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The Desert of Souls Hardcover – Feb 15 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (Feb. 15 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312646747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312646745
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Jessica Strider TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 3 2013
Format: Paperback
Pros: rolicking adventure, fun characters, brilliant antagonist, afterword include source materials for research

Cons: Sabirah’s character felt superfluous

A fortune teller’s prophecy and a theft at Jaffar’s palace, send Jaffar’s captain of the guard, Asim el Abbas, and his scholar, Dabir ibn Khalil, on a quest to retrieve a magical artifact.

This book is a fun adventure story set in the eighth century Abbasid caliphate of Haroun al-Rashid. Told from Asim’s point of view, there are several fights, kidnapping, magic, monsters, and more. It’s a fast paced book with a highly intelligent antagonist, so things very often don’t go well for our heroes.

My only complaint with the book was that Sabirah, an intelligent woman with an eidetic memory, is only there as a student / accused love interest (though the latter isn’t a focus of the story, merely a complication for one of the protagonists) and kidnap victim. She helps out with information on one occasion but is otherwise a tagalong on the quest.

Still, it’s a great book and the afterword explains some of the history vs fantasy as well as gives historical sources should you wish to learn more about this era and its people.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 52 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Classic Adventure Fantasy April 9 2011
By E. M. Harvey - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I used to really enjoy reading fantasy. I grew up reading Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and books like the Riftwar Saga. I enjoyed being immersed in a world that wasn't this one, and felt disappointed when the story ended. Unfortunately, fantasy took a turn for the worse. Endless doorstop sagas were churned out by the ton: huge books with flaccid prose, endlessly vacillating characters, pages of pointless description, and stories that never went anywhere or finished anything. If you read modern fantasy, you'll know what I mean.

The Desert of Souls is a welcome correction to this. It's the first modern fantasy book I've read for a long time that I've really enjoyed. I read it over three days, and when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. The prose is economical but lyrical, the characters engaging, the story fast-paced. There are heros, beautiful women, sorcerers, djinn, flashing swords, love, despair, horror . . . all the things that made the Sinbad movies so great.

If you like adventure fantasy, then buy this book. I really enjoyed it. The only disappointment was that this is Jones' first, and I can't go and buy another one from him yet.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A delightful read April 3 2011
By Beth - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It started with a dead parrot.

Asim, captain of Jafar's guard, was fond of Jafar's parrot, a talented bird who "could mimic the master and his chief eunuch, and even sometimes answered the call to prayer by bowing thrice. He did this only when it pleased him to do so, which, as my nephew Mahmoud once noted, was far too much like many men he knew."

But Pago the parrot turns up dead one day, and so Asim, in an effort to distract Jafar from his grief, suggests an outing into the market.

Thus it is that Asim, his master Jafar, and Dabir, the scholar engaged as tutor to Jafar's intellectually precocious niece, Sabirah, set out for a little harmless fun in the noisy, perilous environs of eighth-century Baghdad. There they encounter a fortune teller, a band of thieves, and, of course, that moment of destiny when life takes a decidedly strange and treacherous turn.

The Desert of Souls is an elegantly written, deftly plotted, scimitar-and-sorcery tale, as colorful and romantic as a Persian carpet, woven with bright, daring exploits, frequent glints of humor, and the darker threads of heartbreak, pathos, and knotty moral quandries. It is a buddy story dressed in turbans and wearing daggers, exploring a burgeoning but sorely tested friendship between the narrator, Asim, a pious, loyal warrior with an unexpected flair for story-telling, and Dabir, the clever problem-solver who cannot resist a puzzle--or the flashing eyes and fine mind of a certain young woman.

Toss in some undead monkeys, a jaded djinn, a feathered serpent who hoards treasure of a most unusual kind, a fortune teller who may (or may not) have mixed up her clients' fortunes, an evil sorcerer corrupted by a lust for revenge, a lost city, a stowaway virgin, magical artifacts, forbidden love, and enough sword-play and suspense to satisfy the most ardent lover of action....drop it into the harsh, fantastical landscape of old Arabia... and you have the critically acclaimed, thoroughly delightful and moving debut novel of Howard Andrew Jones.

Check it out.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Splendid: The Desert of Souls by Howard Jones Feb. 28 2011
By Amy Herring - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I received an advance reader's copy of the novel, The Desert of Souls (Thomas Dunne Books, February, 2011), by Howard Andrew Jones for review. In addition to being a novelist, Howard Jones is also the Managing Editor of Black Gate magazine.

Soldier Asim el Abbas and scholar Dabir ibn Khalil make an unlikely buddy match-up in this thrilling novel set in an 8th century Middle East filled to the brim with legend, buried cities, blades, and wizardry leavened with just the right touch of romance. The book has an amusing, if slightly slow start, but don't let that tempt you into setting it aside before you reach the challenge awaiting Asim and Dabir in the "desert of souls" that lies, physically and metaphorically, at the heart of the story. Howard Jones, through Asim, his heroic narrator, displays a consummate gift for storytelling that immerses you fully into the world of the Arabian nights while leaving you stunned by the frequent awesome beauty of his prose style. In spite of reading through the night, when Asim announced "this tale is done," all I wanted to do was open the book at the beginning and read it again.

In one word? Splendid!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Magic Carpet Ride Into The Arabian Nights May 20 2011
By Andy Beau - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Desert Of Souls is the highly recommended first novel of an Arabian Nights-style series by the new author, Howard Andrew Jones. As many other reviewers have already somewhat detailed the storyline, suffice it to say it relates the adventures of a scholar and the captain of the guard of a member in the government of Caliph Haroun al-Rashid as they go in search of a powerful magical tablet. Being chased by an evil spy and a Magi, they encounter a lost city in the desert, a djinn, a desert of actual souls (hence, the title), and other beings and objects, natural and magical.

It's written in the style of the Arabian Nights but with an emphasis on the action-adventure of a sword-and-sorcery tale. The author also conjures up new magical creations and beings not found in the typical Arabian Nights tale.

I'm anxiously looking forward to the next book in the exciting tales of the two intrepid heroes as they adventure across the Arabian Nights-style world of Howard Andrew Jones.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An engaging buddy adventure in mystical Arabia May 24 2012
By m.a.r.i.l.y.n - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Desert of Souls is the wonderful debut novel from Howard Andrew Jones, which transports the reader to the Arabia of the early middle ages. Our narrator, Asim el Abbas, has traded the sword for the pen (or quill as it were) later in life and in this volume he recounts an adventure from his time as captain of the vizier's guards...

The master, Jaffar, is morose over the loss of a beloved pet, and in an attempt to cheer him, Asim enlists the help of the scholar, Dabir ibn Khalil, for a night of disguised diversion. The vizier and his two loyal servants get more than they bargained for when a fortune-teller warns of doom and then a stranger carrying a mysterious object expires from his wounds while trying to pass on a message for the caliph.

It's no small matter when a messenger on his way to one of three most powerful men in Baghdad is murdered, and Dabir races to solve the puzzle before the soothsayer's prophecy comes to pass. A task made all the more difficult by the appearance of undead animals, villainous Greeks, evil sorcerers, and a cunning, soul-stealing djinn. Dabir is clever, and Asim is strong, but they must learn to trust each other and work together if Dabir is to keep his head, and they're to stop a vengeful mage from leveling the city.

Part Indiana Jones, part Sherlock & Watson, part 1,001 Nights, The Desert of Souls is wholly enjoyable. The world is richly detailed, and the action is fluid and clear. Jones is a skilled storyteller, and this adventure is an exhilarating and quick read that I recommend without reservation. The next book in the series,The Bones of the Old Ones (Dabir and Asim), is scheduled for release in December, but you can enjoy Jones' Asim & Dabir short story collection, The Waters of Eternity, now.

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