Chrissie's Reviews > Written In The Ashes

Written In The Ashes by K. Hollan VanZandt
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Jun 20, 12

bookshelves: egypt, hf, kindle, greece
Read from May 22 to 25, 2012

** spoiler alert ** BEFORE READING:

This book is currently available for $2.29 in Kindle format at Amazon. At this price and having checked the sample, I figured why not try it. Hypatia and the Alexandria library - the subject matter is interesting.



I have the hardest time writing reviews for those books that neither anger me because they are so terrible nor excite me because they are so wonderful. This is such a book.

I wanted to learn more about the life of Hypatia, the famed woman astronomer, philosopher and mathematician who lived at the turn of the 5th Century CE. I wanted to learn more about the Library of Alexandria and the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismagistus. However, after reading this book, I feel I could have gotten the same from a rapid search at Wikipedia. In fact I did feel compelled to read at Wikipedia anyhow. There are today so many unsolved questions. The author has done an admiral job of offering us one possible explanation detailing Hypatia’s death and the circumstances of the burning of the library. In an epilog she has explained where she has altered known facts, willfully allowed anachronisms and specified the unknowns. I cannot criticize that. It is just that I simply didn’t learn enough. This book is a dramatization of one possible scenario.

So let’s look at the manner of dramatization. I believe a primary problem for me is that the tone of the novel is too cinematic. Many people enjoy plot oriented books with dramatic turns and bravado behavior. This is a book for them. I think it is totally corny when in the heat of the fire a character throws a shard of emerald and, whamo, kills the bad guy…….

This felt like fiction to me. Given the acknowledged known facts, how can these be puzzled together to make sense? This is how the author has approached the subject matter. This is in fact logical, but it becomes “too cleaned up”, too simple. This event has to happen so that event can happen. A message is to be delivered so the characters do this or that so the message can be given. True life is so much messier and complex. In this novel, a repentant bishop is just too “sweet” for my tastes, but you see the author wants to make a particular statement that will please her readers or her own beliefs. We know that Bishop Cyril did exist, although some events remain unclear. The author has chosen one very plausible alternative to profess her point of view and to achieve a moving story. In addition, there is clear forewarning of coming events. I appreciate more subtlety.

The author employs a few writing gimmicks, for example, the repetitive use of a one word sentence: “So.” The reader is supposed to stop and pause and think and then go on. It is just that it was used repetitively.

The author imagines one character who has a wonderful view of religion based on kindness, compassion and understanding. This character states that he follows all religious beliefs not limiting himself to just one. A person of any faith will nod and say: THIS is what religion should be about. I too thought the lines beautifully expressed how religion should be manifested. THIS is what we must seek. Pretty lines that I guarantee all will love……..but again, a bit obvious. On a Kindle you can see the number of people who have marked a particular passage. Yup, everyone loved these lines. No one could hate them.

For me this book was good, but I wanted a lot more. I want more nuances. I wanted more complicated people. I wanted more answers. Unfortunately we do not today have all the answers. That is certainly not the author’s fault, but we have to decide if we want to spend time on the book.

This book is the first of the planned Mediterranean Trilogy. It is optioned for television. Many people will enjoy the cinematic feel. If you are curious for more, visit
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Chrissie I received a really wonderful note from the author, who is here at GR! She explained a bit more about her novel and I thought her points were very interesting.

First of all, this book was originally written for young adults(16-20 year-olds). Her publisher advised her to not restrict to that age group. Another publisher may print it and it might in fact be set for that age group.

I mention above the frequent use of "so". Here she explains what she intended:

The one question I can answer for you that no reader has figured out yet is the use of the word "So" is actually from musical notation. It is a rest, and more than that, it is the same use as the Biblical "Selah" at the end of lines from the Torah. Hence its wide usage in the book meant to honor Hanah's Jewish heritage. Kind of a puzzle for the thinking reader.

So I only understood half! Isn't it wonderful to understand the whole.

It is also noteworthy that this novel was written long before Wikipedia existed. It gives one another perspective.

I want to thank the author for contacting me.

Chrissie Oh, one more thing! She suggested another book about Alexandria: The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind. This I have added.

message 3: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Thanks, Chrissie, and that's great the author contacted you.

Chrissie Yes, it was great hearing from her.

message 5: by Dayle (new) - added it

Dayle I wanted to read this on Kindle but Amazon "says" there is no Kindle edition :(

Chrissie Dayle, but that doesn't make sense! I read it on Kindle. Sometimes a book is not available to people depending on where you live. Maybe that is the problem. Europeans have fewer Kindle books than Americans, but I live in Europe and this one I could get.Why don't you contact the author. She is here at GR.

message 7: by Dayle (new) - added it

Dayle Thanks for responding Chrissie, yes I am in Virginia,US I did mark on Amazon.."want to read on Kindle" for whatever that is worth :)

Chrissie Dayle,I know that the author is here at GR - she sent me a PM. Why don't you contact her? She so kindly explained some things I brought up in my review. Here in Europe we don't even have that button to mark!

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