Fiction David Ball Empires of Sand

ISBN 13: 9780553110142

Empires of Sand

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9780553110142: Empires of Sand

From the mysteriously beautiful, richly hued landscape of the Saharan mountains to the sumptuous splendor of nineteenth-century Paris, Empires of Sand is a novel that takes us on an extraordinary, powerfully emotional journey. In a clash between two civilizations, two men of common blood discover that in war, love, and even family, they are both destined to be outsiders....

The year is 1870. The proud Republic of France is crumbling under the onslaught of the Prussian army. Paris is under siege. Too young to understand the shifting fortunes of the empire, two boys forge a bond with their breathless adventures in the tunnels beneath the threatened city. Paul deVries is the cousin and constant companion of Michel deVries--called Moussa--whose world-explorer father shocked Paris with his marriage to a noblewoman of the Sahara. Moussa will inherit the title of count; Paul is destined to be a soldier like his father. But tragic events will send Moussa fleeing to his mother's homeland, with its brooding mountains, its hidden caves and fortresses. And the two boys who have been the closest of friends are fated as men to become the bitterest of enemies--victims of history and the scheming of scoundrels.

They meet again on the Sahara's blazing sands, one as part of a foolhardy French expeditionary force, the other with the nomadic Tuareg, a majestic race of veiled warriors who live and die by flashing swords and a harsh desert code of honor. On this unforgettable, ever-shifting landscape, Paul and Moussa are swept into another war, one far more brutal than anything they have experienced.

Paul is obsessed with a quest for personal vengeance and honor. And Moussa, in love with a woman betrothed to an implacable Tuareg warrior, searches for the peace he knew as a child in France. Now they both face a challenge of sheer, harrowing survival: whether to follow the call of their shared blood...or the destiny written in the treacherous sands.

Empires of Sand is a grand novel of adventure in the best tradition of historical fiction. With its astounding scenes of the desert and its rich cast of characters--soldiers, lovers, slaves, and zealots--this is a reading experience to be treasured and remembered long after the final page is turned.

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Review:

What a find! David Ball's first novel packs the wallop of a good old-fashioned adventure movie, with historic sweep to please any James Michener fan. The action starts with a wounded wild boar's attack on two French boys (convincingly told from the points of view of the boar, the boys--Paul and Moussa--the terrified mom, and an evil bishop who watches and prevents his coachman from shooting the beast). The pace never slackens as the scenes flash past: invasion and class war in the streets and underground quarryways of Paris during the 1870 siege, moonlit sneak attacks in the desert the Arabs call "the Land of Thirst and Fear," and an epic French attempt to drive a railroad through the Sahara--a mad plan opposed by the dunes and their no less implacable inhabitants, the Tuareg.

The Tuareg are the coolest--they're known as the blue men because they wear head-to-toe wraparound indigo-dyed clothes that scarily obscure their faces and stain their skin. Their rivals call them blue devils, and they have lots of rivals. Even though their dads are brothers, the French boys are fated to fight as tribal rivals in Saharan nomad's land because Moussa has a Tuareg mother. His dad, Count Henri deVries, crash-landed his balloon at her feet, and she followed him back to Paris. Racial oppression and bad bishop behavior provoke justifiable homicide at the Paris Opera, occasioning a hairsbreadth balloon escape and southern adventures too numerous to enumerate here. The prose is purple but handsome, the plot pulpy and propulsive. Check out these sentences: "He fell to her from the sky"; "Bashaga's howl haunted them until it was swallowed by the wind"; "As Moussa's stabbing knife pushed up through to his brain, Abdul ben Henna's last thoughts were of revenge." If these make you burn to read on, read on! You won't be disappointed. --Tim Appelo

From the Back Cover:

"When I was a kid I loved being swept across oceans by great spellbinding reads like Mutiny on the Bounty and Seven Pillars of Wisdom. David Ball's Empires of Sand rates a spot on that same shelf. It's old-fashioned in the best sense--literate, thematically ambitious, scholarly and swashbuckling at the same time.

"The thinking man's page-turner, Empires of Sand is simultaneously a masterful reimagining of a world most of us never knew existed and a ripsnorting E-ticket yarn. Clearly Mr. Ball is the real deal; he knows the Sahara, the Paris of the Prussian siege, the world of the nomadic Tuareg. David Ball writes with the joy of an author who loves his material and is in absolute command of it."
--Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire

"This is a sensational novel! David Ball writes with extraordinary passion, enthusiasm, and skill. The opening scene is absolutely brilliant, and it just gets better after that."
--Max Byrd, author of Jefferson

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Ball, David
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