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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Wake by Anna Hope Is A Post-World War 1 Masterpiece of Intersecting Lives

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< US Cover

Wake:
1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep
2) Ritual for the dead
3) Consequence or aftermath.

The idea for a commemoration for World War I in England came into being in 1920, from the mind of a British army chaplain. The chaplain, in a letter to the Dean of Westminster, talked about how he had seen, 4 years prior, a wooden cross in Armentières (a northern French city) marked only with, in pencil, “An Unknown British Soldier.” The case was made for a memorial for an unknown soldier, for a great reason. Because the deceased serviceman’s name was not known, it showed war at its worst: his social, economic, and royal ranks were stripped. Without any of these, he belonged to all the people.

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UK Cover; Copy I Received, Due To Requesting Even Before UK Release >

Wake, Anna Hope’s debut novel, takes place in the 5 days between the exhuming of the British Unknown Soldier and his burial. The book follows 3 London women: Hettie, from west London, who supports her war-wounded brother and herself by dancing with former soldiers, some who have lost limbs, for sixpence a waltz; Evelyn, after giving up her nobility due to her lover’s disappearance during the war, who works in the Pensions Office; and Ada, who is plagued by the loss of her son Michael, who disappeared in the war.

These women’s stories all intersect in ways they do not know, but are uncovered by the reader, piece by piece, over the 5 days the book takes place in. We learn the fate of Michael, and how his death has impacted Ada, Evelyn, and Hettie, all in some way. These 3 women feel so much heartache, so much pain, over these 5 days, almost too much to bear, but just enough to be perfect.

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Tomb Of The British Unknown Soldier. Credit Here.

Anna Hope has written a true masterpiece with Wake. It does not merely show 3 women and their lives; it does show this, but also shows how each life affects the others. These women do not directly know each other, but through their family members they feel each others’ pain, their loss. The book is written without sentimentality, and with a prose that does not exaggerate, just shows like real life, pain. The writing is on par with Ian McEwan, who also told a story of the loss that comes from war (Atonement). The novel has direct messages for today’s world, for those both suffering from mental and physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but also from men and women suffering from wounds linked to rape, torture, and other unthinkable horrors.

The greatest thing that I took away from Wake was the underlying message. When the ceremony takes place for the Unknown Soldier, all 3 women realize it is time to get up, brush off, and, well, “dance again.” Hope strives to show this for our time too, to not forget what happened during wars, but not let it ruin us. She hopes to say that no matter what, a brighter future is always ahead. She achieves this, along with a book that will not leave a person’s memory for a very long time. If ever.

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Anna Hope~ Author Bio:

Anna Hope is an English writer and actress from Manchester. She is perhaps best known for her Doctor Who role of Novice Hame. She was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, and Birkbeck College, London.

Anna’s powerful first novel, Wake, sold to Transworld Publishers in a seven-way auction. Set over the course of five days in 1920, Wake weaves the stories of three women around the journey of the Unknown Soldier, from its excavation in Northern France to Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey. US rights were pre-empted by Susan Kamil at Random House.

Thanks To Doubleday UK For A Review Copy. I have provided an honest review in return.

To Live Forever By Andra Watkins Is A Genre-Bending Debut About The Life, Legacy, and Destiny Of Meriwether Lewis

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I went into reading this book a little apprehensive. I do not usually like anything supernatural, but I soon realized that To Live Forever by Andra Watkins was not focused on that, but on a really interesting story intertwining the 1800’s and the 1970’s.

Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his death, a mystery whether a suicide or murder, about 170 years ago. Enter Emmaline Cagney: A 9-year-old girl from New Orleans who has just been caught up in a nasty divorce between her parents, and her mother happens to be a madam (mother promoting prostitution) who tries to sell Emmaline out. Em is Merry Lewis’ last hope for redemption, and so he must get her to her father in Nashville.

There is one problem: To do this, Lewis must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he must confront old foes and old sins if he is to save Em and to save himself.

To Live Forever was a very interesting read for me. I was not expecting it to go the way it did, which is the reason why I liked it. So many authors would have been restricted by genres, but Andra Watkins wrote what flowed, and it was truly a great read.

Meriwether Lewis died mysteriously, and so he being condemned to Nowhere in the book is a viable story element. I also found the way Ms. Watkins tied her interest, and where Lewis died, in the Natchez Trace tied in well. The trek Merry and Em had to take, with the corrupt Judge Wilkinson chasing them as he had Lewis for centuries before, worked quite well, and was the central plot of To Live Forever.

One note on the villain, Judge Wilkinson: He is one of those you will love to hate. Convinced that Emmaline is the reincarnation of his beloved wife, we find out that he may have personal connections to Lewis too. He had depth, a true evil, that made him a great literary antagonist.

All in all, To Live Forever by Andra Watkins is an innovative novel encompassing the life, legacy, and destiny of one of America’s greatest explorers, Meriwether Lewis. It is a story of redemption, and how sometimes mistakes can be made right. It is also a story of history, written utilizing Lewis’ actual life, making, like it often is, past prologue. To Live Forever bends genres to deliver a novel worth reading.

Note: Andra Watkins just became the first person, male or female, to walk all 444 miles of the Natchez Trace since the 1820’s! Running from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, this is the trail Lewis actually died on, and the trail this book is centered around. Congratulations to Ms. Watkins on her accomplishment!

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Andra Watkins~ Author

Andra Watkins is a native of Tennessee, but now calls Charleston, South Carolina home. She is the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey Of Meriwether Lewis which debuted March 1st, 2014. It is a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction, and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809. She is married to Michael T. Maher.

Visit Andra Watkins’ Website.

A Historical Fiction Full Of Imagery And Senses In 19th Century Vietnam

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Flesh. What An Amazing Cover! Credit Here.

Flesh by Khanh Ha is a historical fiction that takes you to another time and place, but also immerses you in the smells, sights, and sounds. The hero, Tai, is forged in the events, horrors, and cultural changes of 19th Century Tonkin (now Vietnam), is a portrait not only of the time but of the people. Flesh makes you feel the emotion and senses like very few other books I have ever read.

A book with a writing style similar to Khaled Hosseini (probably my favorite fiction author), Flesh follows the protagonist Tai. In the beginning, he is a witness at the beheading of his bandit father, and is determined to find the men who betrayed his father. As Tai is only a teenager, he has to become a man quickly, tempered by violence and tragedy, but always doing what is right in his heart. When he becomes desperate to find a proper burial site for his father and brother, he pledges 2 years of service to a man who is not all he may say he is.

As we travel with Tai along throughout Hanoi, through opium dens and encountering homeless men, we get an intimate feel for the world, the smell of beetles, the crimson color of blood. Flesh reads like a song. I believe, however, that the greatest part of Flesh was how all are connected in some way. The relation that sometimes is not wanted but obligated, the tragedy of love, and how sometimes healing can come from your worst enemy. It seemed that throughout Flesh people were always there, ready to help Tai, to betray him, even though most shared the blood of family. Finally, the person that you trust most may end up being your worst betrayer.

Flesh is a lyrical masterpiece by a debut author, and lets us connect with this time, and with these characters. A work that reads as a song, imagery is beautiful in this novel, and will have you picturing this world long after you put the book down.

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Khanh Ha- Author Of Flesh
Khanh Ha was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. During his teen years, he began writing short stories, which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines. He studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). FLESH (Black Heron Press, June 2012) is his first novel (literary fiction).

For more information, please visit Khanh Ha’s Website and Blog.