Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Desert of Souls, a review

“We should talk more, you and I,” he said, “about storytelling.”

–Howard Andrew Jones, The Desert of Souls

The Desert of Souls is the debut novel of Black Gate magazine managing editor Howard Andrew Jones. About ¼ of the way into it, I thought aloud: You’ve got to be kidding me. A debut novel? Jones’ Arabian Nights-style adventure has the polish of a cut diamond, and the finish of a veteran author.

The Desert of Souls is a proper fantasy, albeit placed in a historical setting, so there’s magic, undead monsters, god-like snakes, and more. I haven’t encountered a djinn on the printed page since my old AD&D days, and was pleasantly flooded with memories of Oasis of the White Palm as I read. The Desert of Souls features two heroes, Dabir and Asim, who spend large part of the book in near-death situations in pursuit of the wizard Fifouz, who plots to visit an ancient curse on a modern city.

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 lot happens in The Desert of Souls but it’s not told breathlessly; the pace is languid at times, quick at others in Asim’s first person narrative. It’s also unabashedly optimistic, a welcome relief in these often dark times of current fantasy offerings.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.

1 comment:

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I really really liked The Desert of Souls. A fresh viewpoint and a backdrop totally different than all the pseudo-medieval fantasy worlds out there. Full of action, humor, and well drawn characters.