The Desert of Souls Hardcover – Feb 15 2011
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Praise for THE DESERT OF SOULS:
“As richly textured as an antique rug, this fantasy-mystery sweeps readers into ancient Baghdad.… Asim's dazzling swordplay, his Muslim piety, and his unwavering loyalty to his friend balance Dabir's bittersweet devotion to Sabirah as the pair battle forbidden magic that forces them to slice away layers of their own spirits. Their antagonist, evil Zarathustrian sorcerer Firouz, poses moral questions that deepen this multicolored Arabian-nights tale, as does the plight of pretty, quick-witted Sabirah, who prizes scholarship and lives for the moment while facing the fate of a political marriage. A captivating setting and well-realized characters make this a splendid flying-carpet ride.” –Publishers Weekly
“An exciting, colorfully written novel with engaging characters and a story that mixes fantasy and real-world elements. It should appeal to readers of fast-paced historical mysteries.” --Booklist
“Howard Jones proves himself a rare master of the storyteller’s art, a talent uncommon even amongst successful novelists. He’s written a pure, unapologetic, classically-structured adventure tale…. Brilliant and immediate characterization, not only for Asim, the narrator, but Dabir, as well, perfect pacing, and a truly intriguing mystery draw the reader deeply into the world of the story. At one point, a story within the story allows Jones to comment on the act of storytelling itself. The novel is polished to a mirror sheen, but it has that something extra that takes a story beyond technical excellence and into the human heart…. If you have any interest in historical fiction, fantasy adventure, Robert Howard, Harold Lamb, or the One Thousand and One Nights, you will love this book. If you’re not sure about any of those things, it’s still very possible that you may love this book. Stories that stay with me as this one has don’t come around very often, and I’m inclined to spread the word when they do. Read this book.” –Greenmanreview.com
"The Desert of Souls is filled with adventure, magic, compelling characters and twists that are twisty. This is seriously cool stuff." -- Steven Brust, New York Times bestselling author of the Vlad Taltos series
“A grand and wonderful adventure filled with exotic magic and colorful places — like a cross between Sinbad and Indiana Jones.” -- Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of The Map of All Things
“Like the genie of the lamp, Howard Jones has granted this reader's wish for a fresh, exciting take on the venerable genre of sword-and-sorcery!” -- Richard A. Knaak, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Legends of the Dragonrealm
"Howard Andrew Jones spins an exciting and suspenseful tale in his historical fantasy debut. A rich, detailed tapestry -- part Arthur Conan Doyle, part Robert E. Howard, and part Omar Khayyam, woven in the magical thread of One Thousand And One Nights." -- E.E. Knight, Author of the bestselling Vampire Earth
“An entertaining and enjoyable journey into a world of djinns and magic far darker than expected, yet one that ends with hope, both for the characters... and that there will be yet another book.” -- L. E. Modesitt, Jr, author of the Recluse Saga, the Imager Portfolio, and the Corean Chronicles
"A modern iteration of old school storytelling. Highly recommended to anyone in search of a fun run through strange lands and times." -- Glen Cook, author of The Black Company Series
"Howard Jones wields magic like a subtle blade and action like a mighty cleaver in his scimitars and sorcery tale, weaving together Arabian myth, history, and some honest-to-gosh surprises to create a unique story that you’ll not soon forget." -- Monte Cook, author of The Dungeon Masters Guide, 3rd Edition
"A rousing tale of swords against sorcery. Howard Jones writes with wit and flair. His world is involving, authentic and skilfully evoked. The best fantasy novel I have read all year." -- William King, Author of the Space Wolf trilogy and creator of Gotrek and Felix
"A whirlwind tale of deserts, djinn and doors to other worlds, told in a voice perfectly pitched for the style and setting." -- Nathan Long, author of Bloodborn and Shamanslayer
“An Arabian Nights adventure as written by Robert E Howard. It is exciting, inventive, and most of all fun.” -- Dave Drake, author of The Legion of Fire
“Part mystery, part thriller, part adventure, all woven expertly by Jones to create a tapestry of vivid imagery and excitement… The characters are as lively as Leiber’s to be certain and the action is fast-paced and draws you in from page one. This is the kind of pulp adventure novel that ranks ups there with writers like Robert E. Howard, Talbot Mundy, and H. Rider Haggard. Fun and fresh!” –Mania.com, Grade A
“The plot is like a roller coaster, going from one turn to another. The writing is like a love child between Robert Ludlum and Michael Moorcock. Very exceptional. If this is the only fantasy book you read this year. Read this one… Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!” -- fantasydreamer12.wordpress.com
“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 the 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.” -- thestoneriver.blogspot.com
“The Desert of Souls is an engaging, enjoyable read that made me regret putting the book down whenever I had to stop… What I liked most about the book is the prose of Jones. Smooth and effortless, with a definite middle-eastern flair, I fell in love with Jones’s style and his skill at weaving adventure, action, wit, religion, and realism into a cohesive story. It also doesn’t hurt that a good first-person narrative is my favorite kind of story… Howard Andrew Jones has hooked me with a terrific story of middle-eastern adventure, rife with magic, swordplay, and great prose. I hope he decides to write another installment in the same setting with some of the same characters…I for one would look forward to such a tale, and I’m happy to have added The Desert of Souls to my library.” -- hippogriff.wordpress.com
“Like the best stories of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, The Desert of Souls wastes no time with extraneous details or self-indulgent digressions, getting straight to the meat of the matter... Jones has succeeded in transporting the reader to another time and place and never once forgets that, first and foremost, this is an adventure novel, not a history text. There's a humility about the book that only added to the book's numerous charms. If, like me, you're not especially taken with contemporary fantasy has on offer, you should definitely take a look at The Desert of Souls. It's a fun read very much in the tradition of the best pulp fantasy but with plenty of unique pleasures owing to its historical and cultural setting.” -- grognardia.blogspot.com
“The Desert of Souls is many things: dark mystery, hard-hitting fantasy, edge-of-seat suspense and swashbuckling adventure. It is written in a fast-paced, page-turning style replete with exotic, historic locales, vivid descriptions and memorable characters… It is no coincidence Howard’s novel pays homage to the legacy of authors like Howard and Lamb. Over the past few years Howard has almost single-handedly resurrected the Sword & Sorcery genre, first as editor of the late Flashing Swords eZine and currently as Managing Editor of Black Gate Magazine. In addition, his painstakingly compiled eight volume collection of stories by prolific pulp author Lamb has made him that author’s premiere scholar, and reintroduced the once popular writer to today’s audience. It is this love of fantasy and exotic history, along with his grand sense of storytelling that has made Howard Andrew Jones a writer to be reckoned with for many years to come.” -- roguebladesentertainment.com
“A rollicking adventure… Howard Andrew Jones has created a masterpiece of entertainment in this journey back in time. Jones's writing style makes one feel as if they're listening to someone with incredible narrative talent telling a story as Asim and Dabir go from hurdle to hurdle, barely making it out alive from some. In Jones's hands, the characters come to vivid life, including the evil wizard, and it's easy to feel as if you've been transported back to early Baghdad as well. The dialogue, and especially the interplay between Asim & Dabir, rings true and speaks to a closeness only seen in strong teams like Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Jones incorporates forbidden romance and other intrigues in this tale and as with all good storytellers, slowly builds up the suspense. Once you get to a certain point, you'll just have to finish this one as there's no setting it down. I've heard rumors that there is a sequel to come, and I hope they're true. For fans of sword and sorcery adventure, this is a don't miss.” –FreshFiction.com
"A fast-paced adventure tale, full of swords and magic and heroism, set in the world of One Thousand and One Nights...I highly recommend this to anybody who likes fun adventure tales made of awesome." --Bureau42.com
About the Author
When not helping run his small family farm or spending time with his amazing wife and children, Howard can be found hunched over his laptop or notebook, mumbling about flashing swords and doom-haunted towers. He has worked variously as a TV cameraman, a book editor, a recycling consultant, and a college writing instructor. He was instrumental in the rebirth of interest in Harold Lamb’s historical fiction, and has assembled and edited 8 collections of Lamb’s work for the University of Nebraska Press. His stories of Dabir and Asim have appeared in a variety of publications over the last ten years, and led to his invitation to join the editorial staff of Black Gate magazine in 2004, where he has served as Managing Editor ever since. He blogs regularly at the Black Gate website.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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!
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.
The vivid Arabian Nights setting is uncommon in modern fantasy and rarely handled with the ease and skill we see here. The sturdy, conversational first person style is also fresh, as the narrator is an honest, plain-spoken warrior who delivers his tale with sharp, often exciting immediacy, but whose view of the circumstances and people around him is at times somewhat incomplete, colored by his character and experience. The reader will note things that he does not, which can be amusing, sad, or even creepy.
Conversely, much of the book's underpinnings have a warm familiarity. Here are Dabir ibn Khalil and Asim el Abbas, boon companions on a desperate journey, traveling through exotic, even supernatural, surroundings while pitted against cruel and resourceful foes. This is the stuff of Classic Fantasy, played with honesty, power and imagination. In noting this, I felt a familiar thrill and a half-forgotten sense of adventurous expectancy. I felt like I was starting a great journey myself, the way I used to feel when beginning a book about Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser, about Conan of Cimmeria, about Cugel the Clever, or about Corwin of Amber.
Jones has only written one book about these characters. If he writes more I would not be surprised to see their names often spoken of in the context of those I just mentioned. Dabir and Asim have in them the seeds of greatness. So, I think, does the author.