Emeralds of the Alhambraby John D. Cressler
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How could we forget? We live in a world being torn apart by religious tensions and fanaticism, yet we managed to forget that for hundreds of years Christians, Muslims and Jews lived together in peace, sharing languages and customs, embracing a level of tolerance and mutual respect unheard of today. Working together, these three peoples spawned one of the great intellectual and cultural flowerings of history. When and where? Medieval Spain. Our aching world desperately needs to recall this forgotten fact, these rich possibilities.
Emeralds of the Alhambra, a historical novel, reawakens this remarkable era via the relationship between William Chandon, a wounded Christian knight brought to the Sultan's court in Granada, and the strong-willed Layla al-Khatib, who is on a quest to become the first female Sufi Muslim mystic in a male-dominated society. As Chandon's influence at court grows, he becomes trapped between his forbidden love for Layla, his Christian heritage, the demands of chivalry, and political expediency. Chandon must make a choice between love and honor, peace and war, life and death, a choice which ultimately will seal Granada's fate as the last surviving stronghold of Muslim Spain.
Emeralds is set in the resplendent Alhambra Palace in Granada during the Castilian Civil War (1367-1369), a time when, improbably, Muslims took up their swords to fight alongside Christians.
Emeralds of the Alhambra is the first book in the trilogy Anthems of al-Andalus.
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- Sunbury Press, Inc.
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- 9 MB
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In Emeralds of the Alhambra, a medieval knight becomes embroiled in the court intrigues of Muslim Spain. He fights for his life against deadly assassins and struggles with his forbidden love for Layla, the most beautiful woman in Granada’s Alhambra. Born in Brittany, William Chandon rose from humble beginnings until he achieved the notice of the court of Edward III of England. English and French political interests in 14th-century Spain draw Chandon into the disputed frontier between Muslim Andalusia and the Christianized kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Chandon defends the Aragonese fortress of Jaen against Moorish invaders. When his adversaries besiege and overrun the castle, Chandon suffers grievous wounds, which almost end his life. The Moors claim him as an important prisoner of war and transport him back to their capital at Granada, site of the beautiful Alhambra Palace. There, Chandon meets various doctors, courtiers, ministers, poets, and guards. The person who intrigues him most is the compassionate Layla al-Khatib, daughter of the chief minister. Layla tutors Chandon in Arabic, while she studies English with his guidance, all at the Sultan of Granada’s command. Leila’s quest for enlightenment leads to her study of Sufi mysticism. Her inherent outspoken nature coupled with startling beauty attracts Chandon’s attention, but Layla’s activities in the male-dominated court also invite danger to herself. A tender relationship blossoms between Chandon and Layla, even though the divide between them seems almost insurmountable at times. The novel brings myriad worlds and ideals together. The extensive list of characters and their various interests represent the diversity of Muslim Spain during this period. There is the household doctor, Saluman, a Jew welcomed in most areas of the court, but still marginalized by his religious beliefs. He cares for Chandon and develops a deep relationship with the knight, despite their differences. Layla’s father Lisan al-Din ibn al-Khatib is the grand vizier within the Alhambra, a man who has known his share of personal tragedy, yet manages to keep a tight grip on his position of power. Layla hides behind her veils as Moorish society dictates, but her father’s indulgence permits her to make bold choices not often available to women of her time. Yusuf ibn Zamrak, famed for his poetry serves as a respected member of the court, harbors a dangerous infatuation for Layla. Sultan Muhammad V orchestrates an audacious plan to ensure the stability of his regime, one in which Chandon plays his part. Despite best efforts, Muhammad remains aware of the dangers surrounding him and the swift ease with which palace intrigues can destroy the foundations of all he has built. Author John D. Cressler brings a largely ignored period to life in this novel, with sumptuous details and vivid characterizations. Where the novel really shines is in the descriptions and the relationships Chandon develops with Saluman and Leila. Each shares a deepening respect of the other as the story progresses, each open-minded and willing to accept the challenge to change preconceived notions. The novel hearkens back to a time where connections between Jews, Muslims, and Christians were as contentious as they were cooperative. It was a world allowing for the free exchange of ideas, but often permeated with ruthlessness and tragedy. Emeralds of the Alhambra is the first of a series and I look forward to more from the author.
Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite In today’s world it is difficult for us to imagine Muslims and Christians fighting side by side for the same cause, but once upon a time it actually happened. Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived in peace. Readers join John D. Cressler as he takes a trip back in time to Spain in 1367-1369 during the brutal Castilian Civil War. King Pedro and his illegitimate brother Enrique were battling for the throne of Castile, but both also had their eyes set on the Muslim City of Grenada. John D. Cressler uses the Castillian Civial War as the back drop for this fictional/historical romance. William Chandon was a wounded Christian Knight taken captive by Sultan Muhammad, but because of his reputation as a hero he was treated like a guest. The Sultan sent Layla, a beautiful and strong Muslim woman, to teach Chandon how to speak Spanish. At first they could not understand each other but soon they learned from each other and fell in love. Will the love between Chandon and Layla survive? Can two people from such differing worlds have a life together? “Emeralds of The Alhambra” is a fascinating tale of history and romance. John D. Cressler has set the bar high in this his first novel. It is obvious he thoroughly researched his story as he effectively brought this interesting time period to life. The characters are exquisitely created with depth and complexity. John D. Cressler has created a beautiful tale and fascinating read filled with mystery, romance, humor and history.
In today’s terrorist-dominant atmosphere throughout the world, it’s hard to believe that Muslims and Christians could live together in peace. But that’s not a point of view shared by John D. Cressler who has crafted a magnificent historical novel about the Castilian Civil War which occurred between 1367 and 1369. Two brothers, King Pedro and his bastard brother Enrique, are at war over portions of Spain, both eventually eying the Muslim city of Grenada. They plot to get enough money and the approval of both Muslims and Christians, including the Pope, as well as the assistance of French and English soldiers. They are even willing to hire a group of mercenaries known as the fiercest fighters in the world but also known for their unspeakable brutality and selfish motives and goals once victory is achieved. Into this world comes the English knight William Chandon, who is severely wounded in the Battle of Jaen and taken prisoner by the troops of Sultan of Granada. It is felt that he serves the purpose of a pawn to be used at the right time rather than be killed as the infidel he is to Muslim believers. To that end, the Sultan’s physician saves Chandon’s life and is ordered to educate him in Arabic language and culture and to learn English from him. Layla is the unusual Arab woman who is intelligent, kind-hearted, and very spiritual. She is also hated by the Berber faction of the Arabs because she doesn’t quite fit the traditional role of woman not being seen or heard in Arab society. But the Sultan in his wisdom surrounds himself with advisers of all sects from ultra-conservative to liberal. Layla is seeking “tawhid” which is enlightenment that is experienced by the union of two persons in a love matching that of Allah and God. She is assigned to work in a hospital for abandoned citizens who have a physical or mental challenge. Layla experiences the oneness of love with one of her patients, a very moving moment. She also slowly but surely falls in love with her student, Chandon, and he falls just as hard for her. They find a way to win the approval of the Sultan and Layla’s family and Chandon is appointed to an important military position on the side of the Muslims. How that evolves will make the reader gasp with delight and other feelings best left to one’s discovery while reading. Assassination attempts, criticisms, challenges, adventure, tender and funny moments, plots and counter-plots and more abound in these pages in such an engaging way for the reader that he or she will hate for this amazing novel to end. Add to the intriguing story line multiple beautiful descriptions of Arab architecture, literature, art, music, garden arrangements, and more that give the reader a plethora of knowledge about Arab history and culture that is probably the second, and no less important, aspect of this novel that makes one want to see more than the black and white pictures provided of these places after the story. Emeralds of the Alhambra: A Novel is an obviously meticulously researched story told with masterful skill. As well as intellectually pleasing, the reader will get to enjoy a tender romantic story that may seem contrived but is no less wonderful because of that fact. This should be a best seller and might even be a healthy addition to high school and college reading lists. For those like Chandon who are “tired to death of death,” Emeralds of the Alhambra” is a classic historical novel of best-seller status. This reader can’t wait to read the next novel in what we are told will be a series of novels. Superb writing and reading!