Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
How do I describe this book? It’s romance and adventure, a sprinkling of poetry and wisdom, a generous dash of fantasy and magic, all set upon the primal struggle between good and evil. In short, amazing!
Isra is a Bedouin, a true creature of the desert in a way that transcends time (and initially had me thinking this was a historical book). Granted, this book presents a very romanticized, Western view of the Bedouin culture, but the interaction between Isra and other people, and between Isra and the desert, gave an amazing depth to his character. He knew he was attracted to men, and had resigned himself to being alone and refusing to take a wife, but he wasn’t truly lonely. The desert provided him with all the nurturing he needed.
He had another secret from his clan members, and that was his friend Flicker, an arafrit, a creature of fire and air, who came to Isra from time to time, and with whom he shared all of his deepest thoughts and desires. When Isra started to have recurrent dreams of searching, that eventually culminated in the face of a man, he turned to Flicker for help. Flicker led him to an ancient temple, then disappeared. And Isra found the man he’d been dreaming of – a beggar, a man with no name, no memories. Isra bestowed the name Janan upon him, meaning heart, and took him to his home.
For Isra, taking this man into his home and into his protection felt destined. And despite Janan’s distressing amnesia, he could feel that Janan was a good man. They grew close, and then they fell in love. They would have been content to continue living with the Bedouin, but Janan continually had a feeling of something left undone, some person left behind, and tantalizing but enigmatic glimpses of who he used to be, that would not leave him at peace. He and Isra enlisted Flicker to help them find the secret of Janan’s past and identity, and set off on a quest to recover his memory.
I haven’t read an MM romance in this setting before, and I loved how the dedication was to “a certain Publisher and Chief Development Officer who lamented the lack of sexy sheikh submissions”. I am sure that person is fully satisfied with this submission. Both men are sexy, but more than that, they are truly heroic, although in a quiet, humble way. They came across as authentically muslim, but from an Islam that is quite different from the fundamentalist sects that we in the western world associate with terrorism. The desert itself is almost another character in the book as well, a place of stillness, potential, and abundant life to those who know how to find it. In Isra’s words, life in the desert “granted freedom and, maybe even better, time. Making a living didn’t cost a man’s every waking moment….One could ruminate on the meaning of life and God and fate and love and feel nothing had been wasted.” Even through the violence and danger the men encountered as they found and confronted the person who ripped Janan’s life away, there was still a sense of the vast and eternal desert biding its time until the men returned. My own personal experience of the desert included scorching heat and scorpions, and I am absolutely not a fan, but this book almost made me want to try it again – the writing was just that good. Again, in Isra’s words: “Stories are important. They tether us to the past, to our place in time and the world. They help us understand life and ourselves.”
Overall, highly recommended. This is an author I will be looking for more from!
Cover art by Tiferet Design is perfect for the “sexy sheikh” the author was going for. I pictured both MC’s a little scruffier myself, but this works…
ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: January 29th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Nomad’s Dream
Edition Language English