In one of my previous blogs I was going on about old favourites. One of the books in my bookshelf that has survived numerous moves and several overseas trips is ‘A Wind in Cairo’ by Judith Tarr. My copy, printed in 1989, was bought then as well. It is a small book by today’s doorstop standards with only 268 pages. It is also a standalone, another rarity it today’s world of prequels, sequels and series.
I think that is one of the main reasons why I return to it so often. I don’t have to reread a whole series, just the one little book. It pulls me in and grabs me from the start, not letting me go until the finish. It doesn’t matter how many times I have read it, it doesn’t matter that I know the ending already, it stands the test of the reread with flying colours. I always find something new to discover every time I pick it up.
I starts out with Hasan, a spoiled prince of the blood of the Prophet. He is a wastrel, a gambler, a womaniser and a drunk. His father despairs of him ever changing and gives him an ultimatum that he is sending him to his friend, a Bedouin Sheikh to make a proper man of him.
I his disbelief and despair, Hasan goes on one last bender and offends a magi, the premier magician of Cairo. He is cursed into the shape of a stallion and to be owned by a woman, something forbidden to his faith.
Hasan, as you can guess, is quite a handful to his new owner Zamaniyah, but she doesn’t give up on him and they become a great team. As with all love stories, you can predict the ending almost from the start, but it never matters. The journey is everything, rather than the destination.
You begin to fall in love with Hasan, even though he is a spoilt pampered prince and you hope it will all turn out well in the end, even though things look grim.
Judith is well known for her historical fantasies. She combines a fantastical world with meticulous research into many different time periods. In this one, it is set during the crusades but from the Arab point of view and that is a wonderful twist. The fact that the main protagonist is a horse is beside the point, he still has a mind and his love for Zamaniyah is no less potent for being of the mind only.
I just checked Amazon and you can still buy this book. I don’t know if it has been in print continuously all this time but that is pretty impressive and a testament to the quality of Judith’s writing. I encourage everyone to check out her books, especially this one.