From a former Canadian tech writer, a debut historical about Islam that begins in 632 a.d. with the Prophet Muhammad four months dead and the unifying influence he spread throughout the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula already falling apart. Elray follows the 30-year journey of Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, a forced convert to Muhammad but the son of Muhammad’s archrival, Abu Sufyan, to restore his family’s honor and at last raise himself as the supreme ruler of the Islamic empire. This is no easy task, with Mu’awiya hated by the Sword of Allah, Khalid ibn al-Welid, the monstrous Islamic general whose regard for human life is nonexistent and whose bloodthirst is matched only by his murderous detestation of Abu Sufyan and his sons. Fortunately, Mu’awiya finds himself taught by wily, high Islamic general Amr ibn al-As, whose foxiness tips the scale in Mu’awiya’s favor. Supporting Mu’awiya is the freed Bedouin slave Meisun, whom Mu’awiya marries despite his father’s protests. Calendars, maps, pronunciation guide. Will this deepen your understanding of the Middle East? Perhaps deepen but less likely to broaden, since most Islamic peoples reject terrorist acts.
As for the reading, though Khalifah has its store of treacherous, sharp-eyed assassins, and the story does rush about, the writing still feels flatfooted and at the same time inflated, with phrases like “a great hurrah emanated.”