Swords from the Desert
Collected in Swords from the Desert are seven exciting stories set during the crusades and in 17th-century India and the Middle East, featuring the adventures of Arab, Mongol and Hindu warriors. “The Guest of Karadak” and “The Road toKandahar” follow 58-year-old Arab physician Daril Ibn Athir, in his youth a swordsmen of the Nejd tribe, as he journeys to the Mogol court. In the caravans and frontier outposts of the journey Ibn Athir becomes embroiled in political intrigue, feuds and matters of honor, and the movements of armies. Beautiful women, even the favorite wife of the Mogol in the story “The Light of the Palace,” cross Ibn Athir’s path.
Men and women from different sides of conflict are thrown together in the stories “The Shield” and “The Way of the Girl.” In “The Shield,” dashing Khali el Khadr protects one of the enemy’s women, a Frank or western European, when Constantinople is besieged. After the city falls to the Christian hordes, El Khadr (the Valiant) delivers the maiden into her countrymen’s hands and makes off with a surprising reward. A young Arab woman stumbles into the hunting party of a Christian knight in “The Way of the Girl,” and must look to her own wit and the attachment of her tribesmen for rescue.
All of the stories collected in Swords from the Desert are excellent adventure tales brilliantly told, and they offer a wonderful glimpse of the culture and landscape where the Crusades were fought. Author Harold Lamb was considered a Middle Eastern expert by the State Department, and these stories reflect his scholarship in fascinating settings and detail. Essays by the author are collected in an Appendix where Lamb discusses the Arab traditions, tactics, and sense of chivalry from the time of the crusades.