In the house of Juan Manuel Gomero, the newly captured slaves Esperanza and Miriam meet with Sadiya, a beautiful French slave who loyally serves her master. While her relationship with both arrivals could best be described as rocky, Sadiya's role is to aid their transition to new lives. Unfortunately for her, Esperanza has the most trying time and gives her would-be guide to Moorish life a difficult time - what else is my heroine expected to do? Here's how their first meeting occurs:
From the shadows, a young woman materialized as though plucked from the air. She crept across the tiles on bare feet and unfurled the other shutter. Esperanza closed her hand around the brooch while the stranger turned to her and sat down cross-legged. Her lovely features were in stark contrast to Esperanza’s plain-faced appearance. Pale yellow curls shimmered like gold with an almost iridescent glow. Almond-shaped eyes sparkled like emeralds against a face the color of heavy cream, coupled with a thin nose and lips upturned in a smile. A scant distance separated them. How long had this woman waited in the shadows, quieter than a mouse?
“You did not understand me? My master said you spoke his native tongue. You are in the home of Juan Manuel Gomero, the House of Myrtles, within the city of Granada. All here live by my master’s command, including you. He will take the brooch away. You cannot keep it.”
Esperanza realized Castillan was not the woman’s natural language. While she spoke well and without hesitation, her high-pitched nasal tone betrayed a heritage far beyond Esperanza’s birthplace.
The young woman cocked her head. “Those slavers must have frightened you out of your wits. No one will hurt you now. My master would never permit it. Why do you not speak? Are you afraid of me?” A trilling laugh bubbled up and softened the glow of her piercing gaze.
She mistook the reason for Esperanza’s silence. Rather, her physical appearance caused more uneasiness than her unexpected presence. The moonlight fell on voluminous fabric, which exposed instead of concealing the skin. Layers of a gauzy floor-length tunic suggested the curves beneath the cloth. The garment fastened from the neckline to the waist, with billowing sleeves sewn with tiny pearls at the wrists. Beneath the white tunic, Esperanza discerned another gold one, which skirted her generous hips. Neither garment obscured the woman’s breasts as they rose and fell, or the dark circles encircling nipples visible beneath the cloth. The pale pink material covering each leg disappeared beneath the shorter tunic, but ballooned at the knees only to tighten at her ankles. Small pearls encircled her throat and ankles. For all her finery, she might as well have gone naked.
Sadiya is also one of several secondary characters who varying purposes in the narrative. She acclimates readers to society and culture in Moorish Spain, with her education of Esperanza, and shows how captives adapted to their circumstances. Sadiya represents the countless captives abducted throughout Christian Europe for several generations and forced into positions as servants regardless of their origins or former circumstances. Many such slaves were never ransomed or returned to their homelands.
As Sadiya prepares Esperanza and Miriam for the future, none of the women can guess at the dangers awaiting them. They are about become embroiled in a formidable rivalry between two royal ladies of the Moorish kingdom, the ruler's sister Leila and his mother Safa.