Summary: Anahita’s father wants her to marry the khan of their tribe, but she thinks him a cruel man who will repulse her for the rest of her life. Also, his previous three wives all died, and she does not want to be the fourth. Ever an outspoken girl, Anahita convinces her father to allow her to hold a riddle contest. Whoever guesses the riddle she weaves into her wedding carpet will be the man she marries. The khan is incensed and threatens the livelihood of Anahita’s nomadic tribe in an attempt to coerce her father into canceling the contest. In the end, however, the khan chooses to play—along with a friend, a teacher, a prince, and a few men no one would have foreseen.
Review: Anahita’s Woven Riddle is a story constructed as skillfully and beautifully as Anahita’s wedding carpet. On one level, it is a romance set in an exotic location (Iran) that will appeal to readers with its excitement and realism. Sayres obviously knows and loves the land about which she writes, and her passion translates to the pages in vivid descriptions that allow readers to form lucid mental pictures. And she has populated the land with diverse characters and diverse suitors that keep the audience reading to find out which is Anahita’s soul mate—and whether he will have the wit and insight to win her contest and her hand in marriage. This is a rare book where which man will win is actually a question that is not easily answered even halfway through the tale. Sayres is a master of suspense.
The novel rises above being simply an entertaining romance, however, by addressing profound questions that teens and even adults must face. Anahita comes across as a slightly radical character with her requests to choose her own husband or to swim in the male side of the bathhouse because they have deeper pools, and the story obviously encourages readers to take charge of their own destinies. There is a caveat, however—and it is that although one should be allowed to make his or her own life decisions, he or she should never forget that there are others whom their choices could affect. Compassion and generosity should go along with independence.
Anahita’s Woven Riddle also tackles the nature of love, exploring filial love, love between friends, and true romantic love. Anahita’s most prominent suitors all have something to offer, and it is this that causes confusion for both the readers and Anahita when deciding which they hope will win the competition. By the end of the story, however, Sayre skillfully reveals why one man should be her yar—her soul mate—instead of the others. Her insight and finesse treating such a complicated topic will doubtless be helpful to young women trying to figure out their own lives. Anahita’s Woven Riddle goes beyond relating a fun and compelling story to comment on important issues in a way readers can find applicable, which makes it one of the more worthwhile reads for young adults.