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The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1)
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The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1)

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  661 ratings  ·  147 reviews
The glittering tradition of sword-and-sorcery sweeps into the sands of ancient Arabia with the heart-stopping speed of a whirling dervish in this thrilling debut novel from new talent Howard Andrew Jones

In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published February 4th 2011)
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Dune by Frank HerbertThe Blue Sword by Robin McKinleyThrone of the Crescent Moon by Saladin AhmedThe Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew JonesThe Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
Desert Fantasy
4th out of 80 books — 50 voters
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeDeathless by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel KayHis Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
Best Historical Fantasy
20th out of 121 books — 120 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,640)
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Very enjoyable; had a hard time putting it down, even for dinner. It's told from the viewpoint of the faithful warrior, which is an interesting take in fantasy--lots of bards, scholars and loveable scoundrels narrating, but not many warriors. It's an interesting viewpoint, because often his interpretations and solutions are very straightforward and honest. He tends to think strategically only when it comes to protecting his young master or in a fight. He pairs with a scholar, Dabir, and they end ...more
Ranting Dragon

It is 8th century Baghdad and, before he is killed, a stranger pleads with the Vizier to protect a strange and mysterious tablet. Dabir, the Vizier’s scholar, discovers that the tablet may lead to the lost city of Ubar, whose hidden gates house treasures beyond imagination. However, when the tablet is stolen by an evil Magi, it is up to Dabir and his loyal friend, Captain Asim of the Vizier’s household guard, to retrieve the tablet before it can be used to
David Hayden
The Desert of Souls is one part historical, one part fantasy, and two parts action adventure. The main characters, Asim and Dabir, are reminiscent of Fafrhd and Grey Mouser or Sherlock and Watson without being copies of either pair. They are distinctive and well-rounded. The Desert of Souls is, to some degree, an adventurous buddy tale in 8th Century Baghdad. With sorcery. What's not to like about that?

Howard Andrew Jones made good use of pulp storytelling techniques rarely seen today, employing
Emma Sea
Enjoyable, well constructed, with great characterizations. The only reason it's not getting a higher rating from me is that it's no to my particular taste as much as I hoped. 2.5 stars rounded up.
Set aside in some disgruntlement at page 123 (of 305) upon exhibiting irritating generic sexism in narration. But that was just the final straw. I had already been regarding it with a general paucity of enthusiasm due to its lack of immediacy and emotional involvement; our heroes (men, both of them) are the staff of an important man (specifics of importance never established) which is why they get involved in the business of the plot. Call me old-fashioned, but "because my boss told me to" isn't ...more
Sword and sorcery meets Arabian Nights in this book. A vizier's son Jafar grieves death of his favorite parrot, so the Captain of his guard Asim (the tale is told from his POV) suggests Jafar goes outside of his father's palace into the city like a common person; in my opinion to do so is to invite trouble which is proven in numerous books. Anyway, Jafar does so accompanied by Asim and a renowned scholar Dabir.

After aimless wandering around the local bazaar, the trio stumbled upon an adobe of a
Julie Davis
Picked this up for rereading after coming off of a jag of reading weird fiction a la H.P. Lovecraft.

I'd forgotten just how much I love this book and this author's writing style and the characters he created. This is a desert island book just for the sheer fun and adventure of it.

Original review below.
The glittering tradition of sword-and-sorcery sweeps into the sands of ancient Arabia with the heart-stopping speed of a whirling dervish in this thrilling debut novel from new talen
Jessica Strider
Pros: rolicking adventure, fun characters, brilliant antagonist, afterword include source materials for research

Cons: Sabirah’s character felt superfluous

A fortune teller’s prophecy and a theft at Jaffar’s palace, send Jaffar’s captain of the guard, Asim el Abbas, and his scholar, Dabir ibn Khalil, on a quest to retrieve a magical artifact.

This book is a fun adventure story set in the eighth century Abbasid caliphate of Haroun al-Rashid. Told from Asim’s point of view, there are several fights,
I couldn't help liking this one a lot. Somehow Jones took a character who isn't necessarily the brightest, and made him a great storyteller, and for that I give him kudos. Asim is the captain of the vizier's guard, and he sets out with a scholar to recover mysterious magical artifacts. It's a good one-two combo of intelligence and brawn, but not to caricature levels; both men are genuinely good at what they do, respect the other for his abilities, and forge a moving bond of partnership and trust ...more
I'll admit, I bought this book for the cover. Okay, and because I love desert settings, buddy stories, sword & sorcery, and Arabian Nights, so it seemed to be my cup of tea entirely. It wasn't really what I was expecting, but still I was not disappointed -- the adventure was great, the plot interesting, the writing solid, although the characterization was quite weak, and there was very little actual buddy moments between two male leads. Overall, it was an enjoyable read with some moments of ...more
Not just a good sword-and-sorcery novel, but a good novel. Its skeleton is of a relatively straightforward fantasy adventure (retrieve the foozle and avert disaster) but Jones invests heavily in characterization--particularly into Asim's narration--and in a palpably authentic yet never overwhelming adherance to the culture of the medieval Middle-East. One never forgets that Asim is a man of his place and time (and it is refreshing to see a soldier who is also a simply moral person and an effecti ...more
In 8th Century Baghdad the Captain of the Jaffar’s Royal Guard, Asim and the scholar Dabir are dispatched to uncover the mystery of a rune inscribed relic. The Desert of Souls by Black Gate editor Howard Andrew Jones is a fresh look at the sword and sorcery genre in a Arabic setting full of vibrant characters, dastardly villains, and strange landscapes. As Minsc said best: “Adventure, excitement, and steel on steel.” This is also Jones’ first novel and is perhaps one of the best debuts, likely t ...more
Howard Jones hasn't done anything new with an old legend, but he has managed to make it one heck of a read. You've got all the familiar trappings of the Arabian Nights here; an evil sorcerer, a stalwart soldier, a brilliant scholar, the darkened streets of 8th century Baghdad, dazzling swordplay, and an ancient city lost deep in the desert. But what makes it intriguing and stand out is the quality of Howard's writing. This is why the book manages to stand out. I for one am glad to see the recent ...more
Details at my blog

One of the best examples of characterization I've read in years. You can tell the author knows his characters and their relationships really, really well. The plot was awesome, too. Now I'll have to go find those short stories...
This book was a fun sword-and-sorcery adventure yarn set in 8th Century Baghdad. Think of the Prince of Persia movie, but more historically accurate and better written. I get the sense that could be more stories set with the two main characters and it will be fun to read them if they are ever written.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S.E. Lindberg
”I have seldom met a man who so feared taking up a pen.” – So speaks a fortune teller to the hero Asim in “The Desert of Souls”

H.A. Jones is a Writer and Swordsman: If Howard A. Jones had any fear of taking up a pen to write, I am glad he overcame it. He has long held a passion for action fiction and throughout his career has re-introduced readers to Harold Lamb, moderated Sword and Sorcery websites, and edited the Dark Fantasy magazine Blackgate. With Desert of Souls he demonstrates his abilit
3.5 Stars really.

Reading this as a writer, I can not help but admire the research and skill that went into it. The voice of the narrator is straight out of the 1001 Arabian Nights, while still holding true to the historical period in which is is set (8th Century Baghdad and surrounds.) The Author is a master of that style of storytelling that involves 'out of the frying pan and into the fire.' Each, intelligent plan and decision just gets them into more and deeper trouble. This works brilliantly
This is a pretty entertaining quest story with a group of people with various personalities and skills pursuing an evil, MacGuffin-bearing sorcerer. I was excited when I came across this book, because I'd been thinking for a while that it would be cool to read fantasy set in the Arab world, as opposed to the usual European or pseudo-European setting (not that I don't also enjoy that). I thought the book did a good job incorporating the sorts of things the reader expects to see in an Arabian Nigh ...more
This is a surprisingly great book. The plot is carefully constructed, the setting appropriately inspiring, and the characters are well-constructed and imminently likable. Two things stood out above and beyond this, however.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the dialogue. With much respect to its preceding sword-and-sorcery forebears, the dialogue always builds characterization. It's highly believable and witty without sounding like it was written to impress.

Equally note-worthy is
I really liked this story. The fantasy genre has tons of elves, dragons and trolls, but not too many djinn or desert landscapes.

Desert of Souls is told by the Captain of the Guard for Jaffar of Baghdad, Asim. Joining him on his journey is the scholar Dabir. The two men (and their companions) go on a journey to recover stolen artifacts that can open a doorway to a monster that collects souls. The action is fast paced and the story is interesting. There is a smaller story arc concerning a romance
Petteri Hannila
Desert of souls is everything you can ask for a fantasy adventure. Exotic locations, interesting characters and intriguing plot twists.

Arabia in 700's is not your typical fantasy world and lends itself greatly as a background for the adventure.

Interestingly the main protagonist of the story is a soldier, who is teamed up with a scholar. The viewpoint of this "simpler mind" is greatly portrayed, often times he justifies his actions to himself (and to the reader) only to be judged afterwards by h
Fantasy Literature
In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the door pull he carries, but is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the door pull may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the door pull is stolen, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East.

Stopping the thieves — a cunning Greek spy and a Magian who c
Vincent Darlage
Fantastic book! I really liked it. I loved the snake in the Desert of Souls, and I really liked the inclusion of the cat-headed staff. That made a nice connection to REH.

The characters were interesting, and the plot twists were creative. I liked that the things that started the quest were door pulls. I thought that was original.
Maria Guglielmo
Excellent adventure and fantastic historical detail

A wonderful sword and sorcery tale set in medieval Baghdad, "The Desert of Souls" is close to historical fiction in its beautiful detail about everyday life in the Islamic golden age. The action is fast-paced and gripping, I finished the book in one day. I was somewhat disappointed that more information about the great female character Sabiyah wasn't included at the end of this book, but I'm looking forward to meeting this character again in oth
Well paced and thoughtful sword and sorcery. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between wondrous marvels and the more mundane challenges of adventure.

The novel uses some framing of a storyteller looking back (and at least once another story within that), which I think weakened it a bit ... Should've either committed more or looked for a way to dump it, but it was really good.

The voice is infectious. I'm not sure how to characterize it, though definitely somewhat formal, but I'm falling towards
Terry Southard
Thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp through the 8th century Middle East. Sword and sorcery abound. Charming characters. I especially liked the ending of the story, which made the book good to the last page, so to speak. I have the 2nd book in hand and intend to start it right away.
Matthew Thyer
The Desert of Souls: Dabir & Asim, Book 1
Release Date: 03-26-14
where I got it: second to last Audible credit

Pretty much every year since Audible started offering annual memberships packaged with a collection of discounted book credits I have raced sign up. When renewal time was upon me in 2013 I did not hesitate, even better, due to a clerical error on their part, Audible gifted me with a few extra book credits to spend this year.

As the year progressed I burned through my book credits pretty
Excellent first novel from a very talented writer. It's a pleasure reading a historical fantasy that takes place in another culture.
A.E. Marling
I approve of jeweled cities buried in the sand, undead monkeys, and wurms scaled with colorful feathers. That is all.
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Other Books in the Series

The Chronicles of Sword and Sand (2 books)
  • The Bones of the Old Ones (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #2)
The Bones of the Old Ones (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #2) Plague of Shadows (Pathfinder Tales) The Waters of Eternity (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand, #1.5) Stalking the Beast (Pathfinder Tales) The Walkers from the Crypt (Pathfinder Tales)

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