Reviews of Effendi - The Second Arabesk (2002)
Review by archren (2006-02-04)
This is the second book of Grimwood's Arabesk series. Do not read this if you have not read the first one, "Pashazade." While it may be theoretically possible to understand everything that has gone on and the relationships between the characters from just this book, I wouldn't recommend trying it.
Ashraf Bey is an unlikely man to whom unlikely things happen. He acts as a political wildcard and detective in the slightly alternate future version of Alexandria, here called El Iskandriya. His relationships with his nine year old niece Hani and Zara, the beautiful daughter of a gangster industrialist, are complex to say the least.
This book fleshes out more of the relationships and backgrounds of the major characters, while also obliquely illuminating the political situation that Iskandriya finds itself in. We learn little more about Asraf's background, but more about how he chooses to act now.
The best thing about these books is the air of the exotic and the illustration of a place very, very different from our own, even if the time is very close to ours. This is especially true in the way that Grimwood depicts the reality of child "warriors" in the armies that fight the wars in Africa. He gives us an up close and personal portrayal of the kind of life these conscripted children lead, and it is sobering.
This is not a light book. The plot is confusing and sometimes it seems that there is much, much more going on behind the scenes than Grimwood chooses to show us. However, the characters and the setting are definite strengths and keep one hooked throughout the entire novel. I recommend this, assuming you have read the first book, and I look forward myself to reading the final book in the trilogy, "Felaheen."