Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt is a wonderful blend of history and fiction that held me captive from the very first page. It is always the mark of a good author when almost five hundred pages can fly by and leave you still wanting more. I love to read novels that take place in Ancient Egypt. I find them fascinating to read and K. Hollan Van Zandt brings the world of Ancient Egypt alive in vivid detail. Along with the history she has given us a tale with characters that are sure to capture your heart as they did mine. This novel has been chosen for a TV mini series as well and I have no problem seeing why and after reading it I will be anxious to see it on screen.
In the opening scenes we meet the beautiful Hannah who is a Jewish shepherd girl along with her father. They’ve been traveling for days and stop for the night. Hannah leaves her father by the fire and she stays with the herd to keep it safe. When she is kidnapped and taken she has no idea if she will ever see her father again or even if he is alive. The gang of men who take her bring her to be sold as a slave in Alexandria but not before roughing her up. Luckily for Hannah she is bought by a young man named Tarek whose father is thankfully a kind man and not the type to beat women or slaves. He is Alizar and he takes a shine to Hannah from the start but even more so when he hears her beautiful singing voice. He asks her to promise not to run away and in return he will have her schooled and she will be given the opportunity to sing in order to earn money to free herself one day. In light of the times and how horrible it could be for women like Hannah she knows she is fortunate to be where she is and it is not long before the family holds a special place in her heart either.
However things are not good everywhere in Alexandria as there is a battle of power that is sure to erupt soon and Hannah will find herself in the middle of it all. While Hannah sings in the Great Library of Alexandria it is also where she takes her lessons. It is also where she meets Hypatia, who is known in actual history as the first female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer. Hypatia, like so many others, is entranced by Hannah’s voice but also by Hannah’s easy, unassuming manner. It is she who gives Hannah the opportunity to sing. As the story progresses Hypatia becomes a target as do other women deemed to be pagans and it seems nobody is safe anymore and the famed Great Library is burned to the ground. As this was an actual historical site it really makes you stop to wonder just how much information would have been lost in this fire and what we may have learned from it today.
This novel is much to big in scope to cover in a review. What I can say is that the writing is absolutely beautiful and so descriptive. I could so easily picture the scenes in my mind and smell the smells and feel the heat of the fire, the breeze off the ocean, or the heat of the desert. The author keeps the novel moving at a very good pace so you never find a lagging moment like you do sometimes with a chunkier book. The characters are fantastic and so well developed. I immediately felt a connection with Hannah and enjoyed following her life but also the people around her were likable and left an imprint on my mind. Written in Ashes is an impressive debut novel that took this author ten years to complete and it shows in each and every word that she put her heart and soul into it. I hope that a sequel comes much quicker than the first one took to complete. If you like historical novels and especially ones taking place in Egypt as I do then this is one I don’t think you want to miss out on!
Written in Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt was on tour with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for the month of September so pop over and check out all the other tour stops and see what they had to say about the novel. You can learn more about K. Hollan Van Zandt’s work over on her website and as an added bonus this book is available for your Kindle for only $1.99 so snap it up!
Source: Copy was purchased by me prior to book tour.