The Desert of Souls Paperback – 1 July 2012
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- ASIN : 1250001994
- Publisher : Griffin; Reprint edition (1 July 2012)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781250001993
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250001993
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 2.03 x 20.96 cm
- Customer Reviews:
"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
"Suspenseful and charming." --Charlaine Harris
"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
"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
"But though comparisons to the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert E. Howard are merited due to plot and authorial provenance, there's an even more fundamental similarity. At its heart, Jones' work is a great read--a page-turner in its purest form. As such, The Desert of Souls is a powerful place--it can wreck sleeping schedules, cause chores to be neglected and, best of all, make one yearn for the next installment." --BookPage
"Jones's first novel blends the ambience of The Arabian Nights with the brilliant detection of Sherlock Holmes novels to produce an unusual fantasy detective novel--and a potential series opener--with wit and style. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert E. Howard, and Middle Eastern mythology will enjoy this unusual debut." --Library Journal
"Lives up to the best in sword and sorcery traditions... Dabir and Asim are a winning pair who complement each others' strengths well... those who like lots of swordplay mixed with some inventive magic will likely enjoy this." --RT BOOK Reviews
"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
"One of the best debuts, likely the best debut, I've read since Ian Treglis' Bitter Seeds last year. The Desert of Souls is, in a word, awesome.... You'll be hard pressed to find a debut as accomplished as The Desert of Souls. This is some top notch fantasy adventure fiction that will put a grin on your face. I want more." --kingofthenerds.wordpress.com
"Both characters are excellently realized.... This is a very satisfying first novel, and I will certainly be looking for the promised sequel." --SFSite.com
"I loved this book. This could possibly be the shortest review I ever write, because I don't know how to say it any other way: I loved this book. I wish it had been about 800 pages long. I wish I could pop in the DVD and watch the movie. I wish I had the kind of pocket change to pay Howard Andrew Jones to write me another story just like this. I wish I had the power to stop time, drop everything, and read every single one of the source texts he lists in his afterword. Heck, I wish I had the power to turn back time two days just so I could read this book all over again." --Intergalacticmedicineshow.com
"Filled with adventure, magic, evil magicians, prophecies, djinn, and nefarious dealings.... Asim is a very able storyteller and much feels like you're sitting around the fire listening in. The Desert of Souls is a wholly satisfying buddy escapade. I give The Desert of Souls 8 out of 10 hats. This is the kind of book that felt like it was written specifically for me and pulls you in and doesn't let you go until you've closed the cover and shout for more." --Booktionary.blogspot.com
"Jones' Arabian Nights-style adventure has the polish of a cut diamond, and the finish of a veteran author.... Jones has an excellent sense of pace and an affinity for a tale properly told. Not rushed, but told as a story should be told, as though novelist and the reader were drawn up around a campfire with the whole night ahead for stories.... a welcome relief in these often dark times of current fantasy offerings." --TheSilverKey.blogspot.com
"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 blogs regularly at the Black Gate website (www.blackgate.com) and maintains a web outpost of his own at www.howardandrewjones.com.
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If you like Fritz Lieber, or Robert Howard, or Harold Lamb, or early Michael Moorcock, I think you would really like this book.
The characters are well developed, in a mature literary way. Jones doesn't dumb down his character, which is what many authors do in many first-person fantasy novels today. The narrator is deceptively complex, has layers, and grows as a person throughout the story. In some ways, the narrator and the main protagonists of the story share and almost Sherlock Holmes and Watson like relationship. They are in the middle of a mystery. And that mystery has layers.
The action scenes are great, and the fantastical themes like magic and sorcery are handled very well actually. And the plot moves quickly, except for a mid novel desert interlude that is laden with philosophical implications. Some critics didn't like this part of the novel, I liked it, it's integral to the growth of the protagonists and strangely enough echos Lovecraft and his Cthulu mythos for perceptive readers.
In other words, this isn't your typical poorly written modern fantasy doorstop. The author is thoughtful and very good at his literary craft. Will this challenge some readers who are used to poorer material? I hope not, I think that anyone who has read good fantasy for a while would find this book at his or her level.
This fast-paced, sword and magic filled adventure, is set in an ancient Middle Eastern backdrop drawn with a good deal of verisimilitude. And I say that as a lifelong student of classical Arabic and Aramaic, and Middle Eastern lore.
How does that play out in an age of issues like cultural conflict, terrorism, and cultural appropriation? Well, I'm not sure how relevant that question is. The fact is that Jones manages to write a very readable, entertaining, well-paced, and thrilling fantasy, that is in a well researched cultural world. He doesn't shy away from aspects of Middle Eastern cultures that are different from our Western cultures. But he succeeds at respectfully and empathetically staging his novel in a very different culture than modern Anglo-American ones.
Which is the culture and world of Arabia a thousand years ago. Layered with intrigue. What's a shame, to me, is that this world electrified and inspired many generations of fantasy writers. HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, even Lord Byron (who in some ways was a fantasy or speculative fiction writer, for his age ). But because of modern political anxieties and tensions many people shy from fiction themed and set in that world.
Read it, it's a quick and entertaining and immersion of a read. You will feel like you are on distant shores, at a distant time, in the bazaars palaces and and temples of a long-lost age.
However to call Desert of Souls a mish mash of other authors or other genres is to do the book a disservice. Souls is a very original book, a tale of historical sword & sorcery with a setting very different from the quasi-European background so prevalent in today’s fantasy novels and a narrative viewpoint unlike any other in current fantasy fiction. What struck me about the protagonists of Desert of Souls, Dabir the wise man and Asim the soldier is how likable they are. How real. These are characters you’d like to hang out with. (I should also point out that despite the above descriptions, the pair is not neatly divided into brains and brawn. Asim is quite clever and capable, and Dabir will wade in with a blade when he needs to.)
The plot gets rolling with “whickering blades” as Dabir and Asim attempt to rescue a man pursued by a group of armed attackers. The man dies but not before leaving the pair with a cryptic dying message and a strange artifact, a golden door pull inscribed with weird markings.
Soon Dabir, Asim, and their master Jaffar learn the hard way that they should have obeyed the old adage about Greeks bearing gifts when some visitors show up seeking information about the door pull. Things go awry and dark sorcery is employed to steal the door pull and its mate, owned by the Caliph, and Dabir and Asim find themselves turban deep in swords, sorcery, monsters and mayhem. There’s also romance, mystery, and suspense, all told in an engaging voice by Jones. All this and a lost city too. I read Desert of Souls in two sittings. If I hadn’t had to go to work I’d have read it straight through.
Anyway, if you’re tired of the latest Lord of the Rings clones and looking for something different, or if you just enjoy a well-told story of adventure, romance, and magic in an exotic setting, then pick up Desert of Souls. Highly recommended.
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.
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.
If you like your fantasy dark, bloody, full of minutiae and ridden with angst, steer clear! The Desert of Souls is instead an adventure in the classic style presented with brevity, humour and charm. It does an admirable job of creating atmosphere and covers a lot of ground without ever getting sidetracked or bogged down. A few unintentional anachronisms (mugs of tea?) and grammatical/spelling infelicities aside, it stays firmly in style throughout, to the point that you can almost fancy you're reading a newly discovered tale from the Arabian Nights. The characters are engaging, though I was a little frustrated with how dumb Asim could be. On the other hand, by the end of the end of the book he's truly grown in both worldly wisdom and inner strength, and I look forward to seeing how he does in his next adventure with Dabir.
I'd appreciate a bit more a sense of wonder at those climatic moments where magic is involved and a better sense of how faith and magic coexist for the characters, but these are very minor quibbles. Overall, a fun and worthwhile read and I'd happily get myself the sequel.