BLOOD AND SAND by Rosemary Sutcliff


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Author of several excellent high-action period juveniles for older readers, Sutcliffe applies her straight-arrow narration and uncluttered staging to a fictionalized version of the true story of a Scottish gunner and swordsman--who was taken prisoner by the Turks in 1807 and later became Emir of the holy city of Medina. To his surprise, Thomas Keith of the 78th Highlanders was not sent to Cairo after his capture in Egypt during the Napoleonic War. Instead, he was bought from his captors by the commander at El Hamid. Resigned, Thomas will settle down to learn Arabic and, at the suggestion of a courteous, friendly French colonel, study the Koran. (After his conversion to Islam, he'll be known as Ibrahim Effendi.) It is Thomas' friendship with Tussun, son of the Ottoman Viceroy in Egypt that shapes his career. (It was Tussun who released him from the commander.) Meanwhile, even off the battleground, Thomas has narrow escapes: once he's saved by the Vicereine's diplomacy and at another time he fights off ten men. There are also many forays of war, including the final campaigns to free the cities of the Hijaz on the western border of the Red Sea. Blood and sand there are aplenty--along with pounding hoofs; screaming men and beasts; war cries; long, long vistas, and, throughout, a tangle of treachery, baroque negotiations, and courtesies. Finally, Thomas has a brief interval of true happiness with the wife he rescued from a massacre, and he treasures the friendship with Tussun--but at the close, death carries the day. Although the boyish high-minded simplicity of the hero might be suited more to the older juvenile audience, this is nonetheless a forthright tale of national/tribal war, with action as clean as a hound's tooth.
Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1989
ISBN: 0340415185
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1989


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