This book was really good. It has all the elements of fantasy; magical tablets, pagan rituals, and science all intersect. This book also deals with life and love. The characters were realistic. The plot, even though I knew the some of the ending, was excellent and kept me very engaged. I loved the blending of Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures portrayed in Alexandria. I highly recommend this book.
WRITTEN IN THE ASHES
K. HOLLAN VAN ZANDT
This excerpt is continued from 100 Pages A Day on Oct 26th.
Alizar lowered his voice. “Are you well?”
Hannah nodded. “Tired. The pain of my past haunts me. I see the faces of the dead: my father, Suhaila, the girl in the market, the ox driver on the road. How is it you remain so elevated after all you have been through, Alizar? You have lost a son and two wives, yet you seem so full of faith in the future.”
Alizar closed his eyes against the sun. “Hannah,” he began slowly, “as a shepherd you have within you a sense of the natural world and its forces that the people of Alexandria cannot even imagine. In this way, you have something even greater than faith because you have an understanding of your place in the family of things, whereas I cling to my cumbersome instruments and my incomplete maps, always unsure. My faith in the future, if you can call it that, stems from knowing that whatever trial I face is my teacher. Resistance takes energy, you see. Better to just surrender to the greater forces that brought us this birth.” Alizar licked his rough lips and looked up at the sky, running a hand through his matted hair. “At my age, Hannah, I have seen that even my mistakes were the right path, so I do not worry so much about making them anymore. But I do make an effort to keep some fuel in the lantern, so to speak. You must laugh in the face of adversity. In the end, humor is the greatest weapon against the pain. The dead are gone. One day we will join them, every one of us. It is the way of things.” Alizar touched Hannah’s shoulder to reassure her.
Hannah smiled weakly, looking out over the sea of palm trees dancing in the scorching breeze, and then she turned back to Alizar. There was a question she had been meaning to ask him. “In the time I have lived in your home, Alizar, I have seen you come and go from many different churches and synagogues. But what god do you pray to?”
Alizar smiled and stretched his arms overhead as Jemir scored three tips in his game and howled in victory, his elbows thrust out in a quirky chicken dance. “Why, I pray to them all, Hannah,” he said.
Hannah made a face. “You cannot pray to them all,” she said flatly.
“Oh, but I do,” said Alizar, a playful look in his eyes. “You see, the one God, the Great I Am of Moses, is a radiant mystery, like a light that is too bright to look upon. And so we interpret that light through colored glass, a bit like the dome in the Great Library. Each color is a name we give it: Yahweh, Ahura Mazda, Krishna, Isis, Poseidon, Demeter, Elohim, Shakti, Shekinah. It is as though we can only describe that much greatness by naming it in part. By definition, I think God, or Goddess, must be beyond our intellectual sciences, and even religions, the same way geometry is beyond what a fish can ever comprehend.”
Hannah folded her arms. “If what you say is true, then for the Egyptians, Seth and Osiris would be the same, but that cannot be, as one is evil and one is good.”
Alizar smiled. “You are right. Osiris and Seth are as opposite as day and night. But day and night have something subtle in common, do they not?”
“They have nothing in common.”
“But they do. Day and night are events of the sky. Now the sun. Now the stars. Now the moonlight. They sky does not say, ‘Oh, the sun is leaving and I cannot abide the night’s return. I think I shall just be day from now on.’ So when I say I pray to all the gods, I do. They are each a necessary aspect of the formless God.”
“So you are a pagan, then?”
“You ask me if I am pagan, I say yes. You ask me if I am Christian, I say yes. You ask me to which religion I adhere, I answer that I adhere to any religion that has love as its foundation, truth as its windows, faith as its door. Anything less is drawing lines in the sand. How should we decide where to draw those lines? I draw one here, you draw one there. We erect cities, and we defend the lines, and many innocent people die. For what? For God? God has no boundaries. God knows no separation. We are the ones who imagine separation. For us, Hannah, there is leaving God in birth, and there is returning to God in death, and in between there is only this breath. Whatever the religious interpretation, I believe it is the breath of the Goddess of life itself.”
“Are you not afraid of the Parabolani?”
“I have no fear of the Parabolani or the bishop. If they kill me, they will kill only a man.” Alizar smiled, quite satisfied with himself.
The angel turned, listening.
This excerpt continues at StoreyBook Reviews on Oct. 28th.