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The Desert of Souls

(The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,089 ratings  ·  205 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
Hardcover, 309 pages
Published February 15th 2011 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published February 4th 2011)
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Howard Jones Hey Martin,

No, the Greeks weren't known for that. This is just one bad apple who has experimented with forbidden arts, and he happens to be from the B…more
Hey Martin,

No, the Greeks weren't known for that. This is just one bad apple who has experimented with forbidden arts, and he happens to be from the Byzantine Empire. Our heroes probably would have referred to them, technically, as Romans, but I used Greeks because that's what we're used to. (less)
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Desert Fantasy
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  1,089 ratings  ·  205 reviews

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Start your review of The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1)
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
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Ranting Dragon
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: marty

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
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
3.5 stars. This is a pleasant and linear quest story set in the 8th century Abbasid caliphate.

I really liked the descriptions and the historical inspiration, but both storytelling and rhythm are average. The characters and the tale itself are nice, however there are no particular depths to the former or surprising twists to the latter. All in all the novel achieves a kind of balance, mainly thanks to Asim, the narrator, and I'm happy I've given it a try because the protagonists grew on me and th
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Julie Davis
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
David Hayden
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Steve Goble
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, fantasy
Take the sword-and-sorcery of Robert E. Howard and paint it liberally with the exotic colors of "A Thousand and One Nights," and perhaps a dash of Rafael Sabatini. This will give you an approximation of what to expect from "The Desert of Souls."

If that description does not sound like a fun read to you, I pity you.

Ordinarily, I would devour a book like this in a night or two. The vagaries of life slowed me down a lot as I read this, but I think it says a lot about the strength of the plotting an
Apr 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books, fantasy
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 true ...more
Jan 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well-crafted Arabian Nights-themed adventure fiction with more than a hint of magic and written with a fine eye to historical detail.
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. ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
Actual rating: 3.50
Jason Ray Ray Carney
This is such a compelling sword and sorcery novel. I first read Jones' sword and sorcery tale, "The Second Death of Hanuvar" (*From the Magician's Skull #3*), loved it, and so was eager to read one of his novels. So, my expectations were high to begin with. And they were transcended. Why?The characters, Asim and Dabir, are so satisfying and unique as sword and sorcery protagonists. Dabir is a scholar: objective, detached, and meticulous in comportment; Asim is a warrior: he acts agressively, int ...more
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
Jessica Strider
Nov 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
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,
The book started very well but I lost interest fast and then tried to regain it by turning page after page and seeing what happens; the story moves fast so I finished the book but it had little magic for me - there were sparkles here and there but the Arabian Nights magic was lacking and I just did not feel the book was authentic but more of a Westerner's imagining of Harun al Rashid times.

For a recent book that I felt had the magic and the authenticity try Father of Locks by A. Killeen since
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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...
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, arabic
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.
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent adventure story, set in the heart of the Arabian Nights of Harun al-Rashid. Jones has a particular skill at knowing when to include history, and when to leave it out -- the setting is well-developed and fairly historically accurate, while at the same time filled with majesty, wonder, and lots and lots of fun. A very good book, all told.
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
For some reason it took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I really enjoyed it! I’m looking forward to reading more of the series!
I am conflicted how to rate this one because it's probably a 3 based on characterization and a 4 based on the writing/plot. I loved the 1001 Arabian Nights and the historical fiction the story is set, 8th Century. I haven't read many (if any) books set in that time frame and I don't think I've read any set in Baghdad before.

My issue is that while I do love plot and need a good story line, if I don't connect with the characters on some kind of emotional level, I just rarely can connect well to th
I was hoping for a kind of Arabian Nights style fantasy, story within a story, that Scheherazade kind of thing, but no. It was a fine story and did have the right atmosphere, I was wanting something different, that's all. ...more
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Fantasy Literature
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Petteri Hannila
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a really fun, straight up, no apologies, sword and sorcery adventure story. The story starts out in Bagdad in the 8th century and features a lost city, magical artifacts, reanimated monkeys, and an evil wizard, among other things. It's told in the first person by Asim, a captain of the guard, who, along with his friend the scholar Dabir, finds trouble on what's supposed to be a pleasant (though undercover) outing with their employer in the city. I was hooked from the opening scene with t ...more
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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