Blog Tour: Written in the Ashes
K. Hollan Van Zandt
Balboa Press, 2011
Reading Written in the Ashes, I realized something: I thoroughly enjoy reading ancient historical fiction. It's a broad era that I have not studied in-depth, and as fiction, there is so much room for imagining and exploring the "what ifs" that could have been.
Hannah is a Jewish shepherdess, roaming the wilds of Sinai with her father, until her world is shattered by slave traders one night. Sold to a prestigious - and merciful - family in Alexandria, Hannah struggles to regain interest and enthusiasm for life, bearing scars on her body and her heart. As time begins to heal her wounds, Hannah finds her new life to be one of surprises. From private tutoring in the Library of Alexandria, to finding a strangely patched-together new 'family' in her master's house, Hannah slowly settles into her life. But these are uneasy times, and nothing is permanent. Nothing is safe - not even life. Relations between the Bishop in Alexandria, Cyril, and the "traditional" population are tense and volatile. The Library itself is threatened, and anyone deemed in cahoots with "the pagan enemy" is placed on a watch list, or "questioned" as a preemptive measure. This is Hannah's new reality, and she finds herself playing a surprising role in the bloody 'negotiations.'
The story is engrossing. It's rough and brutal - very blunt, a little gory. It's not a light read, and if you're particularly sensitive some scenes could be disturbingly harsh. I loved the characters - Hannah stole my heart from the very beginning, still out on the plains of Sinai, and as I met new characters, I forged new alliances, even as she did. It's a detailed story, rich in ideas and images. The Library at Alexandria has long captured my imagination, as a librarian and as a story-loving history geek, and to read about its struggle for survival, to get a glimpse into how things could have been - it's beautiful, even as it's heart-wrenching. I feel as though I've learned much about Alexandria, the crossroads of culture and religion, the struggle to orient in a changing world. Written in the Ashes is a sweeping story to enjoy, but also one to think about. To pause and consider, to look at this particular presentation of the "ancient world" - and see how it reflects humanity.
eBook provided by author for review.