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Empires of Sand (1999)
by David Ball
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440236681, Mass Market Paperback)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
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:21 -0400)
A French balloonist crashes in the Sahara and returns to France with a Tuareg princess for a wife. They have a son, Moussa, who spends his childhood playing with Paul, his cousin. As men, the cousins meet on the battlefield in the desert, Moussa defending the Tuaregs from the invading French.
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