Angeline navigates her new life as a slave to a concubine of a Prince of Egypt by learning the Egyptian language and customs and eventually earning her freedom. Angeline is a curious french girl who always wanted to travel the world. On her trip to Egypt, Angeline and her friend Stephen were kidnapped and sold into slavery to a fellow named Zeid. Zeid works for Emir, who is a prince and is greatly respected by the Sultan himself. Angeline is taken to Cairo where she will serve as a slave to the Prince's concubine, Zahra, who is part of a harem inside the Prince's beautiful palace. Since she doesn't speak Arabic, she must communicate through drawings and gestures. Soon, she charms Zahra's children with her beautiful drawings which also help her forget the fact that she is enslaved. Zahra isn't an unkind mistress and Angeline hopes that she can communicate with her mistress to find out where her friend Stephen was taken. Since Angeline is so good with the quill, Zahra teaches Angeline how to write and speak Arabic. One day, Angeline sees Stephen working in the palace gardens. She breaks protocol and shouts to try to get Stephen's attention and this angers Zahra. The next few days, Zahra keeps a closer watch on Angeline and doesn't let her go out or do anything on her own, making Angeline despair of every being able to speak to Stephen. Angeline soon learns that she must tread wisely and quickly learn the customs of her new life if she doesn't want to bring trouble for herself.
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One day, when Angeline is accompanying her mistress into the market, she sees Zeid and Stephen again and finally gets a chance to speak with Stephen. Unlike Angeline, who has adapted remarkably well to her new life, Stephen seems depressed. Stephen tells Angeline that he has been given the task of working in the palace gardens. Angeline promises that she will find a way to meet with him back at the palace but she worries at Stephen's gaunt appearance.
The next few days, Angeline continues to do pleasing work for her mistress, showing aptitude for the Arabic language. Zahra shows off Angeline to the other concubines and accidentally shows one of Angeline's drawings caricaturing the other women, which amuses Zahra but angers the other women. Angeline is afraid they will get their revenge on her, somehow. She senses that the women are already very jealous of Zahra since she is the Prince's favorite concubine. The jealousies increase when Zahra and Angeline are chosen to accompany the Prince on an excursion to see Egypt's wonders. Angeline is happy, however, that Stephen will also be accompanying them.
On their trip, Angeline learns to ride a camel for the first time and glimpses the beautiful pyramids of Egypt. One afternoon, one of the Prince's impish sons, Habib, tries to climb one of the pyramids and falls. Stephen rushes to help Habib and earns the gratitude of the Prince. After this incident, Stephen becomes much more cheerful, as he has been promoted to be a nursemaid to Habib and doesn't have to do lowly chores in the garden anymore.
After their trip, Angeline learns that Zahra herself is actually a slave. Zahra tells her that she is a concubine to the Prince but she is also a scribe, who works to copy the library's books. She explains that in their culture, a slave can earn their freedom by doing good work. Zahra lets Angeline do some scribe work, too, so that maybe Angeline can take her spot when she is allowed to leave, and then one day Angeline can also work her way to freedom. Scribe work is difficult since Angeline only has rudimentary knowledge of the Arabic language but Zahra is surprisingly patient, even when Angeline snaps at her in her frustration.
On the day of “wafa an-Nil” a festival to celebrate the “plenitude of the Nile”, Zahra tells Angeline that she has shown the Prince some of Angeline's work and the Prince was very impressed and would like to meet her. Zahra seems to have designs to make the Prince notice Angeline, as she purposely dresses Angeline in a beautiful gown, does her make-up and comments on Angeline's beauty in the Prince's presence. One day, Angeline is summoned to speak to the Prince and, though she is nervous, she finds him easy to talk to. With the advent of Zahra's freedom and departure approaching, Angeline becomes worried about her welfare as the other concubines are threatening to make her life miserable once Zahra leaves and she is unprotected. Much to the surprise of the other concubines, however, Angeline is chosen as the concubine who will replace Zahra.
Angeline is horrified, as she is in love with Stephen and she cannot imagine she can willingly fulfill the duties of a concubine. Zahra tells her she has no other choice, however, and tries to comfort her and tell her it won't be so bad because the Prince is a nice man. Eventually, Angeline gives in and she and the Prince sleep together.
Meanwhile, the other concubines conspire to try to disfigure and cripple Angeline in some way to make her undesirable to the Prince. They succeed when they push her down the stairs, an incident which results in Angeline breaking her legs. Because she is crippled, now, the Prince does not want her to be his new concubine, choosing one of the other jealous concubines instead. Angeline is both angry and relieved. Much to Angeline's surprise, Zahra decides to stay a while longer to make sure Angeline heals properly. She even helps Angeline learn how to walk again, though she will always walk with a limp.
One day, Angeline comes to the realization that she is with child. Zahra is pleased as this would mean that her status with the Prince would be elevated as the Prince would want to ensure his child grows up healthy and happy. Stephen eventually finds out she is pregnant but does not judge her. He tells her that the Prince has freed him because he put his own life in danger to save Habib from a collapsing building. Stephen confesses his love for Angeline. Angeline asks Zahra for help in letting her and Stephen marry. Her old mistress tells her there is a possibility that the Prince will free Angeline if she is to marry another free man. When Angeline musters up the courage to speak with the Prince on this subject, he proves very understanding and frees Angeline, making her promise to continue doing excellent scribe work for him.
The story ends with Stephen and Angeline deciding to stay in Egypt and start a new life together there.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that Angeline, who was initially very hostile towards the new culture she was forced into, ends up finding beauty in the culture, despite her situation. She was rightfully angry that she was taken as a slave, but by the end of the book, she finds she cannot leave Egypt as it has become her new home.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Angeline sees Zahra doing scribe work for the first time and learns that Zahra is actually very educated for a woman slave. I thought it showed that Zahra was very optimistic and industrious to earn the respect of the men and work as a scribe in a field dominated by men.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Angeline was open-minded enough to accept the good aspects of her situation and the new world she must live in and that she was able to quickly adapt and end up earning her own freedom.