Friday, April 01, 2011
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 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.
Check it out.
Posted by Beth at 7:23 PM