About a year ago I read a book called The Desert of Souls, by Howard Andrew Jones. I’d happened to be on a panel with Howard at Confusion in Troy, Michigan, and it turned out that we read the same kind of books (big fans of Fritz Leiber), and thought the same way on many subjects, so naturally, I picked up his book as soon as I could.
By the way, this is what all authors hope will happen, when they go to cons. We hope that through some mystical combination of erudition, wit, charm, cleverness, and sparkling personality, we form the kind of connection with others in the room that makes them go “Huh. I think I’d like her books; I should buy one.”
But back to Desert of Souls. I’m going to say very simply that I loved the book. It has everything that I require to enjoy a book thoroughly, and then some. First, it’s sword and sorcery, my own preferred genre. Second, it features (as most S&S novels do) a pair of adventurers (the scholar Dabir and the guard captain Asim) each brilliant in their own completely different way. For me there was actually a flavour of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin – the intellectual and the man of action, coming together to form the perfect campaigning duo.
I’m not going to tell you what happens in the book (an adventure, of course), but I will tell you the other witty, charming, clever and sparkling component of it: it’s set in the world of the Arabian Nights. That’s right, not an invented, pseudo-middle eastern world, but the actual world as depicted in the Thousand Nights and a Night. So, Howard’s at once armed himself with something that his readers will find familiar, and made things harder on himself by using a setting that’s so well known he can’t really mess with it. And did I mention that the Arabian Nights is one of my very favourite story cycles?
So, let’s see, everything that I require: sword and sorcery, check. Interesting duo, check. Setting I know and love, check. Oh, did I mention a strong female character, Sabirah? Check.
But Violette, you say. What does this have to do with bones? Simple. The new Dabir and Asim adventure, The Bones of the Old Ones was launched this week, and my copy’s already on its way from my brother’s book store. Like all good S&S books, this one stands alone, so you won’t have to read Desert first. But that’s okay, because you’ll want to read it after.
Oh, and here’s Howard’s website, where you can read excerpts: http://www.howardandrewjones.com