Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shiri - Book Review

Shiri by D.S. Taylor begins unlike any other novel, especially the way it opens; “She was born a woman, and her father had yet to forgive her for that.” (p. 6). The protagonist Shiri is a 15 year-old girl who lives with her parents in the small town of Yaham, in Palestine. The Shepherd King sends his soldiers to recruit men from towns and villages to fight the Pharoah Tuthmosis.

Ethan, a friend of Shiri’s, tells her that Princes wear gold. Accordingly, one of the significant images in the first part of the novel is related to gold and how it contrasts between characters and their personalities. When Shiri sees Prince Amenhotep for the first time, [her] eyes widened as a chariot gilded in a strange yellow metal that seemed to shine like the sun pulled up before them. Gold … the chariot is covered in gold” and “Astride the chariot like some hero of old stood a warrior trimmed in gold.” Shiri later realises that this so-called Prince is “no hero; no prince come to save the day. This was a demon, a monster wreathed in cold, unfeeling gold.
I loved these images and how one of the most precious metals is depicted as harsh, “cold and unfeeling”.

I liked how the author showed Shiri’s childish infatuation with Joseph; Taylor conveys the struggle in a teenager’s heart very well.

The most important theme in the novel is that of sacrifice and ironically the one who sacrifices the most is Shiri herself, the young shepherd girl from a small and distant town. One would think that the one with the most to sacrifice would be Joseph since he seeks to avenge the death of his father and the abduction, rape and murder of his mother; but in truth it is Shiri who sacrifices the most for everyone. And worst of all, her sacrifices go unnoticed until the end.

Other themes include love, betrayal, slavery, abuse, the master-slave relationship, and immorality, especially that of the temple priests.

I also loved the contrast in personalities; Shiri is a 15 year-old peasant girl and yet she has a stronger character than the Shepherd Prince himself and not just on one occasion but throughout the novel. She is intelligent, strong-willed, voices her opinions and is never afraid to fight back – unless it will hurt someone she loves. In fact, her ability to speak broken Egyptian impresses Joseph. “He raised an eyebrow clearly impressed; few amongst the peasant folk could speak so much as a word of any tongue but their own.” (p. 82)

We see Shiri’s character develop and age through the troublesome experiences she undergoes. She is wise beyond her years and gains more wisdom as the novel unfolds and as she moves from orphaned shepherd girl to slave to mother. She progresses, handling every stage in her life and every hurdle thrown at her all the while bearing a specific cause in mind. She is strongly contrasted to Joseph, the Shepherd Prince.

The novel contains a lot of abuse both verbal and physical, while some of it bothered me a bit, and only because I wasn’t expecting it, I would still recommend that the novel be read by adults over 18 or better over 21.

The most amusing character for me in Shiri is Solon, the old weapons-maker for the Godking Tuthmosis. Solon is like the court jester in medieval plays; he is honest, wise, sarcastic and funny. He makes for excellent humour and comic relief in the novel.

The novel moves at a quick and enjoyable pace. It is quit hard to put Shiri down and when it ends, the reader cannot believe it. I couldn’t imagine waking up the following morning and not seeing what Shiri will do next!

A 4.5-star rating is in order J

Find D.S. Taylor on Twitter: @DSTaylor1 and Goodreads

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