The Orphan Sky

The Orphan Sky

by Ella Leya


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402298653
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ella Leya was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and received asylum in the United States in 1990. She is a composer and singer and lives in Laguna Beach, California, and London. The Orphan Sky is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

California, June 2002

Music seemed to flow out of the painting. Piano arpeggios in scarlet layers. Violin pizzicati in gold and silver brushstrokes. A dark D minor progression of chords sweeping by, trailed by a velvety soft harmony in white. Flutes spilling nostalgic blues and violets into the ever-changing palette of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no. 3.

I could see and hear music again; I could surrender to its colors and passions. Something I hadn't been able to experience in twenty years. Since I buried my heart in the past. Since the sea of my destiny took me far away from the land of my childhood and washed me ashore, an empty shell without the trace of a pearl.

The painting was exhibited at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, on loan from the National Art Museum of Azerbaijan. The Times art critic praised it effusively in his article:

The application of broken colors, mineral-based pigments, and silver; the dramatic Caravaggio-like shift from dark to light; the mystical objects depicted in the tradition of ancient Persian miniatures-all these induce an extraordinary emotional effect. The painting-signed Maiden Tower-is a true masterpiece, created by an artist who possesses brilliant technique and unconstrained imagination. And what everyone who's seen it wants to know is this: Who is this great master?

I knew. The moment I entered the showroom and saw the canvas, I knew.

Maiden Tower, obscured by the large crowd of spectators, dazzled by the relentless camera flashes, rose from the darkness of the stormy sea, fires breaking out of its sliver-like windows. A lonely princess-half human, half bird-standing on its crown, her wings reaching into the dome of the wakening sky.

And, appearing from behind the clouds, drowned in Caravaggio's light, the face of a girl.

My face.

Many years ago, I sat for Tahir in a dingy, dark Kabul hotel room. With the roar and the flashes of artillery tearing up the sky outside. With the moon-the only source of light-peeking in through the grimy window. I can still smell the paint, trace Tahir's strokes in the air. Painfully familiar, even after all this time.

A group of visitors, obviously VIP, approached, led by a short, stocky woman in a pink Chanel suit. I'd seen her before. The editor of a glossy magazine, Azerbaijan Today, published here in Los Angeles, and the curator of every Azeri event in America. She cleared space for her group, positioned herself firmly on her crimson stilettos, and began to speak in heavily accented English:

"Ten thousand years ago, the evil Shah of Darkness conquered the Land of Azerbaijan and ordered the building of a tower from the bottom of the Caspian Sea. When the tower reached the sky, every maiden was taken from her parents and locked inside to wait for the night of her wedding to the Shah. Darkness swallowed our land for many years until one morning when birdsong wakened the people of Azerbaijan. Fluttering vermilion feathers, the Firebird soared over Maiden Tower, leading the sun back to its rightful place in the firmament of the sky."

The Legend of Maiden Tower-a tale from my childhood promising a triumphal finale at the end of a long struggle. Encouraging one to stand up to darkness and strive to reach for the skies. Something I had failed to do.

It was after five p.m. when I pulled onto the southbound 405 Freeway, together with the thousands of Angelenos heading back to their safe enclaves. Mine was Laguna Beach, a quaint California village of fishermen, artists, and jet-setters, lost between sunburned rocky canyons and the blue infinity of the Pacific Ocean. An ideal escape for someone running from the past.

I opened the door to my lonely villa and went to my spare room, empty except for the baby grand Bösendorfer buried in the corner under a thick cloak of dust.

How long had it been since I'd even touched it?

I wiped off the dust, lifted the lid, and stroked the keys, invading the mournful silence of the black-and-white keyboard. Playing the melody of the first theme from "Allegro ma non tanto." Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto no. 3.

Wakening the shadows.

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The Orphan Sky 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book greatly! The author does a great job developing the characters! A facinating look at a middle east culture under Soviet communism's control
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written story full of colorful imagery, intrigue, and romance. Musicians and music lovers will feel the young pianists conflicts arising from her love and devotion to her piano career and pressure to be a loyal Communist. Thrown into this a young KGB in training who wants to own and control her, and a suspected anti Communist. who she is asked to entrap with whom she falls in love. Some other highlights include a disgraced. former opera star, unwed pregnancy, abortion, and a mystical tower where magic happens. I loved this book! I could. hardly put it down.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings  An interesting story that took me out of my normal reading comfort zone and into another country.  Leila is a talented pianist who dreams of traveling her country and neighboring countries to play and compete, but with the onset of Communism she may not be able to fulfill her dreams. A love triangle, with political going ons made this book so interesting.  Even though the setting was completely different for me, Leila was easily to get attached to and to fall in love with how she was living in her world.