I realize my assessment of this book is far out of step with most readers but I had several serious problems with it. First of all, the time-scale and sequence of events is so badly scrambled that it becomes almost impossible to follow the plot; there are several events that could not possibly have occurred as as described. Likewise, the actions of more than one character are at times blended together so seamlessly, even within a single sentence that it makes no sense. This is not being clever, it's being sloppy.
And then there's the problem of characters: When ALL of the main characters are venal, self-seeking, vicious, brutal, totally engaged in power struggles, there's no relief, no bright star, no breath of fresh air to overcome the stench of cruelty and misery. Of course, you will argue that the Poetess is a good person, the heroine of the piece, the individual around whom the tale revolves; but that's just my point: the tale revolves and revolves around her but she remains an almost mythic figure. We hear of her qualities second or third hand, she's a thing of rumor. But she never emerges as a whole person and she is frankly not believable.
The concept was very promising -- a mysterious figure of legendary accomplishment, a setting in 19th century Persia, palace intrigues, popular uprisings, meddling European powers. But there were so many flaws in execution that for me it failed to come off.
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