The Desert of Souls (The Chronicle of Sword and Sand) by Howard Andrew Jones
|The Desert of Souls (The Chronicle of Sword and Sand) by Howard Andrew Jones|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An uncomplicated comfort read with undercurrents of Ali Baba, Sinbad and high adventure plus more to come as it's the first of a series.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: April 2013|
|Publisher: Head of Zeus|
|External links: Author's website|
Place: Baghdad Time: 8th century Arabian-Nights-Time A dying man gives Dabir, tutor at the Caliph's palace, a precious artefact, making him promise to look after it. Unfortunately it gets stolen before he has the chance to. Jaffar the son of the Caliph's vizier realises that it has magical qualities that make it even more precious than it appears and isn't too well pleased. He gives Dabir a chance to redeem himself, sending him and Asim, Captain of the Caliph's guard, to find it. The men set out on their quest facing danger, death, sorcery and someone whose presence could get them into even deeper trouble.
American author Howard Andrew Jones has chosen an interesting angle for his first novel. The Arabian Nights was one of my favourite books as a child and now Howard takes us back there. This time we aren't following the exploits of its central character, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid but two of his employees, a scholar and a soldier. For in this, the first of The Chronicles of Sword and Sand' series, intellect is paired with muscle, magic and a sprinkling of the simplicity from our younger years (although with a bit more blood). The result of this grown up eastern nostalgia won the author a place on the prestigious Barnes and Noble list for Best Fantasy Releases in 2011.
Why did I mention simplicity? This is a novel that makes you realise how heavily multi-plotted and sub-texted modern fantasy is. I'm not complaining; I can't get enough of the genre in any of its forms. However Souls is like sitting down to a bowl of you-know-who's tomato soup by comparison. The plot is linear as our heroes chase, are chased, overcome hazards and go forth in a style some have compared to Indiana Jones, the only real sub-plot in Book 1 involving an affair of the heart. This isn't a bad thing when it's done this well. Indeed, like the soup, there are times when it's just what you fancy.
It's not all fantasy as the author's end notes inform us of the historical roots and juxtaposing. Meanwhile the characters are shaping up nicely providing some lovely bitchy comments between action, fighting and scenes of supernatural skulduggery. Asim and Dabir aren't best mates and they don't hide the fact providing a few smiles. (Talking of smiles, congratulations should go to any author who begins a book with a dead parrot and avoids the obvious!) Asim and Dabir also have a constantly changing entourage as their travelling companions come, go, die or… you'll see.
For some people The Desert of Souls may be a little too simplistic. However, for others, including me, this is a series set-up story brimming with not only eastern promise (sorry!) but also the promise of more nostalgic comfort reading to come.
If you've enjoyed this and like a bit of sand in your fantasy, we recommend Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Desert of Souls (The Chronicle of Sword and Sand) by Howard Andrew Jones at Amazon.com.
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