At Dawn the Simorgh Appears

K.A. Lillehei

A women’s inspirational novel of self-discovery and transformation and the people, cultures and myths that shaped them.


‘Their triumph was all the greater for femininity was their camouflage – their weapons both the obvious and the disguised.’

‘The conspiracy of the feminine: a unified inhalation and exhalation of the universal givers of life.’

Cover artwork by Mamak Azarmgin at http://www.mamak-azarmgin.com/index_en.html

Kirkus Review

A grandly emotional piece that celebrates family and the overlap between Eastern and Western values

Tightly held secrets inform several characters’ arcs … A key incident leads … to an intriguing finale.

Lovely moments abound, as when “the azure skies” … summon the women home.


Calligraphy by Bahman Panahi at http://www.bahmanpanahi.com/


The simorgh is a mythical, benevolent, winged creature, always female, who helps the heroine, or hero, along the path. There are many variations of the tale; one of the most celebrated is The Conference of the Birds, a Persian poem from the 12th century.

Two young women from opposite corners of the world are travelling together when they are abducted by a group of renegades. Anna is an American researcher who met Farah, her Persian teacher, in France where they both live. Anna had become enamored with the culture and language of ancient Persia and was taking language classes to research the civilizations. Farah offers to accompany Anna to Iran and act as her guide and translator. The women are near the western border when they are captured by outlaws and locked in a stone hut, their fate unknown. For days they are held captive, awaiting the arrival of the leader of the band. During their captivity they share their fears, but also personal stories, telling each other of their childhood and families, joys and sorrows. The bandits disagree on what should be done with the women and one lieutenant in the group is intent on harming them. A young servant becomes close to the women and decides to help them. At the end of part one, they plan an escape, free themselves, and flee into the wild and desolate Zagros mountains.

The journey over the Zagros is as treacherous as their captivity among the renegades had been. They encounter danger at each turn, seeking refuge in abandoned structures and caves. Wild beasts, tribesmen, land mines, corrupt border guards and desert conditions obstruct their escape. They are helped by local nomadic shepherds and the young servant who fled with them. However, the outlaws are also on their trail and the women struggle to avoid being recaptured. During the ordeal in the Zagros they continue sharing their stories which include the tragedies of their young lives – abandonment, imprisonment, torture and loss of loved ones. At the end of the part two, it appears that they are in reach of safety when the band again catches up with them.

Finally, they are confronted by the renegades and, with the help of one of the outlaws, face their enemies. Using their wits and courage, will they prevail? At what cost? For all their external differences, Anna and Farah discover a bond – commonalities, shared ideologies and beliefs. Superficially they are as different as night and day. Sisters beyond time, language, culture and religion. Like modern-day Scheherazades, through their storytelling, the women discover a universe where their outer worlds divide, but their inner worlds connect. The year was 1973; neither of them could know the upheavals that would soon engulf their part of the world.


The story does not involve any political statements nor criticism of current factions. The outlaws are portrayed as a neutral band unassociated with existing groups; their purpose is only to provide a foil, an outside threat. The themes instead involve the cultural and psychological aspects of the young women’s lives and the traditions, customs and myths that shaped them. The setting could be in any corner of the world where seemingly conflicting cultures clash; it could take place anywhere, including on the streets of Paris or London or New York.

Next projects:

A Young Paladin of Zabul

Sam, an eleven-year-old boy, journeys alone across the Zagros and the Balkans to reach northern Europe, and ultimately America, accompanied by his mythological hero from a 10th century epic tale. (Manuscript complete at 312 pages; 99,900 words)

Arrows Soar Under a Hajar Sun

An antiquities expert in the Middle East searching for clues to his father’s disappearance becomes involved with a band of outlaws. (Manuscript in progress)


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  • Paris, France
  • Oslo, Norway

Link to full Kirkus review:


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Build bridges, not walls.


And then more words.

 Words become sentences.

Then more sentences.

Sentences become stories.

And worlds.

New worlds from old worlds.

Worlds of words.

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