The Desert of Souls

Written by Howard Andrew Jones
Review by Eva Ulett

In 8th-century Baghdad, the scholar Dabir and household guard captain Asim escort their bored employer to the marketplace. A wise woman reads their fates, and the nobleman Jaffar, disliking his own, insists that the woman confused his with that of the scholar Dabir. Returning to Jaffar’s palace, the trio becomes involved in a street fight, when a dying man thrusts a treasure into their keeping. The mate of the gold and jewel encrusted door-pull is ordered by Jaffar to be brought from the Caliph’s treasure store. When the mysterious ornaments are stolen, Dabir and Captain Asim are dispatched to recover them from thieves led by a powerful sorcerer. Matters are complicated when Jaffar’s niece Sabirah stows away on the mission. A further mystery is which of the gallant guard captain or the brilliant scholar has won her affections, and whether either man will survive Jaffar’s displeasure.

The Desert of Souls takes place in an ancient and fantastic Iraq. The corrupt sorcerer Firouz summons djinn to take his enemies’ souls, commands fire, reanimates dead creatures, and leads Dabir and Asim on a chase to the Atlantis of the desert. The city of Ubar, “destroyed by Allah in a rain of fire and covered over with a sea of sand,” is where the door-pulls will allow entrance to another realm. Author Howard Andrew Jones has accomplished the feat of blending these fantastic elements seamlessly into his fine adventure tale. Dabir and Asim are engaging, their actions heroic, and there is no lack of swordfights with undead monkeys, men, and otherworldly creatures. I look forward to the further adventures of these Middle Eastern heroes.