Title: Climbing the Date Palm: A Labor Rights Love Story
Series: Mangoverse #2
Author: Shira Glassman
Genre: High Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Threat of death, sexual content (implied or lightly described), homophobia
Spoiler Warnings: This book is second in a series, so this review will probably contain spoilers of the first book, The Second Mango.
Prince Kaveh, the youngest son of the king of the City of Red Clay, is bisexual, and completely besotted with Farzin, the engineer his father hired to oversee the improvements to the city’s roads and bridges. However, the king doesn’t share his positive feelings. After Farzin ends up at the head of the protest that ensues when the workers are only paid a third of their promised wages, he’s thrown in prison and is scheduled to be executed.
Queen Shulamit, who rules over the neighboring nation of Perach, is eager to assist the desperate prince. She, too, loves justice and has a same-sex partner. She’s also hoping Kaveh, with his royal blood, is willing to give her and her sweetheart a legitimate heir in exchange. But can she find a peaceful solution that will pacify the king next door, get his workers fairly paid, and free Farzin? Or will she and her dragon-riding bodyguard Rivka have to go to war?
This story was very similar to the first book in the series, The Second Mango – in feel, that is, not in plot. Like the first book, Climbing the Date Palm was a fun, entertaining, not-very-deep story. However, it did go a bit darker than the first book.
Climbing the Date Palm introduces a whole new set of characters in a whole new kingdom, the main one being the bisexual Prince Kaveh, whose main personality trait seemed to be “being head-over-heels for this one guy.” Although, considering the circumstances of this one guy being sentenced to death, that can be forgiven. He kind of had that weak, wimpy younger prince trope going on, but overall I didn’t mind him.
I loved Shulamit again in this book. She’s brave, kind, and getting better at wielding her queenly power for the good of others. She feels scared and uncertain, and then she does what’s right anyway, and I admire her. The other major characters from The Second Mango, namely Rivka, Isaac, and Aviva, also play important roles, and they’re still great. Isaac gets a bigger part in this book, and he’s clever and fun to read about. Rivka is still awesome. And Aviva gets a bigger role and she’s sweet and supportive and a great complement to intellectual Shulamit.
As far as plot goes, this book mostly fixed the problem I had with book one – namely, that the problems didn’t have very high stakes. The stakes in this book involved a man’s life, war (if Shulamit and company can’t find a peaceful way to save Farzin) and the fate of an entire country (Perach if Shulamit doesn’t get a legitimate heir somehow). While it is pretty straightforward without any real twists, it was enough to keep me interested and thoroughly entertained.
There’s still not a whole lot about the setting in this book, but again, what you do get is great, and I love how Perach’s culture is based on Judiasm. Since this is the second book with not a lot of setting details, I don’t have super high hopes for getting more in future books, but I can dream.
I only have one real problem, and it’s kind of nitpicky – the subtitle. I appreciate what Shira Glassman was trying to do with the whole pro-union message, but the banding together of the workers against the king didn’t actually work. That was the whole plot, that the king just ignored the workers’ attempts to unionize, imprisoned the person he felt was responsible, and Shulamit had to step in.
Overall, while it did have its problems, Climbing the Date Palm was fun, mostly lighthearted, entertaining, and just a great light read when you want something simple but enjoyable. I’m excited for book three.
The Mangoverse Series:
- The Second Mango
- Climbing the Date Palm: A Labor Rights Love Story
- A Harvest of Ripe Figs
- The Olive Conspiracy
- Tales from Perach