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Arabian Tribal Poetry Retold as a Historical Novel - an Editorial Review of "Jayida"

Jayida historical novel book cover

Book Blurb:

A rare and necessary historical fiction view into pre-Islamic Arabia and the Middle East through three characters, from a multicultural Christian writer with Christian Palestinian heritage.

Born in early 525 AD in northwest Arabia, Jayida is secretly raised as a boy for her safety. In defiance of al-'ayn, the evil eye, she grows up as Jonder and soon becomes known for perceptiveness and bravery. But her meeting of Khaled, whose father is the reason for her unusual upbringing, turns her world upside down. Will she risk revealing her true identity and win his love? And whose lives must be sacrificed when her fame finally draws her into 'Antarah's quest, the mixed-race badawi-Aksumite poet of the Banu 'Abs, whose last challenge is to capture her to win his own beloved 'Ablah?

This is the timely retelling of a little-known tale of Sirat 'Antar. Set in the 1500-year-old historical context of Arabian tribal poetry, Roman-Persian-Himyarite-Aksumite relations, and climatic and plague events recorded worldwide, this colorful era is once more revived.

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Author Bio:

Natacha Pavlov author photo

Born in Brussels, Belgium, Natacha Pavlov is a bilingual Christian writer of German, Russian, and Christian Palestinian heritage who wrote her first poem at seven years of age.

A lifelong book and storytelling enthusiast, her latest novel Jayida (2023) set in sixth century pre-Islamic Arabia is the fruit of years of research, and the project that first made her want to write historical fiction. She is also the author of the historical fiction novel The Well-Loved Demon (2022) on the 18th century French King Louis XV; the short story collection Our Lives Are Fairy Tales (2024); the novella Nicola's Leg (2017); and the short story collection Twisted Reflections (2015).

Aside from Brussels and the SF Bay Area, she has lived in Paris, France and spent months in Jerusalem. As a Christian with Holy Land ties, she is dedicated to bringing attention to oft-neglected Christian Middle Eastern communities, whether through writing, art, or otherwise.

She is currently at work on more historical fiction of various lengths, ranging from Romance to Horror with doses of modern settings and/or fairy tale influences.

Learn more at her website NatachaPavlov (dotcom).

Editorial Review:

In the annals of historical fiction, the discerning reader often seeks narratives that not only transport them to distant lands and epochs but also resonate with the human condition across time. Such is the hallmark of a truly exceptional work, one that captivates both intellect and emotion with equal measure.

Within the expansive tapestry of historical fiction, there exists a realm inhabited by luminaries whose storytelling prowess transcends mere entertainment, transcending epochs and cultures to weave narratives that endure the relentless march of time. It is amidst this distinguished company that the tale of Jayida emerges, a saga of unparalleled depth and resonance set against the backdrop of sixth-century pre-Islamic Arabia.

Intriguingly, the journey into the heart of Jayida's narrative commences with an unconventional premise, as our protagonist, born under the auspices of fate in the year 525 AD in the rugged terrain of northwest Arabia, assumes the guise of a boy to safeguard her existence from the malevolent gaze of fortune. Thus, ensconced within the protective cocoon of anonymity, Jayida, known to the world as Jonder, embarks upon a trajectory marked by fortitude and sagacity, carving a niche for herself amidst the intricate tapestry of tribal existence.

Central to the narrative fabric is the serendipitous encounter between Jayida and Khaled, whose familial ties unwittingly intertwine with the enigmatic circumstances of her upbringing. As the tendrils of destiny unfurl with inexorable precision, Jayida finds herself ensnared within a labyrinth of conflicting loyalties and burgeoning affections, her quest for self-discovery intricately entwined with the vicissitudes of love and identity.

It is within this crucible of existential quandary that the true essence of Jayida's narrative flourishes, as the reader is beckoned into a realm where the indomitable spirit of the human soul grapples with the imperatives of fate and free will. In a masterful stroke of narrative ingenuity, the author deftly navigates the complex interplay of cultural and religious mores, juxtaposing the divergent strands of belief and tradition to forge a tapestry of unparalleled richness and depth.

Indeed, it is the author's adroit command of prose that lends an ethereal quality to Jayida's odyssey, suffusing the narrative canvas with a lyrical cadence that resonates with the timeless allure of poetry. Each sentence, a symphony of words, reverberates with an emotive resonance that serves to elevate the narrative beyond the confines of mere storytelling, inviting the reader into a realm where the boundaries between past and present, reality and myth, blur into insignificance.

In its thematic breadth and narrative scope, Jayida bears testament to the author's consummate skill as a purveyor of historical fiction, evoking comparisons to the illustrious works of classic literary luminaries. Jayida transcends the constraints of genre, offering a timeless meditation on the human condition that reverberates with a universal poignancy.

Yet, beyond its aesthetic merits, Jayida serves as a potent testament to the enduring power of storytelling as a conduit for historical remembrance. Through the prism of Jayida's narrative, the reader is afforded a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic panorama of sixth-century Arabia, where the tapestry of human existence unfolds against the backdrop of geopolitical upheaval and cultural ferment.

Moreover, Jayida emerges as a paragon of historical verisimilitude, seamlessly interweaving the disparate threads of Arabian tribal poetry, Roman-Persian-Himyarite-Aksumite relations, and climactic and plague events of global significance into a cohesive narrative tapestry. In doing so, the author breathes life into a bygone era, infusing it with a vibrancy and immediacy that transcends the confines of mere historical reconstruction.

In conclusion, Jayida stands as a magnum opus of historical fiction, a luminous testament to the enduring power of storytelling to transcend the boundaries of time and space. With its evocative prose, compelling narrative, and profound thematic resonance, Jayida beckons the reader into a realm where the echoes of the past reverberate with a timeless poignancy. In the pantheon of historical fiction, Jayida shines as a beacon of literary excellence, deserving of the highest accolades and unreserved recommendation.


“Jayida” by Natacha Pavlov receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


HFC Highly Recommneded award of excellence


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