The eagerly awaited sequel to The Tablets of Ararat! The beautiful daughter of an 11th-century Byzantine ambassador to Persia, Princess Najila is independent and assertive---and influenced both by her father's Greek Orthodox faith and that of her mother, a Muslim. But when tragedy strikes her family and danger looms, where will she turn for help? 352 pages, softcover from Kregel.
A sequel to the compelling novel The Tablets of Ararat, Najila continues the story of the independent, assertive Persian princess whose heart is torn between two faiths and the two people closest to her.
Born to the Byzantine ambassador, Michael, and a Persian princess, Najila is a spirited and intelligent young Persian woman whose concerns stretch no farther than mischievous pranks. But then her father is called back to his native city of Konstantinoupolis, and, of course, his motherless Najila must go with him. When Michael is killed in a rockslide on the trip back, Najilas life takes an interesting turn. Alone except for her aging nurse and a tough Viking bodyguard of her father's, she must reclaim the family estate from a grasping and treacherous relativeand decide what to do with his attractive son. Torn between conflicting emotions and conflicting faiths, where will Najila turn?
Its a promising opening for C. J. Illiniks second book, Najila. Telling the story of a young woman reared in a cross-cultural, cross-faith home has plenty of potential. Well-rounded characters and rich, historical detail promise entertainment, far-away places, and exotic settings.
Unfortunately, the book fails to live up to its total potential. Illiniks writing style is cumbersome at times and full of too many Latinate words; it also suffers from terms markedly out of the historical context, such as fetus and meters. Historical passages and footnotes, while interesting, slow the story and break it up needlessly, and much of the dialogue sounds stilted and unnatural. Illinik uses foreign words and unusual spellings like Konstantinoupolis to convey a sense of place, but the explanations are uneven and often clumsy.
Handled in an equally clumsy manner are the romantic relationships. Najilas primary love interest, Loukios, is rather dull. The giant Viking Odin is far more interesting, caring deeply for his charge Najila, and his conflicted emotionslove for Najila while understanding that Loukios would be a smarter matchare beautifully drawn. But Illinik lets this promising, if unusual, relationship with Odin fade away, and Najila marries Loukios. Another love conflict in the form of a young monk is introduced, but also fades without having its full potential tapped.
The biggest problem, though, is that the plot wanders. Illinik takes an almost biographical approach, chronicling Najilas life from birth to death. Whereas theres nothing wrong with this, per se, it results in little coherency, a lack of conflict, and no distinct resolution. Najila simply ends when Najila dies. Even this fault could be forgiven if the book was a vast and intricate tapestry, but its not. Illinik has plenty of potential in her story, but she doesnt use it. Elements that would seem to be central to the bookan amber-encased dragonfly introduced in the prologue, the breeding of chariot horsesturn out to have little or no significance. The rival love interests simply fall by the wayside. Even Najilas inner conflict between her fathers Christianity and her mothers Islamic faith falls flat.
In sum, Najila is not an awful book and not even a bad book, but Ive read much better. If you want a good historical romance, this probably won't be at the top of your list. -- Rachel Niehaus, Christian Book Previews.com
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