I suspect that is on purpose.

This novel centers around the historical figure of Philip of Mahdia during the kingdom of Roger II in Sicilly durint the XII century. Around the events of the last days of Philip's life, Mr Ali builds a a series of morally dubious characters with the cartographer Idrisi in the main role that carry the story forward and show us details of the comparatively advanced arabic civilisation relative to its christian counterpart.

Much like Shadows... this book feels simple, easy to read and perhaps would have benefitted by a more detailed exploration of the conflicts between christians and muslims, which are only really hinted at. I can't help but feel that these books could have easily been 100 or 150 pages longer without losing any of their appeal. In fact, I think they would have benefitted from it and reached a wider audience.
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on 1 December 2012
Not on the same level as the first in the quintet. Shadows of a pomegranate tree for me was the best. But descriptions of the environment and the richness of the characters was right up there.
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on 23 March 2008
This book is beautiful to read: the prose is simple and light, articulate and cadenced. This combined with the half-familiar, half-strange historical and geographical material it treats, the characters who are fallible, partial, wistful, thoughtful, sharp or humerous, and the lack of a trite plot make this a very profound as well as a stylish read. It falls just short of five stars because it can at times (too me at least) lack a robust approach, there isn't quite enough grit, quite so vividly realised as it could be. Certainly the protagonist is a very serene character, but you also feel some of this is Tariq Ali himself, the academic and intellectual, wise but a little removed and dispassionate despite his melancholy turns and bed-side prowess (the protagonist that is!). This book will enchant and sway you, but somehow it does not blow you away.
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on 3 August 2012
Laughable simplistic rubbish! In Ali's naive view of the past all Muslims are really nice people, all Christians evil boy-loving monsters and all women complaisant ('you can discuss it with her tonight after you have finished pleasuring each other' - says one character to her husband before he spends the night with her sister)! This is laughable and frankly insulting and if the racial stereotypes where reversed would be considered racist!

Oh, and also there's a mysterious ascetic wondering about who seems to prefigure Marx by about 700 years!

The plot is simplistic, pretty much a rerun of Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, the dialogue wooden. Definitely one too avoid.
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on 28 September 2014
A well paced story
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on 10 June 2015
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