Wrong Way Round the Church By J. M. Munro
MEDIEVAL MAGIC AND MYSTERY IN SPAIN AND AVIGNON Who is the mystery child Malika? And why had they wanted to kill her? It is 1375, and the scene is set in al-Andalus (modern Andalusia) where Maryam is a slave and belly-dancer in a harem in the Moorish capital of Granada. But Maryam is not the simple Moorish slave-girl she seems at first to be, or even the Jewish slave-girl Mariamne that her master, the historian Sidi Abelrahman ibn Khaldoun comes to believe her to be. She is the daughter of the late Sir Andrew MacElpin, a Scottish knight. And when ibn Khaldoun frees her in reward for saving his life, and simultaneously her late father's old friend, Sir Farquhar de Dyngvale, who has been a Crusader of sorts in the Middle East for thirty years, comes searching for her, everything changes. She becomes once again Lady Marian MacElpin, though in Spain, when passing as Spanish, she uses her mother's family name and is known as Mariana de la Manga. When ibn Khaldoun released her, however, it was on condition that she restore the child known as Malika to her home and family. In order to accomplish this, they travel north, out of Spain and into France, to Avignon, then the seat of the Popes of Rome, of which Petrarch, who died in 1374, wrote: "Avignon ... a town without pity, charity, faith, respect, fear of God. Here you search in vain for saints, for justice, reason, holiness, in short for humanity." Lady Marian does indeed search in vain for just that, and finds instead that her re-established place in society, and indeed her very freedom, are as ephemeral as "the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven..." But not Mariana herself, for she is above all a survivor.
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