My first book is now on its way to bookstores, and I recently got to hold the finished product in my hands for the first time. It will be available for purchase in just a few short days, and I’ve decided to provide a sneak peek of it for the curious just below.
I’ve been especially pleased with the reviews, and in the next few days I will set up a page that collects them. Here’s one, from Publisher’s Weekly:
“As richly textured as an antique rug, this fantasy-mystery sweeps readers into ancient Baghdad. Asim, captain of Master Jaffar’s guard, and the wily scholar Dabir, who is hopelessly in love with Jaffar’s niece Sabirah, track stolen golden artifacts into the shifting sands that hide the ruins of legendary Ubar, entry to the land of the djinn. Asim’s dazzling swordplay, his Muslim piety, and his unwavering loyalty to his friend balance Dabir’s bittersweet devotion to Sabirah as the pair battle forbidden magic that forces them to slice away layers of their own spirits. Their antagonist, evil Zarathustrian sorcerer Firouz, poses moral questions that deepen this multicolored Arabian-nights tale, as does the plight of pretty, quick-witted Sabirah, who prizes scholarship and lives for the moment while facing the fate of a political marriage. A captivating setting and well-realized characters make this a splendid flying-carpet ride.”
The official description and many blurbs can be found on another page of my site, but it may be that you’ve followed an outside link to read an excerpt, so I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s the first chapter from the novel.
The parrot lay on the floor of his cage, one claw thrust stiffly toward the tiny wooden swing suspended above him. The black olive clenched in his beak was the definitive sign that Pago was a corpse, for while he had fooled us all by playing dead in the past, he had never failed to consume an olive. To be sure, I nudged the cage. It shook, the swing wobbled, and the bird slid minutely but did not move a single feather of his own accord.
“He is dead,” Jaffar said simply behind me; simply, but with the weight of the universe hung upon the final word.
I turned to my master, who sat with his back to me upon the stone bench of his courtyard. The second-story balcony, from which the cage hung, draped Jaffar in shadow. Beyond him, sunlight played in the rippling water that danced from a fountain. Flowers blossomed upon the courtyard plants and wild birds warbled gaily. Another parrot, in a cage upon the far wall, even called out that it was time for a treat, as he was wont to do. But my master paid no heed to any of this.
I stepped into the sunlight so that I might face him. Upon another bench, nearby, the poet Hamil sat with stylus and paper. There was no love in the look he bestowed me, and he returned to his scribblings with the air of a showman.
“Master,” I said, “I am sorry. I, too, was fond of Pago.”
“Who could not be?” Jaffar asked wearily. He was but a few years younger than my twenty-five, but due to time indoors looked younger still, no matter his full beard. His face was wan, from a winter illness that had also shed some of his plumpness.
“He was the brightest bird here,” Jaffar continued in that same miserable tone.
“Brighter than many in your employ,” Hamil said without looking up.
“Too true,” Jaffar agreed.
“Is there some way that I can help, Master?” I was the captain of Jaffar’s guard and sometimes his confidant; the matter of bird death, however, was outside the field of my knowledge, and I did not understand why he had summoned me. It is true that I had found Pago entertaining, for in addition to playing dead, he could mimic the master and his chief eunuch, and even sometimes answered the call to prayer by bowing thrice. He did this only when it pleased him to do so, which, as my nephew Mahmoud once noted, was far too much like many men he knew. Also Pago had once perched upon the poet’s chest when Hamil had passed out from consuming the fruit of the grape, and pinched his long thin nose heartily. That had pleased me so that I brought Pago the choicest of olives whenever I knew I would pass by his cage.
“Do you suspect he has been killed?” Jaffar asked.