Talon Series: Assassination in Al Qahirah Is A Riveting Adventure In Crusade-era Egypt

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This is my fourth post in the “Talon Series”. To read my other posts so far, more information on the other books, and upcoming posts in the series, please visit my “James Boschert’s Talon Series” page at the top.

James Boschert’s first novel, Assassins Of Alamut, takes place in the 12th Century. Set in the time of the Crusades, it is the story of Talon, a young Frank who is captured by the Ismaili Muslims, themselves hunted by the Sunni and Shi’a. He is raised as a Ismaili, and trains to become a Hashshashin (Assassin), the protectors of the Ismaili.

In the second book in the series, Knight Assassin, Talon, with the help of his uncle Phillip, makes the trek back to his birthplace (and true home): France. When Talon returns, his homecoming is celebrated, but a dark threat looms over the reunion of the de Gilles family. Greed and treachery plague the French countryside, as claims to inheritance are fought for to the death.

Now, in the third installment of the series, Assassination in Al Qahirah, Talon is finally able to return to the Holy Land. In pursuit of the friends he lost in the first book, Talon is especially diligent in his hopes to be reunited with his love, Rav’an. As much as he tries, however, Fate has a different path prepared for him.

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Al Fayoum: Where Desert Meets Oasis. Credit Here.

Upon rescuing Lady Khalidah and her children from a band of masked bandits, Talon, along with sidekick Max, find themselves being incorporated into life in Egypt. Al Fayoum, a city on an oasis 60 miles south of Giza, is where they make their home until they are able to trek to the Holy Land. While in Al Fayoum, they are the company of Lady Khalidah and her husband, Emir Abbas Faisal, where Talon instructs their children on mathematics, foreign languages, and cultures. He also advices the Emir on how to better the security on the walls of the family compound, all while following the trail of why Lady Khalidah and her children were attacked in the first place. Is the Emir also a target? Why them?

As the Nile River flows along, water rushing, so does blood. Can Talon stop it in time before it reaches its true target? Using the dual skills of a knight and an assassin, stealth and devastating combat, Talon is the only one to solve the mystery and root out the conspirators.

Assassination in al Qahirah is, like the first 2 Talon books, a true tale of adventure and bravery. Talon’s sense of fighting for good makes readers love him as a hero, and Boschert never writes a book without an intelligent, engrossing plot. The setting of Egypt was well-received with me, as I both love reading about it and a portion of me is ethnically Egyptian. The action is enough to make for an exciting adventure, but not enough that it becomes numb.

Overall, Assassination in Al Qahirah is an achievement, combining a historical conspiracy in Egypt with an adventure that never lets up. The characters are crafted with careful precision, making for a truly one-of-a-kind novel series.

Next will come my review of Greek Fire by James Boschert.

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James Boschert~ Author Bio:

James Boschert grew up in the then colony of Malaya between the ages of four and eleven. The Chinese communists were active in the jungles at the time threatening the entire country with a cruel insurgency. His school was burned down and the family survived the ambush of a food convoy, saved by a patrol of Gurkha soldiers. He joined the British army as a boy soldier and later served in remote places like Borneo, Oman and other countries of the Middle East, eventually spending several years in Iran. While there he explored the castles of the infamous sect known as the Ismaili or Hashashini. It sometimes took a few days hard walking or driving to find these remote deserted fortresses high in the mountains of the Alborz in northern Iran. They eventually became the subject matter for his first book “The Assassins of Alamut” Escaping from the turmoil of Iran during the revolution he went to college and now lives in the USA.

He has developed a fascination for medieval history in general but in particular the history of the Middle East, Andalusia, Egypt and all the way to India. His books are historical novels about the medieval history of the same region but seen from both perspectives, that of the Crusaders and the Muslim world. “I believe that in order to put some depth to the Crusades one needs to look at what was going on all around them at the same time. I find the world at that time incredibly rich in every aspect.”

“The four legs of civilization as we have recorded it, Andalusia, Europe, Byzantium and the old empires of Persia and the Islamic world of Syria and Egypt make a rich backdrop for any novel.”

“The politics and under currents of the Middle East continue to hold my attention as they are always in flux and are never still.”

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Ukrainian Crisis: US Official Confirms Russia Supplied Missile Launchers To Separatists

Debris is pictured at the site of Thursday's Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash, near the village of Grabovo in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014.REUTERS-Stringer

Credit Here.

The SA-11, or Buk, missile launchers used to shoot down Flight MH-17 as it flew over Ukraine were supplied by Russia, the United States confirms Saturday.

“We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,” the official said. US intel was “starting to get indications…a little more than a week ago” that the launchers had been moved into Ukraine by Russia, the official said.

The official gave this statement on the basis of anonymity, and it comes after President Barack Obama said that separatists only had the ability to shoot down the plane with outside training or help. The United States is operating on this intelligence, using the belief of Russian involvement to build a response.

This statement is backed up by photos released by Ukrainian intelligence that show 2 Buk missile systems moving into Russia from Ukraine. One has all 4 of its missiles, but the other is lacking one. Officials around the world are pointing to this as the smoking gun, implicating direct Russian involvement in the attack. Some are calling this a state-sponsored terror attack, some a direct act of war by Russia on their nations, and others even calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried as a war criminal.

 

The official list of the casualties has also been released, and is as follows:

Netherlands: 1921

Malaysia: 45

Australia: 27

Indonesia: 12

United Kingdom: 102

Germany: 4

Belgium: 4

Philippines: 3

Canada: 1

New Zealand: 1

South Africa: 12

United States: 11

Total: 298

 

As most of the casualties in the shooting down of the plane were Dutch, the leader of the Netherlands was outraged. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who said he had told Russian President Vladmir Putin “that the opportunity is fading to quickly show the world that he is serious about wanting to help.” Dutch officials had previously not commented on the crisis.

Reports also say that Russia is in possession of the black boxes on board the plane, and that the separatists are restricting access to the crash site, hindering investigators.

If these reports of direct Russian involvement prove true, this would be the worst state-sponsored terror attack in history. An example of this kind of terror that many know would be the Lockerbie bombings by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

Most frightening is the facts that many are pointing out about how wars have started for much less. World War 1 began due to the assassination of a single man, and that assassination helped create the culture that started WW2.

Ukrainian Crisis: Scene Where Plane Was Shot Down Shows Intl. Diversity In Casualties

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Credit Here.

Main Points Of Article:

1. Items Ranging From Bali Travel Guides To Children’s Coloring Books Found In Crash Site
2. Human Remains Strewn For Miles In Donetsk Region
3. Investigators Met With Hostility From Separatists At Crash Site

The site of the downed MH-17 Boeing 777 airplane spans an area of over 9 miles in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine. Journalists on the ground report how horrific the scene is, and what items have been located in the sunflower field the plane came down in.

“It’s a gruesome scene,” journalist Noah Sneider told CNN. “There’s bodies splayed out through the fields. People said the plane kind of exploded in the air, and everything rained down in bits and pieces, the plane itself, the people inside.”

Bodies are being marked with sticks tied with white cotton ribbons. Sources report that the local morgue does not have the capacity to handle all 298 of the bodies. In fact, they report that the scene is even more gruesome due to the bodies already beginning to decompose.

Over 100 of the people on the flight were AIDS researchers, on their way to a conference that now will have a hundred empty seats. The conference the researchers were traveling to, the 20th Annual International AIDS Conference, released condolences. “The International AIDS Society (IAS) today expresses its sincere sadness at receiving news that a number of colleagues and friends en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that has crashed over Ukraine earlier today,” the statement read. “At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.”

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Credit Here.

Items that were also on the plane have been found in the crash site. A tour guide to the popular oceanside vacation spot of Bali was found, along with books in Dutch, children’s coloring books, and passports. Ages of the casualties range from infants to elderly citizens from at least 9 nations, including the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.

International investigators into the crash arrived to hostility from the pro-Russian separatists in the region. President Obama called for the crash site to be left alone by the separatists so that those responsible can be deciphered and brought to justice.

The downing of the plane, if the United States’s working theory that Russia supplied the SA-11, or “Buk,” missiles and how to use them to the separatists, would be one of the worst state-sponsored terror attacks in history. This is already the 6th deadliest plane disaster in history.

Most devastatingly of all, this is the deadliest intentional plane crash in world history.

Ukrainian Crisis: Passenger Plane Shot Down Over Ukraine, Killing 295, Including 23 Americans

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Credit Here.

The biggest news regarding the Ukrainian Crisis since the annexation of Ukraine has come today. A Malaysian passenger airliner was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine, killing all 295 people aboard.

In a conflict that already has re-split Europe on Cold War lines, this news raises the stakes highly. The United States said that the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was “blown out of the sky” while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Ukrainian officials blame pro-Russian militants, with the aid of Russian military intelligence, of using a Soviet-era SA-11 Surface-To-Air missile to shoot down the plane carrying citizens of nations including the United States, the Netherlands, and Australia.

Though they deny any involvement with this attack, pro-Russian separatists bragged last month about obtaining this kind of Surface-To-Air, or SAM, system. This would enable them to pull off an attack like this, but they, along with Russian President Putin, pin the blame on Ukrainian forces. Putin called the attack a “tragedy,” but did not state or speculate who fired the missile.

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Credit Here.

The plane was legally allowed to fly above 32000 feet, as international air lanes are still open above that mark. This Boeing 777 was flying at least 1000 feet above that requirement when it was shot down.

Separatists have these kind of missiles , as they have used them in recent weeks. Last Monday, they used a SA-11 SAM to bring down a Ukrainian Antonov An-26 turboprop plane. They also downed a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter on Wednesday. Both of these losses have been confirmed by Ukraine.

One local man told Reuters, “”I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke.”

An emergency worker reported at least 100 bodies have been recovered, and a separatist leader has been quoted saying that the group has found one of the plane’s black boxes. Bodies and wreckage are spread for a 9 mile area, blanketing the Ukrainian steppes with grotesque destruction.

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak demanded swift justice to those guilty and that the crash site must not be tampered with until international authorities can investigate the site. This is by far the most international this crisis has been since the shutdown of natural gas to Ukraine from Gazprom, and the annexation of Crimea.

The Location Of Ancestor’s Home In Modern World Is Remarkable

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Castello Plan of New Amsterdam

I have been at work on my debut novel, tentatively titled Bounded Destinies. It is about 2 of my ancestors: Resolved Waldron and Christian Fast, and how they were pivotal in the birth of democracy in North America. Resolved Waldron was born in Amsterdam, lived in Recife, Brazil (written about here), and was Governor Petrus Stuyvesant’s right-hand man in Dutch Manhattan. In my novel, though, he is a secret fighter for democracy, working to establish a democracy in North America where all are free.

When Waldron moved to Manhattan, he lived in a house on the present-day West Street. The house location is in section B, house 4:

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Basic Version of Castello Plan

He lived in this home for 22 years, from 1645 to 1667, with his wife and children. The modern location, however, is very amazing, at least to me. As someone who plans to move to NYC when I am an adult, I especially love the buildings of the Financial District. Well, the land the Waldron house sat on is now part of the 16-acre World Trade Center plaza, just slightly south of the South Tower Memorial Fountain. See for yourself, 1776 feet in the air, from the One World Trade Center:

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Credit to TIME.

Awesome, right? It is cool to know that my (multiple-greats) grandfather lived where the financial work that runs our nation occurs. It is because of Resolved Waldron and the other democracy-seekers and free-market believers that New York is the capital of the world economy, and One World Trade Center is a true testament to both him and all the Americans who have worked to make a more perfect Union.

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela By Zelda la Grange Tells The Human Side Of The South African Icon

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Nelson Mandela…Madiba…was a truly great man. He had the strength to not cower away when things got bad, and did not allow himself to fall into despair even after 27 years imprisoned on Robbins Island. His soul was not overwhelmed with evil, even though so many others were. He righted a wrong, and freed many people in his own nation of South Africa, along with many people’s souls around the world. There will never be another like Madiba.

The sad fact is, we only see Madiba as a towering icon instead of a real person, with love and loss, success and pain…until now. Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a remarkable achievement by Madiba’s honorary granddaughter Zelda la Grange. la Grange is a white Afrikaaner, bred believing that Mandela was a “terrorist.” Growing up in apartheid, she was raised believing that the system was correct.

But, as the nation changed, so did she. In 1994, she became an employee at the office of President Mandela as a senior ministerial typist. As South Africa transitioned from a poverty-stricken nation to a developing one, la Grange also changed, realizing that Madiba was not the man that his haters told her and countless others. She found a man full of compassion, courage, and love for all people, and someone who was willing to make her, a white Afrikaaner, an aide, even after all the things the Afrikaaners did to the black Africans.

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Zelda la Grange and Madiba.

In 2002, la Grange became Mandela’s personal assistant at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. This is where the book gets really interesting, where we see how Madiba reacts to all the international places he traveled as a humanitarian. Everything from dining with the King in Saudi Arabia to visiting celebrity friends like Bono, President Bill Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, la Grange was there, right by his side. For over 2 decades.

One of the funniest stories Zelda la Grange told was the fact that, due to their great friendship, when Madiba visited Buckingham Palace, he called the Queen “Elizabeth.”

“I think he was one of the very few people who called her by her first name and she seemed to be amused by it. I was entertained by these interactions,” La Grange writes. “When he was questioned one day by Mrs. Machel and told that it was not proper to call the Queen by her first name, he responded: ‘But she calls me Nelson.’ On one occasion when he saw her he said, ‘Oh Elizabeth, you’ve lost weight!’ Not something everybody gets to tell the Queen of England.”

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela is a testament to both of the main figures in the memoir: to Nelson Mandela’s pure heart and trustworthiness, and to Zelda la Grange’s benevolence to the man she called Khulu, or “Grandfather.” la Grange writes with precision, expertise, and vigor that make the book informative and at the same time exciting to read. la Grange reveals the human side of Madiba like none other.

Nelson Mandela may be gone from this world, but his vast legacy remains. Did he ever really die, then, if his deeds still live on through leaders like President Obama? In any event, I believe that we all can agree with Zelda la Grange’s words of goodbye:

“Tot weersiens Khulu!” – “Until we meet again, Grandfather.”

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Zelda la Grange~ Author Bio:

Zelda la Grange was born in 1970 in Boksburg, South Africa, and began working as a secretary for the South African government in 1992, in the Department of State Expenditure. In 1993 she moved to the Human Resources division, and in 1994 she joined the office of the first democratically elected president of South Africa as a senior ministerial typist. She became one of President Mandela’s three private secretaries in 1997. In 2002 she left government and became a full-time employee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. She lives in Pretoria, South Africa.

Praise for Zelda la Grange:

“In Good Morning, Mr. Mandela, Zelda la Grange recounts her remarkable life at the right hand of the man we both knew and loved. It’s a tribute to both of them—to Madiba’s eye for talent and his capacity for trust and to Zelda’s courage to take on a great challenge and her capacity for growth. This story proves the power of making politics personal and is an important reminder of the lessons Madiba taught us all.”
—President Bill Clinton

“President Nelson Mandela’s choice of the young Afrikaner typist Zelda la Grange as his most trusted aide embodied his commitment to reconciliation in South Africa. She repaid his trust with loyalty and integrity. I have the highest regard for her.”
—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“Zelda la Grange has a singular perspective on Nelson Mandela, having served as his longtime personal aide, confidante and close friend. She is a dear friend to both of us and a touchstone to all of us who loved Madiba. Her story of their journey together demonstrates how a man who transformed an entire nation also had the power to transform the life of one extraordinary woman.”
—Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary, actor, producer of Invictus