How one book turned into six

PictureMadinat al Zahra

I first became interested in Moorish history after visiting Madinat al Zahra, a ruined city outside Córdoba, in 2000. And I was inspired to write the story of a family of artisans who were involved in the construction and decoration of that new city. It took me a year to research and write The Shining City, and when it was finished I knew that there were other wonderful stories to tell about that period. So one book became three. My original plan was to write about a different period in Spanish history next, but there was still a lot to tell about the time when the Moors lived in Spain.

At the end of book three Córdoba had been sacked by Berber armies, the Golden Age was over, and a once united country had split into numerous small states, called taifas. I looked at the history of the period (early 11th century), and thought it was impossible to make a coherent story from it; the rulers changed with such regularity, some only reigning a few months, others a couple of years. It was a tumultuous time for the once peaceful land of al-Andalus.


Then one day, as I was reading about the comings and going’s of the numerous rulers, I came across the makings of a new trilogy:
A Caliph who should have ruled from Córdoba, but decided to establish the taifa of Málaga instead.
His sons sent into exile by the Caliph’s uncle, who seizes the throne on his brother’s death.
A ruler who threw his own brother into jail and murdered his brother-in-law, and a wife who murdered her husband to avenge her brother’s death.
Besides the various internecine conflicts, there were taifas such as Seville who were growing larger and stronger, year by year, by conquering their Muslim neighbours.
And then there were the Christian princes who had their eyes on the Muslim gold. It was a time of intrigue, murder and a lust for power. 
It had the perfect ingredients for a historical novel.

PictureAlcazaba, Málaga

So I turned once again to my family of artisans who escaped from Córdoba just before the city fell.
When The City of Dreams trilogy opens, twenty-two years have passed, some of the family have died, others have grown, married and have children of their own. And it is these family members who moved to Málaga to start a new life. They expect peace and prosperity, but almost immediately Makoud, who is now an apothecary, finds himself involved in the suspicious death of the Caliph.


The three books in  The City of Dreams trilogy are The Apothecary, The Pirate and The Prisoner, all set in Málaga, a prosperous and thriving port on the Mediterranean sea. That in itself meant I had to widen my research to pirates, shipbuilding and other sea related topics that hadn’t been necessary for the previous books set in Córdoba.​

The new series is available in paperback, on Kindle and as audiobooks. It is also being translated into Spanish and Portuguese.


Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.