Book Review: The Dragon’s In the Details

Chism, Holly. The Dragon’s In the Details. 2023 Kindle edition

Dragons come in small packages. And not so small. This collection of short stories features dragons in urban fantasy – big dragons, small, tiny, numerous, and singular. And all of them are life-changing for the women and men who encounter them.

The first story begins with a tired mother and a daughter who is a bit disconcerted to discover a basset-sized reptile in the young lady’s wagon. Happily, the dragon is housebroken. Another story features a pocket-sized dragon. In some cases, the dragons change size, or mass (mostly). They can be singular or numerous. In all cases, they are forces for good.

One of the linking themes in these short stories is healing. The human characters recover from the past, from sorrow, from bad deals or other problems. Another theme is self-reliance.All the characters are doing what they can with what they have when a dragon or two appear in their lives.

The stories are all short, as is the collection. It is a treat of a book to be dipped in and out of, or read through. I’d recommend reading and coming back. There is a similarity in the stories beyond theme and style. This isn’t bad, just noticeable in spots. It’s light as well. Any violence is limited, and makes the collection suitable for mid-teens and up.

It’s a fun little read, good for a rainy afternoon, or waiting for an appointment, or any time you want some dragons in your life. (And cats. there are a few cats as well. More or less. Ish.)

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the author for this review.


Book Review—Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods

Collins, Andrew. Göbekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods. The Temple of the Watchers and the Discovery of Eden. (Bear and Co. 2014) Kindle Edition

The book wasn’t quite what I expected, but the first half or so is a great description of fascinating archaeology. Then the book gets Odd. The introduction by Graham Hancock gives readers a large hint that this is not a standard academic or even popular archaeology book. Which was a bit disappointing, but I still learned a great deal, even if I did a lot of eye-rolling toward the end.

The author, Andrew Collins, became intrigued by Neolithic and Paleolithic sites that don’t seem to fit what most archaeologists accept as the standard progression of society and culture in terms of technology and organization. The overall idea is that over time, small groups of hunter-gatherers coalesced on occasion into larger groups for rituals and socializing, then scattered out again, but that they never really built major structures (with a tiny handful of exceptions, including the complex at Salisbury Plain in England, and Göbekli Tepe, and Catalhuyuk in Anatolia.) At some point, agriculture began to complement, then slowly replace the hunter-gatherer lifestyle in much of Eurasia. These developments happened locally, to meet local needs, and agriculture also spread relatively slowly. That’s the standard.

The first part of the book is a study of the site of Göbekli Tepe. It is a collection of megaliths (carved standing stones in this case) that seem to be part of a larger complex of structures. Some of the stones and the buildings were aligned with particular stars and constellations back when the complex was built. There’s not an obvious local development pattern at Göbekli Tepe that archaeologists have found yet, unlike Salisbury in England. I emphasize yet, because Anatolia – modern Turkey – is a comparatively understudied area. This chunk of the book is great, and the author is careful to note what we can 100% confirm, what archaeologists are mostly certain about, and what is speculation or is based on computer modeling.

Then the book launches into speculation based partly on the Apocryphal book of 1st Enoch, Genesis, and some other texts, plus theoretical archaeology, and some other things. Collins believes that the remnant survivors of a superior culture (not necessary alien, but certainly odd-looking) were forced from their homeland in the north by a terrible disaster. They spread, and taught the people of Anatolia and elsewhere metalworking, construction, and to remember a terrible flood, among other things. These people remained semi-separate, and were priests and leaders until they finally died out. The Book of Enoch preserves some of this in the description of the fallen angels who had relations with men, and of the skills they taught mankind. Collins then combines this with Genesis to find the Rivers of Eden and perhaps the Garden of Eden itself in the mountains near Göbekli Tepe.

Collins writes well, and the story is intriguing. If you are interested in lost civilizations, prehistory, and what-ifs, it’s a great book. As I said above, the first half or so had solid archaeology and was quite clear what’s known vs. theorized vs. private speculation. The second half I read as an interesting fiction. My difficulty with Hancock, Collins, and others is that they have to pull too many stray bits and pieces together. Francis Pryor’s understanding of the Salisbury Plain complex, for example, is simpler and fits the evidence without requiring a super-civilization in the past. The photos and diagrams are very good, and the book has decent maps.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the author or publisher for this review.

State of the Author – March ’23

The next Merchant book is at 32K words. I hope to make decent progress this coming week.

I have three stories to finish for the next Familiar Generations collection. They are on the back burner for the moment. I do not have release dates for either of those.

Two short stories or novellas, both music inspired and both fantasy, are also on the back burner. They are not part of any series at the moment.

I’m reading a number of books, including Charles Murry’s By The People. Just his descriptions of Supreme Court cases makes the book useful for me. I’m not entirely sure about some of his ideas, but he makes good arguments and it’s a great spring-board for discussion.

David Carrico’s The Blood is the Life is good thus far. How can you be a faithful Orthodox Jewish vampire? Carrico does characters very well, and I’m enjoying the book.

Book Review: Locked in Time

Lomax, Dean R. and Robert Nicholls. Locked in Time: Animal Behavior Unearthed in 50 Extraordinary Fossils. (Columbia University Press, 2021) Kindle e-book

I needed a brain break from history (depressing), herbology and medieval medicine (wince-inducing) and current events (no comment). So, dinosaurs and paleo mammals it was. The book is popular science, not academic analysis, but has a very thorough bibliography and works cited section for those interested in detailed paleontology and physiology. It also begins with sex and ends with corpolites and urine, so you’re warned.

The book focuses on behaviors, how we know about them, what clues we can suss out from trackways, trails, bones, and so on. It is not a guide to different species, so don’t expect to learn much about any one type of critter. One review dinged the book for that, and I can sympathize, but the focus is on “how did the animals do [thing]” more than a guide to paleo-creatures. In part because of this, the authors assume that readers have some basic science background and are generally aware of types of dinos and paleo-mammals. I suspect that covers the bulk of their target audience.

The book is arranged by behavior, starting with reproduction. You will learn lots of fascinating biology, and about how meticulous fossil preparers and excavators have to be. After all, one early fossil includes two insects caught in flagrante delicto, and shows their anatomy. Most of the fossils are not that small, but two are smaller. Each behavior has detailed photos of the fossils involved, as well as a full-color scientific illustration of the behavior described. Burrows, baby-sitting, fights, naps, each is shows in the probable habitat. The fossils are from around the world, and are very current (most recent from an unpublished 2020 paper).

You can dip in and out of the book, but I read it straight through. The writing style is good popular science, not watered down. The author is English, but dinosaur is a universal dialect. As I mentioned above, the writer assumes that you have a basic idea about biology in general and ancient life in particular, but you don’t need to be a physiology expert to get a lot out of the book.

The e-book worked on my first generation Paperwhite™, but to really get the benefit of the illustrations, you need a color screen or the print edition.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in ancient animals, people curious about “where did dinosaurs sleep, anyway?” and parents of kids who are ready for more than Dino 101. (You might skip the first chapter unless you want to discuss birds, bees, fishes, turtles, and so on.) It’s very well written, with a dry sense of humor. The authors really love old critters, and it shows.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration from the author or publisher for this review.

Book Review: The Vortex

Carney, Scott and Jason Miklian. The Vortex: A True Story of History’s Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation. (New York: Ecco Books, 2022) Kindle edition.

The short version – this account of the 1970 Bay of Bengal cyclone and the war between East and West Pakistan is well written, makes good use of sources, and is painful to read because of the topic.

Scott Carney and Jason Miklian tell the story of a natural disaster that became the catalyst for war, including attempted genocide (their term). Hurricane forecasting was just starting to move into the realm of science, and in 1970, different countries used different ways to predict storms and warn of their intensity. Sattelite imagery too lagged behind time of need, and the National Hurricane Center in the US didn’t get images quickly. When trying to warn people on the other side of the globe, that lag became lethal, as did the confusion in intensity scales. A US Category 4 sounded mild on the older 1-10 scale. It wasn’t.

The book follows five people – two young men from East Pakistan, an American woman and her husband who work in Dakka, East Pakistan, President Yahya Khan of Pakistan, and a Pakistani officer. President Richard Nixon and a few others appear at times. The way the authors use those characters can make the story a little confusing, because each chapter focuses on one person in turn. I found the American woman and the young man on the island to be the most intriguing. They tried to stay outside of politics, and for various reasons got pulled in: she organized international aid and distribution, and he became a guerilla fighter.

The story quickly turns ugly. The cyclone, which caused an estimated 250,000 deaths (possibly as many as 500,000) led to unrest in East Pakistan. This caused the government of West Pakistan to act against those who had been calling for more political rights for the flat, ethnically Bengali half of the country. The solution was to eliminate anyone in leadership and anyone who did not speak the languages of western Pakistan. The resulting “Operation Searchlight” led to the deaths of millions, either through execution through or disease and hunger as refugees fled to India, or tried to. That in turn galvanized East Pakistani units in the larger army to mutiny, and individuals in East Pakistan to turn to irregular warfare.

There are clear villains in the story as told. Yaha Khan, the president of the country, Richard Nixon (who gave Khan a blank check and arms in exchange for helping facilitate the opening up of China), the West Pakistani military commanders who encouraged murder, rapine, torture, and other things. Heroes include those who tried to help, and those who fought for the freedom of what became Bangladesh. Missing is India, for the most part.

The book is well written but painful to read. Genocide is not pleasant. I’d read about Operation Searchlight in general, but not the horrible details and how it was organized and carried out. The results of the 1970 cyclone – bodies, death, emotional pain, starvation – are also hard to read, although perhaps more familiar. I got tired of the Anthropogenic Climate Change drum being beaten, especially in the final chapter. The disjointed nature of the story, hopping from person to person, could also get confusing. Having a map in hand helps.

I’d recommend the book for those interested in the history of South Asia in general and Bangladesh in particular and those looking at the interplay of natural disasters and politics. I’m not comfortable with the amount of blame the US gets in the book for Operation Searchlight, but I’m not a diplomatic historian and don’t have enough background to be able to tell if the authors overplay the importance of the US’s reaction or lack there of to the West Pakistani actions.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration from the authors or publisher for this review.

Book Review: The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History

Mostern, Ruth. The Yellow River: A Natural and Unnatural History (Yale University Press, 2021) hard cover.

It was once called the Great River, and flowed clear. Over time, human use, climate shifts, and political responses to floods and droughts led to the river becoming the Yellow River, sometimes called China’s Sorrow. How this happened is a story as convoluted as the river’s floodplains, and a fascinating lesson in parts vs the whole, and the limits of human power. People and water, and silt and sand, worked together to destabilize the great river over the course of a thousand years.

Asian environmental history has been relatively under-studied, in part because of problems with language, in part because of the enormous spans of time involved. European environmental history is easier to divide, and the archaeological pieces are gathered into tidier “heaps” of sources, so to speak. Only within the past 20 years or so have many works about the environmental history of China been published. This book builds on several classic works of that history, and expands the time-span of the history of the Yellow River.

Mostern argues that while climate shifts and weather pattern changes played a role in the changes observed in the Yellow River watershed, human activity played a far greater role, especially after roughly the year AD 600 CE. Differences in priorities between imperial governments and local officials, plus the focus on relatively free-market development and agriculture, led to Han Chinese culture expanding into regions not suited for intensive farming. By 1855, the Yellow River had become unusuable and impossible to manage (given the finances and technologies of the time), and what had once been a fertile and prosperous region turned into a salty, gravel and sand-choked series of barrens and wetlands. The Loess Plateau in the bend of the Yellow River transformed with ever-increasing speed from grasslands and mixed forests to a rugged, eroded near-desert that sent millions of tons of sediment to cover the floodplain downstream.

Warfare caused much of the damage to the ecosystem of the upper Yellow River, but stable imperial regimes could be just as bad for the environment. The region is one of conflicts – hot and cold air masses, desert winds and tropical moisture, herders and farmers, imperial centralization and tribal societies. Competing armies stripped the land of forests and grass, and the soldier-farmers of Imperial China denuded the land to build walls and grow food for their own survival. When the nomads chased the Han back to the river and farther south, they too removed forest cover, although long stable periods did allow for regrowth of grass and trees. Sometimes. The development of iron-bladed plows and intensive farming technologies caused further, faster, erosion. Demand for fuel and building wood in peace time as well as war devoured more and more forests, causing more erosion and more flooding downstream.

Some observers saw what was happening and argued that the erosion and loss of ground cover needed to stop at the source. When the capital city remained in the upper Yellow River, the government seemed—sometimes—more interested in considering those ideas. But once the government moved downstream, the focus shifted to coping with the results of the problem, not the sources. Huge floods in 1048 and other years devoured tens of thousands of farmland, displaced millions, and drained the imperial treasury. Only the Grand Canal made it possible to feed and supply Peking/Beijing as the land around it turned sandy and salty from inundation and sediment dumping. In 1885, efforts to keep the Grand Canal open failed, and sea transport became the only to move food to the city. Southern China refused to pay for the problems of the Yellow River.

The book is very well written with excellent illustrations, tables, and a long appendix of methodologies. It helps to have a background in overall Chinese history, but that is not needed. A bit of hydrology helps even more, otherwise the learning curve might be a touch steep in the introduction and first chapter. I found the book an easy read, but one with lots and lots to ponder and mull over. The author is even handed in her approach – people can’t know what they can’t know, and the imperial hydrocrats’ priorities made sense to them. They lacked the tools and the resources to see the entire watershed as a whole. Those who did pull back to see the larger picture lacked the will to sacrifice the imperial capital to floods in order to pour resources into the upstream lands.

The author’s use of some terms struck me as odd, enough so that it pushed me out of the story a few times. I disagree with using the term “Anthropocene,” although in this case there is some logic to it, given the importance of human influences on the life of the river. Other usages were literally correct, but jarring, almost as if the author were not a native speaker. I do not know, and it does not affect the overall readability and quality of the book.

I recommend the book to historians of water, historians of China, people interested in the interactions of government and the physical environment, and conservationists. The idea that “the problems caused by central control can be fixed by central control” rings all too true in the West today. I am reminded of an interview I did with a farmer about flooding on a small river. He shrugged and said, “Rivers flood. That’s what rivers do.” People can try to work around, with, or against floods and droughts, but only by looking at the watershed as a while, rather than reach by reach. This is an excellent addition to the literature in several disciplines.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no compensation or remuneration for this review.

Book Review: Beasts Before Us

Panciroli, Elsa. Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution. (NY: Bloomsbury, 2021) Kindle edition.

I’ve been reading the history of the 1970 cyclone and the birth of Bangladesh. I needed an escape. So I relapsed into some of my older interests and started reading paleontology again. In this case, a book about the pre-mammals and proto-mammals. The book only goes up to the Tertiary, and ends before mammals, monotremes, and marsupials got too dominant. It’s a great book about digging up bones around the world and how the proposed ancestors of mammals developed and succeeded (or didn’t).

Beasts Before Us is both about paleontology and the early mammal-finders, and about the ancestors of mammals. Dr. Panciroli did much of her work in Scotland, and it turns out that Scotland plays an important role in the story of how people sussed out the (presumed) origins of the creatures that became the ancestors of mammals, monotremes, and marsupials. [WordPress, “monotreme” is a word. Trust me.] Or I should say, the few exposures of the type of rock that were laid down when the area that is now Scotland had dinosaurs and other ancient life. That’s part of the problem of finding pre-mammals: they tended to be small, which means fragile and easy to overlook. Dinosaurs were large and cool, and then paleomammals became trendy (but not as much as dinosaurs). Tiny squirrel-like not-mice sorts of things just don’t have the cachet, and don’t get the funding, assuming that people can even find them.

A lot of Panciroli’s book is about tracing the development of life on Earth, how it survived multiple mass extinctions (the Cambrian Extinction, several regional die-offs, the formerly-known-as-K-T Event that ended the dinosaurs . . .) In parallel it traces how we know about the ancestors of creatures. Sometimes, all we have are teeth and a few bits of bone. In other cases, we have entire skeletons with food in the innerds, or in one case with 21 babies.

The book is very well written, although it helps if you have some biology and anatomy background, because the author defines terms once or twice, then expects you to remember them. This is more of a problem in the e-book, where you can’t go flipping back a few pages to refresh your memory. The author also jumps at times from the bones to the people who found them, especially if those people were not European or British males. I didn’t have trouble keeping track of the larger story, but the back and forth can be a bit distracting and require a momentary mental reset. Some of the newer terminology is also distracting for those of us who grew up with Precambrian, Cambrian, Tertiary, Quaternary, and so on.

Dr. Panciroli goes to great lengths to remind readers that 1) anthropogenic climate change will doom creatures, 2) that native peoples were aware of the fossils before European explorers showed up, 3) women have been involved in the field but did not get as much prestige as others, and 4) that there is no such thing as linear and clear-cut evolution based on survival of the fittest. The last chapter is about how anthropogenic global warming will cause problems, and how those few creatures that do manage to hang in there will manage to cope with the inevitable disaster. I had some trouble with her pointing out that Native Americans and Mongolians and Chinese knew about the fossils because she implies that the locals knew what the funny bones/rocks were and the Europeans ignored this valuable Native wisdom. “Dragon bones” used for traditional medicine is a rather different understanding compared to “early Sauropod that lived in a humid, swampy region and raised its young in herds.” Nor do I care to be informed several times that every time I look at a dino skeleton or mammal skeleton, it was stolen. Was it? From whom? Who owned it? Who cared about it? That part of the story didn’t make the book.

I’d recommend the book for those who are serious about the hard science of pre-mammals and their development. I learned a great deal, and enjoyed the biographies of the people who worked in the field. I skimmed or skipped over the modern environmental assumptions, and I admit I was a little disappointed that Dr. Panciroli puts so much faith in the assumption that models are truth. As mentioned above, it helps if you are familiar with taxonomy and basic biology, but it isn’t necessary to get the gist of the story.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no benefit or remuneration from the publisher or author for this review.

Book Review: Oceans of Grain

Nelson, Scott Reynolds. Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade World History. (Basic Books, 2022) Kindle Edition

Much recent discussion about world economics and global power, say the last 60 years or so, has focused on petroleum, and occasionally on food. Too much dependence on foreign oil, or OPEC or Russia manipulating the price of oil, or peak oil, and what have you seemed to dominate the headlines at least yearly, with dire predictions about the world’s dependence on oil producing countries. Wheat only appeared when there was a famine somewhere, or someone embargoed someone else (US and USSR, 1979-81, for example) Scott Nelson argues that wheat is far, far more important. Food is life, and control of food is what allows empires to form or fall.

Nelson’s specialty was US history, focusing on the Civil War and the role of food supplies. He grew interested in Russian attempts to mimic the US’s success with wheat, and ended up discovering the writings of the Russian exile Israel Helphand, who wrote during the late 1800s- early 1900s as Parvus. Parvus, a Communist and son of grain farmers and grain traders, argued that control of wheat transport routes and wheat production, along with the industrial proletariat, would be key to bringing about a Communist revolution. Nelson uses Parvus’ writings as a launch point to look at grain trade and civilization in Europe, going back to the Neolithic and the discovery of how to safely store grain, especially wheats.

The western steppes of Europe, what is now Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia, have been the source of wheats and other grains for thousands of years. The trading routes were called”black paths” because of the rich black chernozemic soil. Many of those routes formed in the late Stone Ages and continued in use first as roads, then as railroads. Nelson next looks at how empires sought to control food supplies, bringing grain from the periphery of empire (North Africa, eastern Europe, Gaul) to the metropolis (Rome). The Black Death and other plague waves interrupted the flow along the black paths, weakening empires or leading to major changes in how they arranged themselves. The black paths, and later flow out of the Bosporus once Russia expanded south and grain moved with Russia, were the choke points for empire. Then along came the US.

Nelson shifts gears to talk about how the Union Army’s supply chain failed. From that failure, caused by too-centralized a system that led to micro-managing, corruption, and price gouging, came a new way of buying grain through the Chicago Board of Trade – grain futures. This allowed anonymous purchase, which reduced gouging, and made it possible for the army to buy from a large number of individual dealers rather than depending on six warehouse men and grain brokers. The new system worked, as did early mechanization, and after the war, the US became the grain exporter supreme, sending cheap wheat all over Europe. The inexpensive food made Europe’s large-scale industrialization possible. Once Hungarian flour-milling technology also spread to the US, Americans could undercut Austro-Hungary (the former lead flour exporter) as well as inadvertently breaking the centuries old system of grain trading and shipping and storage. This put Russia in a financial bind much like the one that plagued the Austro-Hungarians.

World tensions, the need to control the wheat export points, and international finance, according to both Parvus (in the 1900s) and Nelson, led to WWI and the Russian Revolution. I’m not entirely sure that Nelson is right to put so much weight on wheat trade as a primary cause of the war, because a lot of other things were swirling around between 1910-1914, but his account of how Bolshevik control over the food supply affected the Russian Revolutions and civil war makes good sense.

Nelson is an excellent writer, although there are some disconcerting typos and awkward phrases in spots. He also assumes that readers are already aware of how futures markets work, and have a good understanding of geography during the various periods he addresses. I found myself having to stop, go back, and reread in places, because I’ve not tangled with economic history and world systems theory in several years. He also jumps from topic to topic a bit, but does return to the original theme and tie everything together. The book is very timely, and adds a dimension to the ongoing rolling disaster in Ukraine and the ripples in the world grain supply systems. Once more, the Bosporus is a critical choke point, and the closure of the black paths is leading to trouble (with “help” from other factors, some of which are outside human control.)

I’d recommend this book for those interested in the history of world trade, people looking at the role of food trade in European and US history, and students of the internal conflicts within the Russian Communist movement prior to 1920. The book is quite readable, provided you have a solid background in economic history and finance terminology. It needs more maps, but that is my usual plaint, and maps are easily available on-line if you want to find them.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use, and received no remuneration or consideration from either the author or publisher for this review.

Book Review: Defenders of the West

Ibrahim, Raymond. Defenders of the West: The Christian Heroes who stood Against Islam. (Bombardier Books 2022) Kindle edition

I’ve read Ibrahim’s other history book, a study of battles, so I picked this one up as well. I’d heard of El Cid, both from the movie and from a (very hagiographic) older young reader biography I read a long time ago. Richard the Lionheart? Crusader and the good guy in Robin Hood, who was dumb enough to think irking the Duke of Austria was a good idea and then trying to sneak through the duke’s home territory. Jan Hunyadi? The not-a-king king of Hungary. I’d crossed paths with a number of the individuals highlighted in this book, which spans the years 1000 to 1600, more or less. However, other individuals are less well known, or are strangers to the western tradition (Skenderbeg), or have an afterlife unrelated to their real life (Vlad III).

Ibrahim is blunt about where his preferences are. He also uses primary sources from all sides in the conflicts, giving a good view of what the Berbers, Arabs, and Ottomans thought about the different men. He frames each mini-biography with the events of the time, giving the reader context often skipped in modern studies. This can make for odd reading, because often the primary sources are far more laudatory than modern accounts can be, or dare to be, or are supposed to be. Dispassion and balance were NOT considered critical attitudes for historians to have in the Middle Ages or early modern era. That lack of distance might be offputting to some readers. It took me a bit to adjust my mental frame, so to speak, to get past my Historian’s Bristle at effusive descriptions of people’s virtues (and vices, although that’s not something lacking from many current works.)

The biographic chapters are in chronologic order, from Godfrey of Bolougne and Rodrigo de Vivar “El Cid” to Skenderbeg and Vlad III. One thing Ibrahim points out on a regular basis is that these men fought defensive wars. The First Crusade and subsequent were launched in answer to the conquest of the Levant by the Seljuk Turks and the enslaving, robbing, and killing of native Christians (and Jews) and pilgrims from Europe. El Cid and Fernando de Leon y Castile (descendant of El Cid) fought to regain land occupied by the Berbers since the early 700s. Hunyadi, Skenderbeg, and Vlad III challenged the Ottoman Conquest of southeastern Europe, pushing back against Ottoman attacks and aggression. It’s easy today to forget that until 1689, Western Christianity fought a defensive war against Arab/Berber/Turkish forces.

The stories are great reads. Ibrahim lets the material speak for itself, with some additions to clarify places and to put events in the larger context of European politics. He’s not unbiased, but he is upfront about that, so you know what you are getting. I found his reminders about “yes, this lord/petty king turned his coat to survive, but that was normal. What Skenderbeg/Hunyadi/Vlad did was the exception” to be useful.

I’d recommend this to people interested in the various military figures, those curious about primary sources and where to find more (the bibliography and notes are extensive), and people looking for solid role-models for boys (and girls, but now days, especially boys.) Ibrahim does a good job working with the primary sources, and the book is quite readable once you get used to the various styles of the original material. I found his defense of Vlad III a bit intense, but then I remembered that I’ve read the books, and I know the history and politics of that region. Normal people don’t. They know either novel-Dracula, or Vlad the sadistic b-stard of an impaler.

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use, and received no remuneration or consideration from either the publisher or author for this review.

Book by a New Author

So, a while back, a young-to-the-field writer asked if I would mind looking at a manuscript. The writer had been recommended by someone I trust, and vice versa, so I agreed. Below is the result of this writer’s work. I recommend the book – it has an interesting take on magic and how humans relate to a magical species, among other things.