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Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite
Joel Epstein’s The Language of the Heart is a novel where history, music, and magic interweave to create an intense and powerful atmosphere. The protagonist is Ali Ibn Nafi, better known as Ziryab. He lived between the 8th and 9th centuries and is remembered for his musical innovations. In The Language of the Heart, we discover his life and adventures from his birth to his arrival in Cordoba. A musically gifted child, he has to leave Baghdad, his native city, after a brilliant musical performance that upset his teacher. In his long journey across the Middle East, Africa, and finally Europe, Ziryab meets friends like a music djinn and foes like an evil wizard who hopes to learn the magic of music. Ziryab’s love for music accompanies him everywhere, and he founds a school and uses music as a healing tool.
Stories about music are my favorites. Although some people do not care for this art form, its unfathomable power is undeniable, and The Language of the Heart proves it. Music can be a cure and inspire peace, as the episode of Ziryab’s school, open to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, reveals. You have the impression of listening to a beautiful melody while you are reading. Epstein makes the text flow as smoothly as a beautiful song. Music is charming, and the exotic, superbly described settings, extraordinary characters, and a pinch of magic make this story a fairytale. Music and history lovers will find The Language of the Heart an amazing read, and its message will speak to their hearts.