Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Stunned by the blistering heat, the noise, the sea of faces crowding in upon her in the teeming Egyptian market, Angeline cannot believe that she is being sold as a slave to one of the great princes in Cairo. Only a short time ago she left her small village in France to follow Stephen, a shepherd boy whose vision led him to mount a children’s Crusade to the Holy Land. But they were decieved by those who offered to help. Now it seems they are doomed to a life of slavery in a foreign land and even Stephen has lost all hope. Somehow, Angeline must find the strength to survive, as well as to help Stephen overcome his despair. But first she must learn to understand and respect the ways of a culture so very different from her own.
The premise of this one made me salivate but soon I found out this book is one big, ugly mess. Not only it can be qualified as pseudo-historical fiction of the worst kind so completely artificial, without any traces of the era, just some dates and info taken straight from Wikipedia I suppose, but also its plot is plain stupid. I don’t want to bore you with descriptions of its many flaws, let me just tell you about a feature I found personally the most galling.
Angeline, our MC, is a teen sold as a slave in Alexandria, Egypt – that’s how the ill-fated 1212 Children’s Crusade ended for her. She is a simple peasant girl, doesn’t know one word in Arabic, and has just survived a very long and perilous journey, including a tempest. Plenty of other children, her friends, had died.
So. A man buys her and then she is given as a gift to a favourite concubine of a sheikh. And now comes the ‘stupid’ part. Angeline is not given any training. She is just fed, bathed, dressed in fresh clothes, made presentable and off she goes, to serve her new mistress. The said mistress doesn’t know a word in old French so Angeline doesn’t understand her instructions and the woman doesn’t understand the hapless girl in turn. What a gift! Would you like to have an untrained girl from a strange country who doesn’t know a thing about your style of living, doesn’t speak your language at all, and might be even psychologically unstable? Who wouldn’t. Add to that the fact that the said concubine lives with a small daughter and she trusts Angeline to take care of the child as soon as she sees her… well, if you are a mother I am sure you’d never let a stranger near your child, especially a stranger who can’t communicate and has had some traumatic experiences.
I know, Muslims loved buying children-slaves, mainly because such slaves were more pliable and easier to train than adults. Still the training part was never neglected and for obvious reasons. A good slave had to know the language, at least some basics, so they understood what they were asked to do. A good slave had to understand his or her role in a given household, the dos and the don’ts. They also had to have some skills. That’s why these kids were taught and presented to their future masters or mistresses only after a time. Quite elementary, dear Watson.
A DNF, first this year! As you know, I have little mercy for stupidity, no matter whether it is disguised in historical or other apparel so I gave this book a kick after, roughly, the first half.