About the Novel
Romance and intrigue, woven in the context of the broader picture of important historical events, are a distinctive feature of all of Zaidan's novels and Saladin and the Assassins is no exception. Princess Sittalmulk, the "Lady of the Realm" and sister to the Caliph al-‘Adid, has many suitors. Saladin has been persuaded that his political ambitions would be enhanced by a union with the caliph's sister. Hasan is also a man with political ambitions who wants to become caliph. He claims Fatimid ancestry and is trusted by the people. He too believes that a union with the Caliph's sister would enhance his claim to the caliphate after al-‘Adid's death. A conspirator with few scruples he arranges to abduct the caliph's sister after she rejects his overtures. And then he conspires to get rid of Saladin by every means -- first by exploiting the rising tension between Saladin and Sultan Nuradin, ruler of Syria, and then by using the Assassins, a religious sect first to threaten and then to do away with him. One morning Saladin wakes up with a dagger firmly planted over his head with a threatening letter signed by the "old man of the mountains" the Imam of the famous Assassins ready to sacrifice their lives in the service of their cause... But lurking in the background was ‘Imadin, a loyal and courageous commoner who has been admitted to be a member of Saladin’s inner circle and who is determined to come to his master's rescue by personally confronting the Assassins. Princess Sittalmulk for her part is a strong willed woman who knows her mind and falls madly in love with ‘Imadin after he saves her life and honor. But he embarks on a far away and dangerous mission to save his master from all the dangers he is facing. Meanwhile, Hasan is intent on having his way with her, even though the caliph would like his sister to marry Saladin who had come to his rescue.
The stage is thus set for a battle for the Princesse's heart interlaced with the battle for the caliphate to succeed al-‘Adid. Who will prevail and how? The fast paced action is full of twists and turns and of unexpected surprises and suspense keeping us guessing to the very end.