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REVIEW:  The Waters of Eternity by Howard Andrew Jones

REVIEW: The Waters of Eternity by Howard Andrew Jones

waters-of-eternity

Venture into the time of the Arabian Nights with stalwart Captain Asim and the brilliant Dabir as they hunt an unseen killer that craves only the eyes of his victims, and pursue a dark entity haunting the halls of an opulent mansion. Ride with them on a desperate journey to preserve a terrible weapon from Byzantine agents, and seek the waters of eternity to save a dying girl’s life. In six tales brimming with mystery and sword-slinging action Dabir and Asim stride forward into adventure. With nothing to shield them but Asim’s sword arm and Dabir’s wit, the two heroes must unravel sinister puzzles, confront dark wizards, rescue fair maidens, and battle the terrifying monsters of legend.

Dear Mr. Jones,

I was doing some ebook shopping at Kobo when your books appeared in the “suggestions for you” slideshow.” Ever since I’d enjoyed Janine Ashbless’ “Heart of Flame,” I’ve been looking for more “Arabian Nights” style stories. Hmmm, I thought. These look interesting and could be something I’d like. But since I’ve been burned before when diving into unknown-to-me authors, I decided to try this collection of short stories first.

What an engaging voice you’ve given to Asim. From the start I know I’m in good story-telling hands with someone who has the pacing, descriptions and ability to deliver a rousing finish. These are well rounded characters with consistent traits, habits, likes and irritations rather than cardboard backdrops for the fantasy world you’ve created. Readers seeking different settings, times and something other than vampires/weres/fairies, European settings and Christian characters need look no further.

Asim and Dabir’s adventures are short, sweet and to the point – nice bite sized stories that can fit into any available reading time. Only one felt somewhat incomplete to me – the first one with ghul where they ended the story unsure of what had caused the ghul to change and attack. The rest are complete, well told, with good pacing, explanation and resolution.

The creatures are ghastly fun – especially the last one which made me think of the old Italian swords/sandals Hercules movies. I like that they don’t always behave according to legend and that some might appear to be one thing but then in the final denouement, become/behave/resolve another way. It kept me on my reading toes until the finale.

The relationship between Dabir and Asim is wonderful. They’re obviously long time friends – Asim knows not to interrupt Dabir while he’s thinking and, when sent to interview people, to ask lots of questions and remember the suspects’ actions/looks/demeanor as well as the answers they give. They know each others strengths and weaknesses – Dabir = brains, Asim = brawn, and work together well as a team. They’re a middle eastern bromance.

The story collection is a great mix of fantasy, swashbuckling, friendship and humor. The story of who was trying to kill the cocky playboy had me in stitches. But I also like that much of what actually solves the mysteries is deduction and reasoning. I’m now sold on Dabir and Asim and looking forward to reading two full length novels. B

~Jayne

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Dear Author

Bring on the holiday romances

I’m not a huge fan of a lot of aspects of the Halloween-to-New-Year’s marketing and consumption extravaganza. I think Halloween costumes should be left to the under-12 crowd, I prefer to leave the country for Thanksgiving, I haven’t put up a Christmas tree in nearly two decades, and I’m usually asleep before midnight on New Year’s Eve. But I’m not a total Grinch: I love Christmas (and Hanukkah) stories, despite not being either Christian or Jewish. I can’t remember when I developed this affection for them; it might have been the Christmas stories in the Little House series. But Christmas was always a special time of the year for me, even as a child in India. Needless to say, live trees were not easily come by (actually they weren’t possible to come by at all), but my formerly-Catholic mother acquired not one but two over the years. First we had a fake green one, and then the one I remember best: it was silver, and the branches screwed in at almost perfect 90-degree angles. In retrospect it was ridiculous-looking, but I loved it.

Because we lived with my father’s extended family, all of whom were Hindu, and we didn’t celebrate with other families (aside from the endless series of parties my parents went to during the holiday season), Christmas always felt like our private, intimate celebration. My mother took me to Christmas services at the local Catholic church, just to offset the all-Hindu-all-the-time environment I lived in, I think. And so Christmas Mass and caroling were part of the celebration as well. For me they were just part of Christmas culture, not a requirement to be religious. That probably sounds a bit blasphemous, but I didn’t know any differently.

After we came to the US I was exposed to the full glory of the Christmas commercial-I-mean-holiday season. I still remember during our first Christmas season in the US, my father and I went to a local discount store to get tree ornaments. We were stunned at how much variety there was. Even more shocking was the fact that we could buy as much as we wanted, because in India in those days you just bought what they had or what they let you buy; choice wasn’t part of the transaction.

Eventually I got used to Christmas and as it became even more commercial, and as I got older, I retreated from most of the rituals. But there are a lot of non-commercial things about Christmas I still love. Christmas dinner. Christmas cookies. Snow. Little kids opening presents. Good Christmas music. And Christmas romances.

When the holiday-themed books start appearing in October, I groan, because it’s just too early! But by late November I’m totally ready for them. This year on the plane home after Thanksgiving I read three category-romance Christmas stories back to back to back. They were all different and all enjoyable, and one, by Marion Lennox, was a totally OTT yet wonderful fairy tale (there’s a review coming). Sarah Morgan writes lovely holiday stories, full of snow and reunions and holiday emotions. This year’s winner for me was Sleigh Bells in the Snow, but I have keepers from previous years too, especially the Medical duet set in wintry, snowy Cumbria. Harlequin’s Kimani line usually releases a Christmas anthology (I reviewed this one in 2012), and Farrah Rochon released a self-published novella last year called A Perfect Holiday Fling that hit my trifecta: a well-matched couple, a scene-stealing dog, and a Louisiana setting,

The stories I have been reading the longest are the Regency Christmas anthologies that Signet used to publish. Every year I looked forward to seeing which authors were contributing. Carla Kelly was a welcome mainstay, but Mary Balogh, Barbara Metzger, Elisabeth Fairchild, Mary Jo Putney, and Edith Layton wrote some classics as well. Janga has a post over at Heroes & Heartbreakers that talks about her favorites, some of which are my favorites too.

It’s not just Christmas stories, either. Astrid Amara has written some wonderful m/m Hanukkah novellas that I read and reread, starting with Carol of the Bellskis; Jayne reviewed her new one, Sweet and Sour, earlier this month. And Smart Bitch Sarah has a great list of Hanukkah themed romances here.

I think I gravitate toward holiday stories because they tend to emphasize the aspects of the holidays I enjoy. They are pretty secular but not always entirely so, and I’m a sucker for the Christmas miracle story. And I like the Hannukah stories because they make me feel less singular being a non-Christian at the Christian-est time of the year.

I know that not everyone likes holiday stories, though, and some people actively avoid them. I’ve noticed that at least some in this group are readers that are Christian, or care quite a bit about Christmas but for whatever reason the stories don’t work for them.

What about you, DA commentariat? Do you like holiday stories? If so, which ones, and if not, why not?

And happy holidays to everyone; may your holiday travel be smooth and your destinations welcoming!