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Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite
In At Dawn the Simorgh Appears by K.A. Lillehei, an archaeologist named Anna meets Farah, a Persian artist, in Paris and asks her to act as her interpreter on a trip to study ancient Iranian ruins. While in Iran, they are kidnapped by violent outlaws and find themselves imprisoned with no means of escape. The two women are unsure why they have been kidnapped or what their fate will be, but soon they befriend a young boy named Samir who brings them food. To pass their time, Anna and Farah mentally escape the prison by sharing stories of their childhood. The leader of the outlaws arrives and it seems clear that neither woman nor Samir will survive his temper. They manage to escape into the Zagros mountains. As they head for the safety of Iran, their journey is filled with dangers from landmines, corrupt border guards, predators and the outlaws in hot pursuit. With the Iranian border in clear sight, the trio has one final obstacle to achieve, only this one is the most dangerous.
At Dawn the Simorgh Appears by K.A. Lillehei is a wonderfully colorful story that will transport you into the beautiful landscape of the Middle East. The descriptive detailed narrative brings everything to life, from the musty prison cell to the fragrant mountains. The main characters have distinguishable personalities and although they are so different, they gather strength from each other as they try to escape the prison of their painful memories. The plot moves at a fast pace and the obstacles they have to face before and after their escape builds great tension. With Anna and Farah sharing the emotional stories of their past, it builds a great backstory for their characters. Anna is an inspirational woman with an enviable strength while Farah's sensitivity is heartwarming. The story also highlights the ancient cultures and architecture of the Middle East. There is also an important message threaded throughout the story of how people faced with difficult childhoods can make life-changing choices that will take them on different life paths. The ending was a surprise twist and does leave room for a sequel.