Where I Got It: Review copy from the publisher via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).
Who I Recommend This To: If you like your historical fiction with lots of action and a hint of the supernatural, this is a book to check out.
Narrator: Wayne Farrell
Publisher: Seven Realms Publishing (2012)
Length: 7 hours 59 minutes
Starting off with the ancient times of King Solomon, J. Kent Halloway puts the reader right into the action and the heart of the mystery that will drive the plot for the rest of the book. As Solomon realizes his horrible mistake, he makes a desperate attempt to contain the animated clay golems that are tearing his kingdom apart and slaughtering his people. Then we jump forward to ~1185 AD Jerusalem. Baron Gregory De L’Ombre has searched long and hard for the artifacts that will allow him to reanimate and control the golems of Solomon’s times. He is driven partially by the loss of his wife. Now he treats his daughter Isabella like a precious China doll while having disowned his younger brother, William, a knight who was wounded in crusade. William was subsequently treated by the Saracens and eventually adopted. Yet misfortune then saw fit to give him leprosy. While Gregory uses slaves and mercenaries to dig tunnels in an ancient city, the djinn heckles them, taking guard after guard, perhaps to hell.
So there’s the set up. We have a culturally and religiously complex setting, which Holloway lays out well, showing the reader through different characters. Then we have the golems – shudder! We know right from the first that they are real, and mindlessly deadly. The fact that Baron Gregory wants to dig these things up, reanimate them, and control them speaks to the less that stable mind he has. Gregory uses control, fear, and pain to manage his household, guards, and mercenaries. While William uses trust and respect in his daily dealings with people, enabling him to encircle himself with loyal friends. You can see right away that the two brothers are going to end up at odds.
Early on, the djinn gives knight Horatio and his squire (and cousin) Samuel quite the scare. The djinn appears magically, dangles Horatio in the air for a polite chat, and then disappears in a puff of brimstone. Of course Baron Gregory doesn’t take this latest report well at all. He ups his search for the lost relics. He wants Solomon’s Seal, AKA Aldaib’s Ring, bad, and a certain book. The mercenary Gerard, an excellent fighter, but basically a bad man goes toe to toe with the djinn more than once. Then there is a hashashin who also tries to take a piece of the djinn too. Being a djinn is a thankless job fraught with danger and inconsiderate names. The pace of the action scenes was great, interlaced with intrigue and inner monologues.
The book has a total of 4 women, one of which is the dead mother of Isabella, Isabella herself, Isabella’s maid, and a barmaid. Isabella is the only female we get to really see, and most of that time she is crying about something or other. If I have a criticism, it is that the character Isabella felt very incomplete. For the first 3/4ths of the book, she is something for her father to control, and an object to be lusted after. Her actions come too late in the book and feel very contrary to her character, as limited as it is, up to that point. Also, women make up 50% or more of the population depending on the age range. Perhaps we could have a few more ladies in the story? But if you read this blog, you already know that I comment on that last note often.
So, overall I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I love the ancient feel to it, the mix of intrigue and magic, and of course djinn and golems! We need more djinn and golems in our modern reading material, just saying.
Narration: Wayne Farrell did a great job with all the men’s voices. The few times he had to come up with a woman’s voice, it felt strained (perhaps he was physically straining is his attempt?) and I winced a little. Whenever Isabella sadly whispered, her voice was a rich low voice and sounded good on her. But her regular chit chat voice did not sound female to me. Anyway, Farrell gave different accents and age-ranges for the male characters. I could nearly see Samuel smiling or William’s leprotic pain.
What I Liked: Ancient, mysterious setting; dangling a knight upside down for a chat; hidden library; djinn!; golems!; the family last name L’Ombre; the ending was satisfying & set up for another book (if the author chooses to do so); the cover.
What I Disliked: Isabella’s character felt incomplete and her sudden capability towards the very end felt like a last minute addition by the author.
What Others Think: