Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan van Zandt
Book 1 in The Mediterranean Trilogy
Kindle E-Book, 448 pages
July 6, 2011
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from author for review as part of Premier Virtual Author Book Tours
“Written in the Ashes, my debut novel about the events that led up to the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, circa 415 AD. It focuses on the life and death of the first female mathematician/philosopher/scientist in history, Hypatia of Alexandria. As the headmistress of the Great Library, she held tremendous power, and was brutally murdered by a Christian mob led by Bishop Cyril. Her death marked the beginning of the Dark Ages as Christianity rose in power throughout the empire. It has been optioned by Academy Award-winning producer Mark Harris, and Agape Media International.”
While this book initially started out a little bit slow for me, it quickly picked up and I became instantly attached to the characters and the events that transpired. The characters were wonderfully written and I LOVED Hypatia. I had a vision of her in my head from the film Agora staring Rachel Weisz and I think my biggest issue was that I couldn’t match the Hypatia in the book with the one in the movie. But as far as looks go, that is my least concern. For someone who we don’t really know all that much about I loved getting to know her. She was a very learned woman and it was entirely unfair that people didn’t understand the difference between science and witch craft and the world lost her much too soon. In terms of the leading men, I found myself intermittently in love with Gideon and Julian – both very good and brave men.
I enjoyed all of the drama brought about by the quest given to Hannah to find the Emerald Tablet. The exchanges between the characters in these scenes were some of my favorites. The scenes at the height of the novel were so action packed that I couldn’t put it down; I felt like somehow I would miss things unfolding while the cover was closed.
I have to give high praise to the author for the atmospheric world of Alexandria and beyond that she brought to the page. For a lighthouse and library that no longer stand – and which I have never seen any images of – I could certainly picture them in my mind. We also travel to two oracles – one at Delphi and one in Egypt, whose name escapes me right now. I had not ever read about oracles before and really didn’t know what to expect, however I enjoyed how van Zandt presented them. When they left Delphi I felt sad. After the fall of the Great Library I felt like I too was standing on the shore watching as the ash fell everywhere and again I felt the sadness that I am sure engulfed many at the time.
There were two small complaints that I have about this novel. The first I am not sure was an e-book issue or actually part of the novel – this is my first e-book on my Kindle. Sections were periodically divided with “So”. Sometimes it felt like this was appropriate as in, “and then this happened” while at other times is felt like some sort of glitch in the e-book process. If anyone has read the paper copy please let me know! The other issue I had was where periodically referenced was an angel. I’m not really sure of the angel’s purpose but it was distracting to me and I didn’t feel like it was a necessary addition.
Overall I thought that this was a wonderful read that I would highly recommend. Not only do we get treated to a beautiful view of Alexandria but the story is one that deserves to be told. I can’t wait for this to be brought to the screen!
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