Princess Jahanara's Notebook

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
252 Pages
Reviewed on 08/25/2015
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

William is in for the adventure of a lifetime and it has very little to do with his position as a British Envoy in Kabul, Afghanistan. However, it's his position that leads him to a great find, a valuable treasure and a princess's journal that documents the treasure's significance. While at the turbulent fortress of Bala Hissar in Kabul, William stumbles upon an injured woman, a very beautiful woman, and a treasure box which contains a hidden compartment in which he finds a journal written in Persian. There is no jewel, but when his brother, John, translates the journal, William discovers a whole new world of possibilities, all because of Princess Jahanara, the beloved daughter of the sixteenth century leader, Shah Jahan. William's life is turned around as he decides to follow the treasure and, in its place, finds other treasures more valuable than a beautiful, large diamond.

Princess Jahanara's Notebook is a love story, a mystery, an adventure, and an historical fiction, all in one. Ali M. Kiper has written a compelling tale of nineteenth-century Afghanistan, its battles and military instability, with a parallel story of unforgettable love that resulted in the building of the famous Taj Mahal. This is a fascinating story set in Afghanistan, focusing on the mystery of a rare and beautiful diamond and its affiliation with Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal. But, it is also much more than a story about rare treasures; it is also a story about true love, which, in the end, is the greatest treasure of all.

Jack Magnus

Princess Jahanara’s Notebook is an historical novel written by Ali M. Kiper. William Marlowe is a British envoy who has arrived to visit Dost Mohammed in the fortress of Bala Hissar in Kabul, Afghanistan. It’s the mid-nineteenth century, and Britain’s role in seizing control of Kabul in 1839 and installing a puppet Shah, is still a subject of some controversy with the reinstated ruler and his advisors. William’s been advised that the Amir is away on business but should be returning the next day. After waiting for several days, he’s finally presented to the Amir and speaks on behalf of the British government. Dost is concerned about the British rule in Punjab, a neighboring state, as are the British, who have sent Marlowe in an effort to improve relations between the two countries. Suddenly an officer approaches the Amir and speaks quietly with him, and the room empties. William is left wondering what his next move should be when he hears a gunshot. Following the noise, he enters a chamber where a palace guard lies dead and a young woman is sitting with her eyes closed. Her temple is bruised, and she’s mumbling something about a diamond. William spies an ornate box lying on the ground. Opening it, he sees precious jewels, an ornate dagger and a small notebook which he places in his pocket moments before an Afghani enters the room and attacks him. While they’re struggling, someone hits William from behind and he loses consciousness.

Ali M. Kiper's historical novel, Princess Jahanara's Notebook, is exciting and fast-paced. It follows the British adventurer, William, as he gives in to his obsessive desire to possess a legendary diamond. The reader is drawn into his adventure as he navigates his way through the Middle East and the Caucasus and follows the trail of Koslow who currently has the gem. Kiper blends history and adventure in this thrilling and literate tale. His story is filled with last-minute escapes from military and police forces and even includes a fortunately brief stay in a secret police interrogation prison called The Cave. I found the blend of history and adventure to be quite enjoyable and appreciated the fact that reading this novel gave me a better understanding of the complex political arena of the mid-19th century. Princess Jahanara's Notebook is highly recommended.

Chris Fischer

In a very promising new novel set in an era not always given all the attention it should get, Princess Jahanara’s Notebook by debut author Ali M. Kiper is a grand epic. It follows the story of protagonist William Marlowe as he is sent by the British Queen’s foreign service to the palace of Dost Mohammad in Kabul during the spring of 1850. Charged with the task of improving the relationship between England and Afghanistan, his quest is certainly not an easy one. And it’s made even more difficult when Dost Mohammad is called away from their very first audience by warring tribespeople. William becomes embroiled in the mystery of a wounded woman and what appears to be a hastily dropped treasure chest that contains a small notebook amongst the other, more impressive treasures. William pockets the notebook and later discovers it was a diary kept by the Princess Jahanara. The princess was the daughter of Shah Jahan of the Great Moghul Empire, and reveals the secret of a valuable gemstone.

This book is an exciting romp through a period of time that seemed to be at its most mysterious, especially to the English character of William Marlowe. Princess Jahanara’s Notebook had my interest piqued from the start, and I very much enjoyed the development of this story. Author Ali M. Kiper clearly has vast experience with this region, and it shows in his wonderful descriptions of the cities and the people that inhabit them. This book would appeal to readers who enjoy mysteries, interesting settings, or historical fiction. I understand that Princess Jahanara’s Notebook is Ali M. Kiper’s first novel, but I certainly hope that it won’t be his last!