In a week or so, the Hollywood version of the video game franchise Assassin’s Creed will debut at cineplexes across the country. Normally, this would have nothing to do with me. I’ve never worked on the game, nor did I have even the slightest hand in the making of the film. But, you see, in 2010 my third book was published by Thomas Dunne Books; this book — The Lion of Cairo –had an historical air to it, though mingled with the sort of fantasy reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights. It was about an Assassin who is sent on a mission to preserve the throne of the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt. And though not widely known, it nevertheless often draws comparison, for good or ill, with the original Assassin’s Creed game.
What better time to revisit the taciturn Emir of the Knife, eh?
When The Lion of Cairo hit bookstore shelves in December of 2010, it flailed for a moment only before slipping deep into the maelstrom at the heart of Mare Bibliotheca. It vanished. Fantasy fans never heard of it because it wasn’t marketed to them; fans of historical fiction scratched their heads and derided the poor history within. Because, while it was marketed to them, it wasn’t meant for them. Fans of pulp fiction, especially the work of Texan author Robert E. Howard, applauded it. It did well overseas, especially in the UK and France. But here at home, the book was dead on arrival. Stillborn. Dead as disco. With nothing for it, I picked up the shattered remnants of my ego, put away my hopes and dreams for the proposed trilogy I’d hoped to spin from it, and moved on.
Then, Hollywood decided to make an Assassin’s Creed movie. And I thought, “you know, this might be a good time to dust Lion off and see if there’s any new readers to be had.” So that’s my task for the next week or so: guest blog, chat up The Lion of Cairo, and see if there are any new readers, or new reviews from old readers, out there. See if I can turn the corpse of a perfectly good book, slain too young, into a resurrected creation — a Frankenstein’s Monster reanimated by a galvanic burst of self-promotion.
So spread the word, if you have a mind to. Go buy a copy for a loved one (Kindle and various affordable print editions are still out there). Buy one for yourself, if you be a fantasy fan with a taste for REH-inspired historical romps blended with just a pinch of the eldritch. Here, try the first fifty pages over at Wattpad. Kick the tires and take it for a test drive.
Once upon a time . . .
On the banks of the Nile, from a palace of gold and lapis lazuli, the young Caliph Rashid al-Hasan rules as a figurehead over a crumbling empire. Cairo is alive with intrigue. In the shadow of the Grey Mosque, generals and emirs jockey for position under the scheming eyes of a venal grand vizier. In the crowded souks and narrow alleys, warring factions employ murder and terror to silence their opponents. Egypt bleeds. And the scent draws her enemies in like sharks: the swaggering Kurd, Shirkuh, who serves the pious Sultan of Damascus, and Amalric, the Christian king of Jerusalem, whose greed is insatiable and whose knights of the Temple are hungry for a fight.
And yet all is not lost. There is an old man who lives on a remote mountainside in a distant land. He holds the ultimate power of life and death over the warring factions of the Muslim world – and decides to come to the Caliph’s aid. But he does not send an army into Egypt. He sends a single man. A prince of Assassins. The one they call the Emir of the Knife . . .
Masterfully blending history and adventure, the bestselling author of Men of Bronze brings the past to exhilarating life in a rich, exciting novel full of intrigue and thunderous battle set against the true jewel of the Arabian Nights, medieval Cairo during the time of the Crusades.