Book Review: ‘Samarkand’ by Amin Maalouf

by britishmisk

Omar Khayyam, the Assassins, poetry, Islam, Central Asia, the combination of these words describing this book is what sparked my interest in reading this novel. The story is set in two parts, the first a fictional account Omar Khayyam coming under the protection of a Shfi’i judge in Samarkand, and subsequently being asked to write a rubiyaat. The second part of the story details someone who travels to Persia to try to obtain the manuscript at a time of political upheaval in the early 20th century.

The novel is not overly amazing or exciting, it is an enjoyable read however, think a more toned down version of Assassin’s Creed, where history meets fiction making it an interesting combination of story telling. The vivid detail of the characters and set continues into the second half which provides an insight into a time when orientalism was in vogue in the west. The main character and his story seem real, but I don’t think the author could resist giving it a dramatized and romantic feel given the time and place he set his story. The western traveller falling in love and having an affair with a Persian princess had to be expected.

A nice little read which was enjoyable at times but I didn’t see the need for two different stories, assassins and Khayyam alone would have sufficed me.