Small Press Bookwatch: April 2016James A. Cox, Editor-in-ChiefMidwest Book Review278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575 The Fiction Shelf ZabelPearl GrayPrivately Publishedhttp://www.pearlgray.ca9780994871411, $14.95, PB, 296pp, _www.amazon.com_ (http://www.amazon.com)Chapters, Independent Book Stores . (These are US prices) CRITIQUE: A unique and inherently absorbing read from beginning to end, “Zabel” is a novel that clearly showcases author Pearl Gray’s complete mastery of storytelling skills. One of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book is finished and set back upon the shelf. “Zabel” is very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that “Zabel” is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.95).(This is US pricing)
SYNOPSIS: With parallels to events in today’s Middle East, “Zabel” is the compelling story of a woman who is forced into exile for her religious beliefs. It is a warrior queen’s journey from the throne of Lesser Armenia to refuge in France in the 12th century. After the death of her father, Zabel is forced to marry Raymond, a French crusader. When it is discovered she follows the pagan ways of the Great Mother, she and Raymond are exiled. They arrive at Raymond’s family estate near Paris, and Raymond dies. Zabel finds herself alone in a culture with different values, mores, and laws. Although Zabel was trained to ride and shoot, she took a vow of peace, but now, how can she survive in a society bent on her destruction? Scenes of exotic palace life, filled with fine silks and hot, scented baths and adventures on the Spice Trail fill the pages. In Rum, Zabel meets a Sufi mystic who, like the poet Rumi, is also the spiritual advisor to the Sultan. Later, in Montpelier, Zabel becomes a confidant of Eleanor of Aquitaine. With clear, concise prose, this novel evokes the medieval culture of the Middle East and France through a masterfully plotted and intriguing story.