Sequel to Jones’ sword-and-sorcery debut, The Desert of Souls (2011), set in the civilized, tolerant Middle East of the 8th-century caliphate.
First-person narrator Capt. Asim and learned scholar Dabir, our demon-fighting protagonists, are living quietly in Mosul as an unprecedentedly severe winter, with frigid temperatures and deep snows, grips the land. Then a beautiful and frightened young woman, Najya, arrives, claiming that she was kidnapped by sorcerers, drugged and subjected to a terrifying magic ritual. Dabir suspects she has been deliberately contaminated by an ancient spirit somehow connected to the unnatural weather. When one of Najya’s pursuers shows up, Asim fights him off only with great difficulty: Their antagonists, it seems, are a cabal of sorcerers out of ancient legend, the Sebitti, immortal and with terrible powers. The spirit that threatens to consume Najya urges her to locate a set of hidden ancient magical weapons, the bones of the title, that the Sebitti need to do—something. To fight the Sebitti, Asim and Dabir must form an alliance with Lydia, a powerful and treacherous Greek sorcerer with whom they clashed in the previous adventure. To confuse matters even more, the Sebitti are not united in their desires, and other powers exist that oppose them, or some of them. Jones works it all out to his own satisfaction at least, but probably not that of his readers, who likely will remain uncertain about who’s who and what any of them really want. Still, characters and backdrop are agreeably developed with plenty of magical battles thrown in.
Shortcomings and all, a thumbs-up for series fans.