This is a great historical fiction novel. Set in 11 century AD it follows travels of a young British man, Rob Cole, who decides to study medicine in the East, Persia, under supervision of famous Ibn Sina (known then in Europe as Avicenna).
11 century in Europe represents a typical period known to us as Dark Ages. Some fields of human enterprise were especially "dark" such as medicine.
However, in the East, 11 century AD represents not Dark Ages but rather a cultural Renaissance that included medical science. Beginning in 8th century and up to mongol invasions in 13th century, Islamic world went through a phase that has not been achieved since. Islamic scientists writing in Arabic (but not necessarily Arabs but mostly central Asians) made scientific "jumps" in mathematics, geometry, astronomy, medicine, philosophy and law.
Interestingly enough, all these development in the Islamic World happened under Islamic rulers who were tyrants and despots but somehow sensed the importance of science and cultural advances.
This novel specifically uses medical science as an example to show the vast divide that separated West from East. This is a sad novel. It clearly shows that scientific or social progress if it is happening in wrong time or wrong place cannot be maintained but rather produces counter-reaction and brutal suppression.
posted by David Usharauli