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Jewel of the Nile by Tessa Afshar (Book Review)

Jewel of the Nile is Tessa Afshar's upcoming release, scheduled for June 1, 2021, and it is sure to be another addition to an already-overflowing treasure trove of literary gems.

Whispered secrets about her parents’ past take on new urgency for Chariline as she pays one last visit to the land of her forefathers, the ancient kingdom of Cush.
Raised as an orphan by her aunt, Chariline has only been told a few pieces of her parents’ tragic love story. Her beautiful dark skin is proof that her father was Cushite, but she knows nothing else. While visiting her grandfather before his retirement as the Roman official in the queen’s court, Chariline overhears that her father is still alive, and discovering his identity becomes her obsession. Both her grandfather and the queen have reasons for keeping this secret, however, and forbid her quest. So when her only clues lead to Rome, Chariline sneaks on the ship of a merchant trusted by friends.
Theo is shocked to discover a stowaway on board his vessel and determines to be rid of her as soon as possible. But drawn in by Chariline’s story, he feels honor-bound to see her safely to shore, especially when it appears someone may be willing to kill for the truth she seeks.
In this transformative tale of historical fiction, bestselling author Tessa Afshar brings to life the kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire, introducing readers to a fascinating world filled with gripping adventure, touching romance, and a host of lovable characters―including some they may recognize from the biblical book of Acts.

Jewel of the Nile is a classic adventure in the ancient world, made brighter by Tessa Afshar's keen ability to incorporate scriptural truths into engaging fiction. I was immediately pulled in by the strong narrative current that kept the story flowing with mystery and intrigue. There was a good amount of humor and profundity, which is not easy to balance, but was done superbly in this story.

The nameless characters, such as Charilene's mystery father, kept me turning the pages, examining and re-examing every clue to in order to ascertain their identities and what that meant for the story. With a Tessa Afshar novel, you never know what to expect (in the best of ways), so I was constantly guessing at what the next big reveal would be. I'm pretty sure I never recovered after all the twists and turns in Land of Silence, so I give every paragraph a good amount of side-eye. :)

Charilene's interests in architecture were fascinating to read about, as it truly brought the world of the Ancient Roman Empire to life. I felt as though I was seeing the glimmering streets of each location as they were meant to be through Afshar's descriptions, before they became relics, ruins, and museum pieces. I confess that I had a difficult time relating to Charilene's character on a personal level, but not every character is written for me. Also, I have the benefit of being a reader. As a reader, I can experience multiple perspectives and points-of-view that characters often aren't privy to (Have you ever found yourself screaming at the TV, "No! Don't go through that door!" No? Just me? Well that's sometimes how I feel reading books, when I can see what needs to happen, but the characters haven't figured it out yet). Perhaps this makes me impatient in waiting for the payoff I know is sure to come. In any case, I still enjoyed her story, and the lessons she learned were no less powerful to me as a reader.

I absolutely adored Theo's character. He's lovable, amusing, strong, and the dialogue between him and Charilene was so well-paced and fun to read. I enjoyed watching their relationship develop, from the little moments to the grand gestures. It was his character that kept pulling me back each time I had to set the book down to work on something else.

Each of them grew so much throughout their journey, but I have to admit, I felt like I was missing out on something as I read. Thief of Corinth (a predecessor to this novel) is one book on a very short list of Tessa Afshar books that I have not read, but after experiencing Jewel of the Nile, I know I should have read it first. Somehow I didn't realize how closely Theo's story would be connected to Thief of Corinth, and there were times where I was confused or thrown off. This book, Daughter of Rome, and Thief of Corinth could definitely all work as standalone novels, but I think your satisfaction as a reader will be much greater if you read them all in the order in which they were published.

On its own, I would rate this book a 4/5 stars.

You can pre-order Jewel of the Nile for yourself or learn more at THIS link.

Happy reading everyone! Until next time,

- Jenna

*I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


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