A Wind in Cairo by Judith Tarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this way back in High School and I absolutely loved it. As a romance, it was magical and heartbreaking and I admit that I broke into tears then as easily as I did now.
As a fantasy set in the extremely well-researched time of the Early Crusades as written from the PoV of Muslims, it frankly blew me away. Not only did the humanity and the civilization shine through, but so did the culture.
But let me address the one problematic issue that pretty much prevented me from re-reading this well-beloved magical historical fantasy of a love story between a fiery headstrong Muslim woman and her equally headstrong horse: the rape.
This is no glorification, first of all. This was a crime in the novel that was met with a very severe punishment that could very well have led to much, much worse consequences for Hasan. But in the punishment, there was MERCY.
I know, I know, this is a trigger issue, but I personally believe the crimes should be treated with justice and not cruelty. The tale, over the full length of its telling, walks a very fine line and ends where I believe most tales SHOULD end.
They should teach us that mercy and justice are not dead. They should teach us that no one should ever be perpetually judged by the worst thing they have ever done. There is a balance here. And, indeed, the balance is all the harder because it teaches us that any of us can change.
Hasan, a selfish prick, can learn to be obedient, loving, and self-sacrificing.
If you want a novel that simply desires blood for the blood god, this is not for you. If you want a novel that is gorgeous, hopeful, redemptive, and a great tear-jerker that rests its head on Humility... then OMG, yo: PICK THIS UP.
The balance is real. Both men and women are real men and women. The quality of justice is NOT strained. It is hard, it is painful, it requires tons of effort, good-will, and the open-mindedness of all parties, but the quality of justice is NOT strained. It may, indeed, be one of the most beautiful things in the universe.
This novel touches something truly great. It may prod your boundaries, but it is still something truly great.
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