Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Written in Ashes

Written in Ashes (The Mediterranean Trilogy - Book 1) by K. Hollan Van Zandt

Publication Date: July 13, 2011
Publisher: Balboa Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: E-Book, 448pp.
ISBN-13: 9781452535142

(Received for an honest review from Virtual Author Book Tours)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

K. Hollan Van Zandt on the WEB: Webpage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook

Excerpt from Written in Ashes Courtesy Of Amazon's Inside Look Feature


Who burned the Great Library of Alexandria? 

When the Roman Empire collapses in the 5th century, the city of Alexandria, Egypt is plagued with unrest. Paganism is declared punishable by death and the populace splinters in religious upheaval.

Hannah, a beautiful Jewish shepherd girl is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai and sold as a slave in Alexandria to Alizar, an alchemist and successful vintner. Her rapturous singing voice destines her to become the most celebrated bard in the Great Library. 

Meanwhile, the city’s bishop, Cyril, rises in power as his priests roam the streets persecuting the pagans. But while most citizens submit, a small resistance fights for justice. 

Hypatia, the library’s charismatic headmistress, summons her allies to protect the world’s knowledge from the escalating violence. Risking his life, his family, and his hard-earned fortune, Alizar leads the conspiracy by secretly copying the library’s treasured manuscripts and smuggling them to safety. 

When Hannah becomes the bishop’s target, she is sequestered across the harbor in the Temple of Isis. But an ancient ceremonial rite between a monk and priestess inside the Pharos lighthouse ignites a forbidden passion. 

Torn between the men she loves, Hannah must undertake a quest to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra to find the one thing powerful enough to protect the pagans: The Emerald Tablet. 

Meanwhile, the Christians siege the city, exile the Jews, and fight the dwindling pagan resistance as the Great Library crumbles. 

But not everything is lost. . .


Written in Ashes is the first book in the Mediterranean trilogy by debut author, K. Hollan Van Zandt. The burning of the Great Library of Alexandria has captivated the interest of readers and scholars for untold years. Van Zandt's gripping tale of political unrest and those who risked life and limb to see knowledge survive is historical fiction at it's best. Van Zandt's way with words is an experience all it's own. From intricately detailed descriptions of the Great Library to the customs and dress of the times, this is a wonderfully written novel that is a feast for the senses as well as the mind!

I have always been a great fan of well written historical fiction, but there are a lot of factors that go into giving most historical novels that distinction. For one, the research has to be impeccable. A historical novel that can be written in a year or two does not have the same feel that a novel written over ten years does. K. Hollan Van Zandt spent ten years researching and perfecting Written in Ashes and it really shows. Her attention to detail in the description of daily life within the Great Library, as well as, within the city of Alexandria is amazing to say the least. Her descriptions easily engage the readers senses. From the sites and smells of the streets of Alexandria to the feel of the pages of the vast knowledge of the scholars. This is an extremely well researched novel and readers will be able to tell it from the first page.

Another factor in making a historical novel more than good, is the character development. K. Hollan Van Zandt's characters in Written in Ashes are very well drawn. From the heroine, a Jewish shepherdess, to Alizar, a man devoted to the preservation of the works in the Great Library. Each character is multi-layered and has a distinct personality. Hannah was a wonderful character, she embodied exactly what the reader expects from a young Jewish girl who is abducted and sold as a slave. She is compete, resourceful and understands the gravity of her situation, yet she shows her vulnerability when she is taken by the bishops guards. She is a wonderful singer and her life is forever changed when takes up the quest to find The Emerald Tablet. K. Hollan Van Zandt spent just as much time perfecting her characters as she did her plot.

The factor that makes this novel stand out above the rest is easily the plot. The premise of the book and series is a monumental one. What were the circumstances surrounding the burning of the Great Library at Alexandria? Who were the players in this game of political power and struggle? Could one person have changed the course of events that led to this great tragedy? The plot is gripping. It is full of action and heart stopping moments. Readers who were expecting the slow pace of most historical fiction will be taken aback and thoroughly satisfied with Van Zandt's energetic and forceful portrayal of these events. This is a solid combination of historical fiction and heart pounding action, with a mysterious element added to the mix. The quest to find the tablet is anything but typical and Van Zandt was able to pull it off with eloquence and style.

I can't recommend this one enough. If you haven't picked up any other historical fiction novels this year, this is the one to read! It has historical chops like few others I have read this year or the last couple of years for that matter. The research and the character development are outstanding. And plot really kicks it up a notch. It's gripping and action packed. This isn't your grandmother's historical fiction! Give it a try, I know you'll like it!

Check out my interview with the author tomorrow here at Debbie's Book Bag and enter for your chance to win a copy of Written in Ashes!

Written in Ashes is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

K. Hollan Van Zandt has always loved libraries, oceans, ancient history and migrating birds. Her mentor, novelist Tom Robbins, instilled in her an abiding love and respect for language.She lives in Southern California, and dreams of a home in Greece. This, her first novel, took ten years to complete.


Teddy Rose said...

Thanks so much for taking part in the tour! I'm glad you lived the book as much as I did!

Lexi H said...

Wonderful review, this book sounds very good. And I agree with you on your points of what a historical novel needs.

justpeachy36 said...

It was a pleasure, Teddy!

justpeachy36 said...

There are other things a good historical novel needs, but this author had them all nailed.

K. Hollan Van Zandt said...

Thanks for such a thoughtful and enthusiastic review of my novel! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it : )

justpeachy36 said...

Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you liked the review. I try to be thorough but I know I can ramble as well, I'm glad it met with your approval.