history

The Stone Lions

The Stone Lions
In the throes of the 14th century, Islamic Spain is under pressure from Castile and Aragon. Ara, the twelve-year old daughter to the Sultan, finds herself in the center of a political intrigue when her eunuch tutor is magically transformed by the evil Wazir. Can a little girl save her friend and tutor with the help of a Sufi mathemagician. Intertwined in a mystery of math, art and magic, Ara races to find the seven broken symmetries before time runs out? Will she succeed or will the Alhambra fall and with it all that she loves? And will the stone lions awaken in time to help her? This cross-cultural fantasy combines mystery and math to teach the geometry of symmetry.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

The Stone Lions is an excellent young adult novel set in Spain in the early 1400’s. Ara is a twelve-year-old Muslim girl and daughter of the Sultan. She lives with her cousin Layla in the Alhambra Palace, a place of great halls and courtyards decorated with beautiful tiles. Protective magic is woven into the symmetry of the mosaics, but the Sultans advisor is using his magic to break key symmetries and weaken the palace so the infidels/ book lovers/.  Christians from the north can take over the Kingdom.

Ara and Layla discover the treachery and with the help of a Sufi mathmagician take it in hand to fix the broken symmetries and try to find solid evidence of the advisor’s treachery to submit to the  Sultan.

The story is unique in that it is both highly educational and entertaining. In order to fix the magic, the girls must learn about symmetry and that is their first step towards becoming a mathmagician – I love that word and the concept of maths being magical that goes with it. Not only do we learn about this aspect of mathematics, but we also learn about the kind of life led and the values followed by these Muslim women. We learn that the harem is not a bunch of sex slaves – as Hollywood would have us believe – but the women and children’s part of the palace, where they have complete control and are safe from the men.

There is a wonderful scene where a group of Christian women and children come to visit, and though some cultural differences become apparent, it is clear that the similarities between the two groups are far greater than the differences. This is a truly excellent book to help foster religious tolerance.

The story is well-edited, so that it reads smoothly. The plot is sleek and engaging, and the pacing excellent. The characters are well-drawn and likeable – except for the creepy bad guy, of course.

I highly recommend this book for all young adults.

5 stars.

 

Reviewed by Amy Board

I highly enjoyed reading this book. Dandridge did a very good job of introducing the reader to an unfamiliar time, place, and culture while making it feel authentic. This was particularly impressive to me considering the story addressed many cultural norms that would seem out of place in Western society today, especially regarding the position of women. Yet Dandridge created a realistic, likable female lead, and gave distinct voices to the rest of her cast of characters, all the while uplifting and honoring the culture of that particular time and setting. I also loved (LOVED!) the idea of mathmagics. Using mathematical formulas and concepts to perform magical spells–brilliant! I’d love to read a follow-up novel that goes into greater detail about this, given that the emphasis of this book was on geometric symmetries. To that end, Dandridge did a wonderful job explaining the mathematical concept of symmetries in a manner that could be understood by a young audience and integrating it into the heart of the story. There were a few times, however, when the emphasis on explaining the concept of symmetries caused the scenes to drag on a bit, and I wondered whether younger readers might lose interest. Nevertheless, the story was very well crafted, the characters were likable and relatable, and the world building was phenomenal.

I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

Reviewed by Dharshi

 

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I picked it up because the concept of mathemagics intrigued me, but the unique setting and characters ultimately captivated my attention. I liked that Dandridge chose to include controversial topics like the role of women in the society. She treated these subjects thoughtfully and subtly. In particular, her women characters are clever and strong despite the limited power they hold. There are fewer male characters in the story, but all of Dandridge’s characters are well-developed and play a unique role in the story. I felt the story had two weaknesses. First, I thought it was a little slow. Second, the concept of mathemagics was hardly explored. The mathematics was explained well, but it was never clear to me how the mathematics translates to magical spells. Besides these minor points, I recommend this book.

I received this book free from Awesome IndiesBooks in return for an honest review.

Fortunate

Fortunate
Locked into a lonely future by a cruel twist of fate, Beth reaches breaking point, leaves her husband, and flees to faraway Zimbabwe. But there she finds herself at the centre of a deadly struggle for the ownership of a farm. From a guest of honour at the President’s table to a disastrous decision that betrays a good man, her fresh start threatens to end in catastrophe. Does the land and its painted rocks hold clues to atonement and re-found love?

Review from 

Read this book. Do it. Stop reading this review and click the button that will give you access to this enthralling read. This review will be waiting right here while you do.

Finished? Great. Here’s what you’ve just purchased: a heart-rending piece of fiction written in detached, almost clinical prose that takes the protagonist, one young doctor Bethan Jenkins, away from her afflicted husband and out on an improbable, amazing, hopeful and eye-opening journey through divided and corrupt Africa: specifically Zimbabwe.

I was hooked from the first troubling sentence, pulled apart by the home situation Bethan faces, thrilled and overcome by the fantastic storytelling, and at several points, quite amused. All this from me, a shameless genre lover who looks silly browsing through the YA section at the bookstore, writing silly yarns about superheroes. Pffff. This ought to be required reading. It’s the real deal, a poignant look at the lives of people lived in different ways, an in-depth portrayal of post-revolution Zimbabwe, an interesting look at the way land shapes perceptions as people shape the land, and a thematically strong read.

Seriously, read this.

NOTE: If you’re American, you will want to have a dictionary or web search handy. There are plenty of British-isms that pop up (marquee comes directly to mind), and I was glad to have my iBooks integrated dictionary to save me from frustrating confusion.

I received a copy of Fortunate to review for Awesome Indies and I couldn’t feel more fortunate that I had the opportunity to review it. Thank you, Andrew.

5 Stars.

 

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland

This is a stunning novel—interesting, beautifully written and hard to put down. Not only is it a great story, it also deals with deeper issues of dealing with a recently brain damaged partner and survival under a corrupt regime. Mr Sharpe offers the best of independent fiction – something truly unique. You’ll find entertainment and food for thought in this volume.

 

 

The Ghosts of Eden

The Ghosts of Eden
Zachye Katura, tending cattle in the grasslands of Kaaro Karungi, and Michael Lacey, the child of missionaries, are happy in their childhood idyll. But the world around them is changing, propelling them towards tragedy.

Review from Awesome Indies Assessor

 

The Ghosts of Eden by Andrew J. H. Sharp is, like the story of Joseph’s coat from the Hebrew Bible, of many colors. It is a story that zooms back and forth in time and across strains of characters’ lives, at times with the speed of a supersonic jet, and at others, languidly like an eagle gliding on wind currents.
On the one hand, it is the story of Michael Lacy, the son of English settlers in pre-independence Uganda, who at the opening of the story is a prominent surgeon in the UK. On the other, the story of the Katura brothers, Stanley and Zachye, two members of the Bahima tribe who are sent off to school to learn the ways of the Bazungu, or whites, in order to be able to survive in the Uganda that is to come.
Although fictional, The Ghosts of Eden gives the reader an in depth look at African culture and the strains between traditional tribal culture, and the ‘modern’ culture imposed by colonization. The characters are so well formed, we feel as if we know them – their dreams and desires as familiar as our own. Told from a semi-omniscient point of view, the author nonetheless allows us to glimpse inside key characters’ minds, adding significantly to the tension that builds steadily from the moment Michael’s seat mate on the plane as he’s returning to Uganda to speak at a medical conference, dies quietly in his sleep. There is action and mystery aplenty in Sharp’s narrative, but this is also a love story – one with more twists and turns than an English garden maze as Michael, Stanley, and Zachye all vie for the heart of the beautiful, but enigmatic Felice.
My only complaint about the book was the author’s habit of not indenting certain paragraphs within chapters, until I realized that this was signaling a change in the action. That realization came about a third into the second chapter, so this really doesn’t count as a distraction.
The Ghosts of Eden defies genre characterization. Mystery, thriller, romance, historical novel, or perhaps a better description is literary tour de force. An exceptionally well-written novel that, once begun, is hard to put down until you arrive almost breathlessly at the end – and as you close it, you say, that’s the way it should be.