Book Reviews

In the Palace of Flowers | Book Review

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“In The Palace of Flowers is an atmospheric historical novel about Jamīla, an Abyssinian slave, whose fear of being forgotten, of being irrelevant, sets her and Abimelech, a fellow slave and a eunuch, on a path to find meaning, navigating the dangerous and deadly politics of the royal court. Princewill vividly recreates the court of the Iranian Shah in the 1890s, a precarious time of growing public dissent, foreign interference from the Russians and British, and the problem of an ageing ruler with an unsuitable heir. Love, friendship and the bitter politics within the harem, the court and the Shah’s sons and advisors will set the fate of these two slaves.”

Thank you Cassava Republic Press for sending me a review copy.

My thoughts

I would never have heard of Jamila Habashi had I not read this book. She was an enslaved African lady in Iran who chronicled a portion of her life in a 1905 letter. The majority of literary works on slavery center on America and Britain, and until reading this book, I had never heard of or read about slavery in Iran. According to reports, the majority of slaves were imported from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia), Zanzibar, and Mombasa. Victoria Princewill chose to write a story based on Jamila’s letter, for which I am pleased. It is critical to share stories that honor the lives of African men and women who would be forgotten otherwise.

“Scholars estimate that between one and two million slaves were exported from Africa to the Indian Ocean trade in the nineteenth century, most to Iranian ports. Some two-thirds of African slaves brought to Iran were women intended as household servants and concubines”

Enslaved African Women in Nineteenth-Century Iran: The Life of Fezzeh Khanom of Shiraz
Anthony A. Lee

In the Palace of Flowers is a novel that demands your complete attention. At first, it seems like there is a lot going on, but as you get into it, you’ll discover how brilliantly written and captivating it is. This novel is set in Iran and explores the lives of two Abyssinia slaves, Jamila and Abimelech, who work in the royal courts of 19th-century Iran. Jamila worked as a maid for one of the Shah’s wives and as a concubine for one of his sons. From the outside, it may appear that her life was not too awful in comparison to the other slaves, the domestics.

They both attempt to navigate their lives as slaves, despite the fact that they are insignificant. Simply wanting more for yourself as a slave brings with it a number of dangers, which Jamila was ready to take. I considered her a little reckless and selfish in her eagerness to be known for something other than being a slave, but I loved her passion, resilience, and courage.

Victoria Princewill tells a story of resilience, wanting more out of life and self-discovery through the characters in her book. The insightful dialogues, the writing style and the well-developed characters made this book so amazing. It was very obvious the author did her research and she wrote so beautifully and descriptively that you picture every little thing especially the setting & architecture. I’m hoping to see this as a tv series because I believe it’ll be amazing to put a visual perspective to it.


In this book, she explores the politics in Iran, sexuality, slavery, betrayal, friendship & mental illness.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Recommended if you like:

  • Historical fiction.
  • Books with a Black female protagonist.
  • Books set in Iran.


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