If you're young, bright, talented as both a maker and designer of intricate rugs, filled with a limitless desire to master the art of Persian carpets, what can stop you from reaching the top of the craft? In early 18th-century Iran, it was the irremediable problem of being born female. But for the appealing, strong-willed heroine (never named) of Anita Amirrezvani's dazzling debut novel, The Blood of Flowers, set in Isfahan in the time of the great Shah Abbas (1588-1629), designing and knotting exquisite rugs is what drives and centers her life as she battles hunger, poverty, the disgrace of a temporary marriage (really an exchange of sexual favors for money) and her own all-too-familiar adolescent brashness. In a low, lush, Persian-petaled voice worthy of Scheherazade, reader Shohreh Aghdashloo takes us into the exotic world Amirrezvani has created, into grand houses and garbage-strewn hovels, teeming bazaars and steaming women's baths and into the intricacies of creating carpets fit for a queen. Every chapter ends with a charming folktale, grace notes to a story that sweeps you up and holds you in its thrall.

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