Book Review: The Lion of Cairo by Scott Oden

The Lion of Cairo: 01The Lion of Cairo by Scott Oden
On the banks of the ageless Nile, from a palace of gold and lapis lazuli, the young Caliph Rashid al-Hasan rules as a figurehead over a crumbling empire. Cairo is awash in deception. In the shadow of the Gray Mosque, generals and emirs jockey for position under the scheming eyes of the power grand vizier. In the crowded souks and narrow alleys, warring factions employ murder and terror to silence their opponents. Egypt bleeds. And the scent draws her enemies in like sharks: the swaggering Kurd Shirkuh, who serves the pious Sultan of Damascus and Almaric, the Christian king of Jerusalem, whose greed is insatiable and whose knights are hungry for battle.
And yet all is not lost. There is an old man who lives on a remote mountainside in a distant land. He holds the power of life and death over the warring factions of the Muslim world – and decides to come to the Caliph’s aid. He sends his greatest weapon into Egypt. He sends a single man. An Assassin. The one they call the Emir of the Knife…
Okay, I’m going to qualify why I, the lover of Asian lit, am reviewing this book, just in case you wondered. 1. This is set in the Middle-East (I know, East does not equate with Asia, but I’ll take it), 2. It IS Historical Fantasy which is one of the directions I will move toward in my new website 3. Gosh darn it, I loved it. LOL

The strength of the book is, perhaps best demonstrated by how many “rules” Oden breaks within the first two pages and yet, you won’t be able to put the book down. The novel starts with the much-villain-ized prologue. Oh, and do you remember that rule about not starting a novel in the middle of a fight because the reader won’t know who to cheer for? Yup, he breaks that rule, too. And by the end of that four page fight scene, I couldn’t have cared less how many rules Mr. Oden broke as long as one intriguing character – the salawar knife – was explained.

Oden did not disappoint me in that or any other aspect of the book. In fact, he managed to surprise me.  (Have I mentioned how hard a thing that is to accomplish?) Oden killed off a few characters I had come to like and did not expect to die. However, their deaths have meaning and power.  Assad, the Assassin or Emir of the Knife, is probably considered an antihero in that he rejects every core value of the normal human except for loyalty to his master. He is not particularly likeable, but he is compelling. When he entered a scene, I could not put the book down until he disappeared again and because of that, I felt like I liked him by the end of the book. I cheered for him and his actions. Would I like to meet him in an alley? No. Way. But as a character, I still can’t wait for his return.

Lion of Cairo is an amazing tapestry of faith, betrayal, loss and just a little bit of love. If you enjoy books centered around warfare and political intrigue, run, don’t walk to the bookstore and buy this one. Stay tuned on Wednesday for an interview with the author and the opportunity to win a copy of the book!

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11 Responses to “Book Review: The Lion of Cairo by Scott Oden”

  1. Lynda R Young says:

    Sounds like a great book. I'll have to add this one to my ever growing list of books to read.

    by the way, your blog link is missing from your profile page so it's hard to come find you. I had to do a google search on your name to find your blog. (I'm following too many blogs to get here via my blogger dashboard)

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    ARGH! The link was up there once, I'm not sure why it's gone now. Sigh. I think I've fixed it, but since I'm not sure why it disappeared to begin with, I'll definitely have to check later. Thanks for the tip and the visit, considering how much work you had to put into it!

  3. Rachna Chhabria says:

    The book sounds great. Love your reviews, Victoria.

    How have you been? Hope the health is doing good.

  4. Margo Berendsen says:

    Okay, you sold me. Adding this to the list (needing to explore the historical fantasy genre more, too, since I'm writing one). But what really sold me: you say that he broke all the rules and still hooked you. I love to see examples of that and figure out how they did that.

  5. Lynda R Young says:

    It's still not up. If you Edit your profile page, make sure you have your blog listed in 'Show my blogs'. If that still doesn't work then you can type in your blog address into the 'Homepage URL' option.

  6. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Wow! This sounds great. I wish I had time to read adult fantasy. I have way too many books to read. Like I wish I didn't have to sleep.

  7. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for dropping in, Rachna! I am at least able to sleep most of the night and get up and write for 30 minutes + before kidlit requires breakfast. It's better than it has been! Thanks for asking. 🙂

    Margo, I know what you mean! That's why I included the bit about his awe-inspiring opening in the review. It intrigued me.

    Lynda, thanks so much for checking on me! I must be losing my tech-head touch due to Mommy-brain. Sigh. I'll have to look again tomorrow. I'm too darn tired now, but I REALLY appreciate you coming back and giving me the tip to boot!

    Natalie, I know what you mean. ;D I wish I had more time to read both YA and the occasional re-read of Austin. I wish I lived in Inception land. I could just have someone download all the books I want to read into my dream. Ta da! I remember the days when you had to DIG to find historical fantasy. Not any more and I'm getting behind!

  8. Medeia Sharif says:

    I like your detailed reviews, and this sounds like an awesome book.

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Medeia! I enjoy your reviews as well and you never cease to amaze me with how much you read!

  10. Karen Lange says:

    Sounds interesting, appreciate your thoughts about it. Hope you have a great weekend! 🙂

  11. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for dropping in, Karen!

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