THE LION OF CAIRO by SCOTT ODEN.
On the banks of the Nile, in a city alive with intrigue, Caliph Rashid al-Hasan rules as a figurehead over a crumbling empire. In the shadow of the Grey Mosque, generals vie for power and influence under the scheming eyes of a venal grand vizier. Warring factions use murder and terror to silence their opponents. Egypt bleeds - and the scent draws her enemies in: the swaggering Shirkuh, who serves the Sultan of Damascus, and Amalric, king of Jerusalem, whose greed is insatiable and whose Crusader knights are hungry for a fight.
Yet all is not lost. In a distant land, there lives an old man who holds the power of life and death over the Moslem world. He has decided to help the Caliph and sends his greatest weapon. A single man. An Assassin. The one they call the Emir of the Knife...
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue): The rasp and slither of steel died away, the sound lost to a wind that howled over snow-clad ridges, pouring into the passes and sheltered valleys of the high Afghan Mountains.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 27): The eunuch stopped; ebony beads ticked together as he ran them through his manicured fingers, a sound like thoughts falling into place.
MY THOUGHTS: Attracted first by the front cover, not for me the bare-chested men that grace many a cover, preferring a bit of mystery I love the dark smouldering eyes of this character presumably Assad, aka Emir of the Knife.
Set in Egypt, albeit, as the author acknowledges, an Egypt more of fable and legend than actual history, full of eunuchs, concubines, courtesans and secret passages and described as a cross between The Arabian Nights and a Hollywood blockbuster, I should have loved The Lion Of Cairo and yet I didn't.
A truly strange read, beautifully written and yet totally at odds with itself in that it was at once original and yet totally cliched, with descriptions nothing short of poetic (see my memorable moment) and yet, at the same time, so corny, so kitsch ("Aye. He ... He offered us a whore's weight in silver if we knew anything, but we told 'em to bugger off, mistress." - pg 159) as to be laughable.
Perhaps too much Hollywood blockbuster and not enough Arabian Nights for my liking. The numerous fight scenes whilst generally pretty graphic did at times verge on the comical in that Assad (aka the Assassin) was often to be found taking on (and killing) several armed foes at once without breaking into so much as a sweat making me think this perfect material for one of those corny tv series that are so bad as to be good.
KEEP IT OR NOT?: Ex-library stock destined for a charity shop.
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