At the heart of the novel is an affecting love affair between the Sultan's favored wife, Jamila, and the beautiful Halima, a later addition to the harem.
The novel charts the rise of Saladin as Sultan of Egypt and Syria and follows him as he prepares, in alliance with his Jewish and Christian subjects, to take Jerusalem back from the Crusaders. It is a medieval story, but much of it will be cannily familiar to those who follow events in contemporary Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. Betrayed hopes, disillusioned soldiers and unreliable alliances form the backdrop to The Book of Saladin.
This is the second of a planned quartet of historical novels depicting the confrontation between Islamic and Christian civilizations. The first, Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, recounted the story of the fall of Islam in Spain. It has been translated into several languages and was awarded the Archbishop San Clemente del Instituto Rosalia de Castro Prize for the Best Foreign Language Fiction published in Spain in 1994.
The Book of Saladin is the most historical of the three books, based on the rise and career of Salah al-Din. The novel's characters are a mix of real and imagined people: Saladin and his family were real people, as was Ibn Maymun, or Maimonides as we know him. Saladin's wives, his old retainer Shadhi and Ibn Yakub, the narrator, are all Ali's creations. ...