Like Spices From a Faraway Land (Flammenwüste – Der Gefährte des Drachen [Flame Desert – The Dragon’s Companion] by Akram El-Bahay)
I have one tiny complaint about this book, and that is that I didn’t realise until I had bought it and had started reading that it was the second part of a … trilogy? Series? The second part of something, anyway, and the publisher apparently didn’t see the need to indicate that anywhere.
On the other hand, if I had known itwas the second part, I would probably not have bought it, and would have missed out on a delightful book.
Because… as much as I love fantasy in general, and many of the books I’ve read in the genre, the endless variations of pseudo-Europe, the magic and creatures rooted in European storytelling traditions… they can be good, just like the traditional Austrian cooking I was raised on, but if you never eat anything else, it gets boring.
And so I picked up this book just because of the author’s name (he’s half Egyptian, half German), read the blurb – storyteller Anûr and his dragon companion, searching for the first of all words to save it from the dark wizard Nyan, and something about a mix between Lord of the Rings and One Thousand and One Nights – and bought it without worrying very much about whether it would be good, because it would at least be something different.
And it was, deliciously so.
I mean – I don’t even have a clear idea of what I think of the meat and the vegetables of the meal, of the plot and characters, because I’m so distracted by all the unfamiliar spices – the genies and ifrits and marids and ghoulas and other fantastical creatures that, as far as I can tell, are el-Bahay’s own creations. And this first of all words as a powerful source of magic. And places like Nabatea and Hambar.
I do wonder, though… did the person who wrote the thing about “Lord of the Rings and One Thousand and One Nights” actually read the book? Or is Lord of the Rings the only other fantasy book they ever read? Because no, this book does not repeat tired old Lord of the Rings tropes. If I tried really hard, I could maybe say that they both have too few female characters. But that’s it.
Now, excuse me. I have to go order the first part and see if the sequel is out yet.